Trilateral Great Power Politics in Theory and History 5 regained control over the country’s political parties, judicial branch, media, corporations, and other key national actors. Due to higher world oil prices and other favorable developments, the Russian economy stabilized as did Mos- cow’s international influence. However, the extent and duration of Russia’s great power revival remain uncertain since the economy suffers from seri- ous problems, including underinvestment in critical infrastructure and next- generation technological sectors, dismal demographic and health figures, and limited progress in diversifying the economy away from hydrocarbon exports. President Putin’s foreign policy has also alienated Western states, while the country’s post-Putin political transition remains unresolved. The Russian- U.S. relationship is more confrontational now than at any time since the Cold War. Moscow perceives major threats in North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) enlargement, Western democracy promotion, and other U.S. policies. The Russian government has strived to minimize U.S. influence in neighbor- ing countries where Moscow claims a special sphere of influence. Beyond the former Soviet space, the Russian government has also contested U.S. influence in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Suspicions linger that Russian leaders have adopted a firmer nationalist posture to compensate for Russia’s domestic shortcomings. Hostility to the West benefits the Moscow elite politically but harms the nation. Russian national security officials regularly presume malign motives behind almost any U.S. policy affecting their country. For instance, influential Russians frequently claim that Washington wants to force regime change in Russia and elsewhere under the guise of advancing liberalization and democracy. In response, Russian officials have severely curtailed U.S. govern- ment and Western-backed nongovernmental organizations’ (NGO) involve- ment in their internal affairs. Besides overstating the desire and capacity of the U.S. government to threaten their regime, these curtailments weaken the socioeconomic foundation needed for better long-term Russian-U.S. ties. The chances of a direct military conflict are low given Russian conventional inferi- ority to NATO, but the adverse consequences of a war due to misunderstanding or miscalculation would be catastrophically high.12 The Obama administra- tion addressed these challenges by enhancing Western defense and deterrence capabilities while trying to cooperate with Moscow on areas of mutual interest. The Trump and Biden administrations generally continued and augmented these policies by further strengthening U.S. military capabilities in Europe, reinvesting in intelligence and other enabling capabilities, pushing for higher European defense spending, supporting Europe’s energy independence, and fortifying U.S. allies against Russian non-kinetic challenges. Presidents Putin and Trump continued to praise each other in public, but governmental rela- tions below the presidential level remain overwhelmingly confrontational. President Biden initially tried to work out a modus vivendi with Putin so that the United States could concentrate on managing China’s rise, but the Russian
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