Russia is proving that declining powers can be at least as disruptive as rising ones, punching above its weight as it exploits divisions within the West, notes William J. Burns, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Vladimir Putin’s relentless focus for much of the past two decades has been to reverse the decline of the Russian state and its international standing — and the result is a Russia that sees its best bet for preserving its major power status in chipping away at the American-led international order, he told today’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Assessing the Role of the United States in the World:
If he can’t have a deferential government in Kiev, Putin can grab Crimea and try to engineer the next best thing, a dysfunctional Ukraine. If he can’t abide the risk of regime upheaval in Syria, he can flex Russia’s military muscle, emasculate the West, and preserve Bashar al-Assad atop the rubble.
Since I left government, Putin has shifted from testing the West in places where Russia had a greater stake and more appetite for risk, like Ukraine and Georgia, to a wider range of places where the West has a far greater stake, like the integrity of our democracies, said Burns, author of The Back Channel, and a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy.
The United States is no longer the only big kid on the geopolitical block, but has an opportunity to lock in its role as the world’s pivotal power–still with a better hand to play than any of its rivals, he added. RTWT