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News | March 6, 2024

America’s New Twilight Struggle With Russia

By Jeffrey Mankoff Foreign Affairs

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forced Washington to rethink its fundamental assumptions about Moscow. Every U.S. president from Bill Clinton to Joe Biden had sought some degree of engagement with Russia. As late as 2021, Biden expressed hope that Russia and the United States could arrive at “a stable, predictable relationship.” But Russia’s brutal war on Ukraine has radically altered that assessment. It is now clear that the two countries will remain antagonists for years to come. The Kremlin possesses immense disruptive global power and is willing to take great risks to advance its geopolitical agenda. Coping with Russia will demand a long-term strategy, one that echoes containment, which guided the United States through the Cold War, or what President John F. Kennedy called a “long, twilight struggle” against the Soviet Union. 

More than 75 years have passed since the diplomat George Kennan first formulated that strategy in his famous “Long Telegram” from Moscow and then in Foreign Affairs under the pseudonym “X.” In his 1947 article, Kennan described containment as a political strategy reinforced by “the adroit and vigilant application of counterforce at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points.” The goal was to avoid direct conflict with the Soviet Union while halting the spread of Soviet power. 

Read the full article from Foreign Affairs →

Dr. Jeffrey Mankoff is a Distinguished Research Fellow at the U.S. National Defense University's Institute for National Strategic Studies and a Non-Resident Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). His research focuses on Russian foreign policy, Eurasian geopolitics, and the role of history and memory in international relations.

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.