How Should Biden Deal with Russia?: A Debate


In its forthcoming issue, the National Interest features a cover story with dueling perspectives from John E. Herbst and Dimitri K. Simes about future American relations with Russia. On February 25, 2021, the Center hosted a debate between Herbst and Simes over their competing perspectives on the future of US-Russian relations. Melinda Haring (deputy director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council) introduced the debate, while Jacob Heilbrunn (editor of the National Interest) moderated it. 

Herbst, who is the director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council and a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, argues, “tense relations with Moscow are not a result of our blundering or provocative policy, but of our decision, finally, to protect American interests from Moscow’s aggressive designs.”

Simes, who is president and CEO of the Center for the National Interest, recognizes that Russia is a serious adversary but counters that the “future of U.S.-Russia relations is largely America’s choice” and will depend on whether the Biden administration defines America’s national interests as a “hegemonic democratic empire”–or as a “leading but restrained geopolitical and economic power” that allows other nations, as long as they do not directly challenge America, to “live more or less according to their own standards.”