Managing the Russian Dilemma

This article was originally published as a chapter of the Transatlantic Book 2006, European Institute for Security Studies. “Managing the Russian Dilemma,” by Fiona Hill, begins on page 171 of the book.

Russia in 2005 presents a very different set of challenges for the United States and Europe than at other junctures over the last 20 years. Looking back to 1985, Russia is no longer­­—as it was then—the main threat to European security; nor is it the global strategic competitor for the United States. The emergence of Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 and the eventual collapse of the USSR in 1991 effected a dramatic transformation of the European and broader geopolitical landscape. And, in contrast to 1995, Russia is no longer a shared “project” of the U.S. and Europe, when Washington and European capitals encouraged and promoted Russia’s market economic and democratic transformation and its entry into a “common European home” and trans-Atlantic partnerships. Disillusionment with Western-inspired reforms among the Russian population; the rise of President Vladimir Putin in 1999-2000 with a more inwardly-focused, strong state policy; the reversal by Putin’s government of many of the political advances of the 1990s; as well as strained relations with Euro-Atlantic institutions, have put Russia on another, more uncertain trajectory.