Managing Confrontation in US-Russian Relations


The Biden administration’s initial approach to Russia contrasts with that of every other American administration since the fall of the Soviet Union, all of which began by calling for improved relations with Moscow.  Biden has been quick to impose sanctions and call out perceived Russian misdeeds, but he has been equally quick to pursue dialogue and cooperation on strategic concerns, climate issues, and other areas of mutual interest.  Russian commentators have characterized this combination of confrontation and outreach as American “schizophrenia.” Many Americans see it a sensible effort to “walk and chew gum” at the same time, aimed at making the US-Russian relationship more stable and predictable.   

Can Biden’s approach succeed where other U.S. approaches have failed?  What factors are critical for success, and what might lead to failure?  

The Center for the National Interest assembled a panel of experts on May 18, 2021 to air a range of perspectives on these questions:   

•    Marlene Laruelle is Research Professor of International Affairs and Director of the Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies at The George Washington University.  Her most recent book is Is Russia Fascist? Unraveling Propaganda East and West.  

•    Robert Legvold is Marshall D. Shulman Professor Emeritus at Columbia University and one of America’s foremost experts on Russia.  His most recent book is Return to Cold War.

•    Dmitry Suslov is Deputy Director of the Centre for Comprehensive European and International Studies and Senior Lecturer at the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Russia.  He is the author of numerous publications on US-Russian relations and changes in the world order. 

George Beebe, Vice President and Director of Studies at the Center for the National Interest, served as the moderator for this discussion.  He is former director of Russia analysis at the Central Intelligence Agency, a former advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney on Russia matters, and author of The Russia Trap: How our Shadow War with Russia Could Spiral into Nuclear Catastrophe.