Yet in the midst of the bleak scenario, the Western allies should be equally alert for, and open to, possibilities for collaboration. The opportunities in Iran, Afghanistan, and Syria, albeit limited and capricious, may find echoes elsewhere, more episodic than strategic, perhaps only short-term. In particular, Putin should be accorded the regard to which Russia is entitled as global power, no matter how intense the tensions. Doing so will be grating but not costly although it will surely disappoint the dejected and enfeebled dissidents in Russia even as the Western countries encourage them in other ways.
In short the policy should be firmness about core interests, openness to opportunities for cooperation, but all without illusions. The alternative is the world’s second strongest military power whose policies are determined entirely by a single man more sullen, isolated, resentful, wounded, mercurial, and bitter than perhaps he needs to be.
Gerald F. (“Jerry”) Hyman is a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies He was president of its Hills Program on Governance between 2007 and 2016. From 1990-2007, he held several positions at USAID, including director of its global Office of Democracy and Governance from 2002-2007. From 1985-1990, he practiced law at Covington & Burling in Washington DC, and he taught Anthropology and Sociology at Smith College from 1970-1985.