A Better Reset: How to Improve U.S.-Russian Relations (Marcellus Policy Analysis)

By Matthew Mai, Fall 2020 Marcellus Policy Fellow

Relations between the United States and Russia are at a post-Cold War low. The enlargement of the NATO alliance to include former Soviet bloc countries has precipitated Russian military interventions in Georgia and Ukraine that have led to tense diplomatic crises. These interventions, motivated by a fear of “neo-isolation”, have not only compromised the territorial integrity of Georgia and Ukraine but entrenched Russian influence in states once considered candidates for integration with the West.

To improve relations with Russia, American policymakers need to take a narrower view of U.S. security interests in Europe which are to maintain a balanced economic relationship and prevent the rise of a regional hegemon. Having the world’s reserve currency, an easily accessible and large consumer market, and a robust financial system make it a global commercial power center. Unlike Russia or China, the United States cannot be alienated from critical trading relationships such as the one it has with Europe.

Europe’s wealth and latent power capabilities are able to prevent the rise of a regional hegemon. The United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy all have economies larger than Russia’s. Russia’s economy is heavily reliant on oil and gas and faces serious demographic challenges that will inhibit economic growth. While the Russian military remains a capable fighting force, Europe has the latent power necessary to prevent Russia from becoming a regional hegemon. Given this, the United States should retrench from its forward posture in Europe and allow for the Europeans to provide their own security.