- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

Russia: Russia's Soft Balancing Act

William C. Wohlforth

The fallout between the United States and Russia over Moscow’s opposition to U.S. policy on Iraq sparked a wave of doubt over the depth sustainability of Vladimir Putin’s turn toward pragmatic cooperation the West. This chapter presents three assessments that are needed to assess this strategic uncertainty: a reprise of Russia’s foreign policy in light of evolving geoeconomic and geopolitical realities; Russia’s diplomatic maneuvering on Iraq, an assessment of which requires an understanding Moscow’s view of the coalition dynamics that now shape relations among the major powers; and Russia’s strategic interactions with other key actors in Asia. All three assessments yield a single substantive conclusion: dramatic events of 2003 left Putin’s grand strategy intact. The background forces and incentives underlying the basic approach have strengthened over the past year. The implication is that Russia’s diplomacy in Asia will continue along pragmatic lines, governed in the near to medium term mainly by the mix of "new security issues," economic incentives, and modernization imperatives that have come to the fore in the last half decade.