Why Russia Punches Above Its Weight in Global Affairs

A man takes a picture of an artwork depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin as boxing legend Muhammad Ali during the “Putin Universe” exhibition, Moscow, Russia,  Oct. 7, 2015 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).
A man takes a picture of an artwork depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin as boxing legend Muhammad Ali during the “Putin Universe” exhibition, Moscow, Russia, Oct. 7, 2015 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).
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You can punch above your weight in statecraft as in boxing, and in today’s global security system, Russia is like an aggressive bantamweight. For the United States and the rest of the West, containing or moderating Russia’s sometimes damaging actions depends on understanding why Moscow can punch above its weight, and how that shapes its behavior. Until the late 1940s, Americans had never thought much about Russia and thus were deeply perplexed when the World War II alliance between Washington and Moscow devolved into the Cold War. In a famous Foreign Affairs article, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” career diplomat […]

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