Russia is in strategic trouble. Vladimir Putin’s war of choice in Ukraine has weakened Russia’s global posture and eroded the carefully honed image of great power prowess Putin cultivated for two decades. But Russia’s loss of relative power is not necessarily America’s gain. In the evolving era of multipolar great power competition, American policymakers must manage Moscow’s strategic malpractice in a manner that does not harm U.S. prospects for success in the long-term Sino-American rivalry.
Courageous and competent Ukrainian resistance fortified by external assistance has exposed Putin’s weak strategic hand and eroded Russian relative power standing vis-à-vis great power rivals China and the United States. Washington must continue to help Ukraine prevail against norm-busting Russian aggression and deter the potential for Russian nuclear use. At the same time, American leaders must guard against two other ugly potential outcomes that would damage its strategic interests: a rapid Russian collapse or the migration of critical Russian power factors to China.
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Dr. Thomas F. Lynch III is a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Center for Strategic Research (CSR) at the Institute of National Strategic Studies (INSS) of the National Defense University (NDU) in Washington, D.C and the editor of Strategic Assessments 2020: Into a New Era of Great Power Competition. The views expressed are the authors own and do not reflect those of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.