Friday, November 4, 2016

Russia may be wounded, but it can still bite

November 3, 2016 (The Washington Post) Whoever wins Tuesday’s presidential election will face an assertive, aggrieved Russia whose risk-taking behavior under President Vladimir Putin is increasingly worrisome to U.S. experts.

Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Pool photo via Associated Press)
Today’s pushy, headstrong Russia presents a paradox: By most measures, it is a country in decline, with a sagging economy, an underdeveloped technology base and a shrinking population. Corruption pervades nearly every sector. The collapse of the Soviet Union is still an open wound, and many Russians blame the United States for taking advantage of them during their years of decline.
Yet this inwardly weak Russia displays the cockiness of a street fighter. It is waging war in Syria, Ukraine and cyberspace with a seeming disdain for U.S. power. According to Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., Russian hackers sought to “interfere with the U.S. election process,” on authority of the highest levels of the Russian government.
“Putin’s definition of risk-taking has evolved in the direction of greater boldness and less attention to how it will affect the U.S.,” argues Dimitri Simes, president of the Center for the National Interest. “Putin thinks that American positive inducements are next to nonexistent, and that the penalties are minimal, and will be imposed whatever he does.”
The next president must assess how to alter Russian behavior without direct military confrontation. Is that best done by cutting deals with Putin, as Donald Trump suggests? Or should it be a firmer process of asserting U.S. power and interests, as Hillary Clinton has argued? This may be the biggest national-security issue in the election. The full article is available at