Russia enters the new decade amidst significantly lowered expectations. Its domestic prospects look dim. Its prospects as a major player in the international arena are equally dim as a result of its domestic weakness and inability to articulate, let alone implement a coherent foreign policy agenda. The decade of the 1990s, with Russia in transition and the object of expectations of its imminent resurgence as a major power, has been succeeded by a new stage during which it has become increasingly likely that Russian transition--if it is a transition--probably will last even longer than previously thought. Thus, instead of prejudging the outcome of that transition and assuming the inevitability of a Russian comeback, as students of Russian affairs inside and outside of Russia have long done, the policy community needs to adjust its view of the country. There is nothing inevitable about Russia's comeback. It will not bounce back from its troubles any time soon. Its current decline may well continue indefinitely. For the foreseeable future and from the standpoint of U.S. policy and interests, the United States has to deal with a weak and retreating Russia whose residual international ambitions will usually exceed its capabilities and whose principal near-term challenge will be downsizing in a predictable, responsible manner. Despite its diminished international stature and domestic circumstances, the country's geography and nuclear arsenal preclude "forgetting Russia" as a realistic option for U.S. policy. The recommended course is an agenda of focused but limited engagement with Russia on key issues of strategic stability, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation, and select regional concerns on Russia's periphery where U.S. interests are at stake.
Strategic Challenges for the Bush Administration: Perspectives from the Institute for National Strategic Studies, p.37-44