US foreign policy: A perfect storm is brewing
October-December 2017
By: Reva Goujon

On Russia, proceed with caution

Meanwhile, for all the recent drama surrounding the US-Russia relationship, Washington’s policy toward Moscow is fairly straightforward. Aware of the internal issues it faces in the coming years, the Kremlin is trying to reach an understanding with the United States and the West at large that recognizes Russia’s sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union. For instance, by trying to draw the line at NATO’s expansion and persuade the West to lift its sanctions, Moscow hopes to insulate itself from the United States and its allies while it is still powerful enough to do so.

To this end, Russia has devoted a considerable amount of energy to inserting itself into conflicts where the United States has a vested interest. There, Moscow believes, it can build a collection of carrots and sticks that it can use to steer Washington toward more fruitful negotiations. The United States isn’t pitted against Russia in an ideological war, as it was during the Cold War, and there is certainly room for cooperation between them in some areas of mutual interest. But Russian concessions, even on tactical matters, often come with hefty price tags attached, and selling out European allies on Moscow’s doorstep is simply too steep a cost for Washington to pay. Even without the immense complications created by Russia’s information operations against the US administration and by Congress’ growing compulsion to check the president’s influence over Washington’s Russia policy, Moscow and Washington will remain fundamentally at odds with each other on several fronts. Nevertheless, the United States will need to stay alert to areas of emerging conflict where Russia will attempt to throw a wrench in Washington’s plans – not least of which is North Korea.

The real fight is in Asia

When it comes to Venezuela, Iran and Russia, the United States still has options in how it chooses to proceed. Depending on how carefully it weighs the implications of its own actions, it can either exacerbate or temper the threats stemming from each country. North Korea, on the other hand, leaves the United States with dangerously little room to maneuver.

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