Our guest for the 47th episode of the Hale Report is Thomas E Graham, distinguished fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a renowned Russia expert, to discuss his new book Getting Russia Right. The book was written as a direct response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which did not surprise him. A rarity in the sometimes opaque foreign policy genre, Graham’s book gave me a sense of clarity about recent history, and insight into where Russia might be headed next.
Graham has been both a teacher and scholar at Yale University, as well as a policymaker at a critical time in US-Russia relations. He served on the frontlines during the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980’s, as a foreign service officer at the US Embassy in Moscow. He also worked in the White House as an advisor to President George W Bush and as director for Russia at the National Security Council.
Graham’s key viewpoint is that the US has not always got Russia policy right. Different US administrations have had had varying levels of success, but Russia is not as weak nor as strong as we might believe. We should not underestimate its resilience and its long history as a consequential nation on the world stage.
Washington should proceed on the assumption that Russia will be a major geopolitical actor well into the future, whether or not that turns out to be the case. Adjusting to Russian weakness will prove far easier and less fraught with peril than adapting to unexpected Russian strength.
We compared Russia and China policy, and Graham shared his impressions of Putin, with whom he interacted but who he says has changed in recent years. We discussed the potential for a change in leadership if not the regime, and why we most probably will never see it coming. We delved into the invaluable role of intuition combined with experience in foreign affairs.
I learned a lot speaking with Tom Graham about the largest country on earth, including its internal challenges and successes. I am sure you will enjoy listening to him as much as I enjoyed our conversation, over a couple of cups of coffee on Sunday morning.
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