Over the last few months of the election, In Theory will be asking policy experts to weigh in on the critical questions our presidential candidates should be addressing — but often aren’t. This week we’re discussing how to handle an authoritarian Russia.
Over the course of the past two presidential administrations, Russia has emerged as a reoccurring foreign policy problem. Vladimir Putin — a product of Soviet-era authoritarianism — has maintained a firm grasp of power over the country and its neighbors, militarily intervening in former Soviet satellites such as Georgia and the Ukraine. He’s also thwarted President Obama’s foreign policy in Syria, siding against U.S.-backed rebels to protect the embattled Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad.
The two main schools of thought seem to argue for either containment or increased engagement. Hillary Clinton has admitted to (and in fact, bragged about) having a strained relationship with the Russians. As secretary of state, she once told the president that the “reset” period for Russian relations was over, advocating to take more action in Syria in opposition to Putin. Donald Trump, on the other hand, has consistently expressed admiration for Putin and developed policies that would benefit Russia in such a way that some pundits have called Trump “The Siberian Candidate.”
As the election plays out, the Russian government seems more and more willing to clamp down on its own citizens, aggress upon other countries in its region and meddle in U.S. affairs. What is the best approach for the next administration?