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How to Contain Putin’s Russia
A Strategy for Countering a Rising Revisionist Power
Michael McFaul

January 19, 2021
Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses a press conference via video link from Moscow, Russia, December 2020
Bai Xueqi Xinhua / eyevine / Red​ux
After President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on January 20, some elements of U.S. policy toward Russia will change immediately. No longer will the president of the United States seek to befriend Russian President Vladimir Putin, as President Donald Trump did throughout his tenure. Biden will not hesitate to criticize Putin’s belligerent actions, especially those directed at the United States. The Biden administration will also incorporate liberal norms and democratic values back into the United States’ Russia policy, so Putin can expect more criticism of Russian autocracy and more support for human rights. And the White House’s rhetoric about the United States’ transatlantic allies will shift markedly; the era of berating NATO will end this week.  
That’s the easy and expected stuff. The harder task will be to develop a new, comprehensive Russia strategy that strikes the right balance between containing Moscow and engaging it in narrow areas of shared interest. To get there, the Biden administration will need to shed myths and misperceptions that for years have hampered U.S. analysis of Moscow and to replace them with an accurate assessment of what sort of threat Putin’s Russia really poses and how the United States can
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MICHAEL McFAUL is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and Professor of Political Science and Director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. He is the author of From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia. From 2012 to 2014, he served as U.S. Ambassador to Russia.
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