This article approaches Russia’s strategy of countering the United States indirectly by way of intermediate states. It is concerned with the reasons why Russia decided to engage in the Syrian conflict in 2015 and, from this perspective, the real goals of Russia’s policy in the region. These questions cannot be considered without taking account of how they are linked with the all-out confrontation between Russia and the West in Ukraine. The Syrian conflict merely represents an external platform for Russia in countering the United States. Russia is testing her own power to force the United States out of Syria and seeks any opportunity to demonstrate American vulnerability. There is a triangle of interests for the key regional actors—Turkey, Iran, and Russia—that oppose US interests. The rising confrontation with Washington in Syria triggered Moscow to seek ways of using other potential rivals of the United States, given that there are numerous areas of tension and conflict with Washington beyond the Middle East. The author’s analysis of the actors’ behavior is based on the “security dilemma” and the “balance of power” approaches. There are well-known disputes between “defensive” and “offensive” realism in the theory of international politics concerning which of these approaches is more reliable and reasonable when considering costs and results, as well as the risk of tensions spiraling out of control (“security spiral”). The aim of this research is to make a comparison between America’s offensive strategy with Russia’s defensive approach and evaluate the efficiency of both policies. Following a particular scholarly approach, this article presumes that Moscow acquires power via the indirect, “low-cost strategies,” using any opportunity available to counterbalance US power via other countries. It is concluded that offensive or defensive behavior depends on the situation and available resources. The United States has sufficient resources to implement an offensive strategy, and Washington may raise the stakes in confrontation. Russia’s defense approach of a “buck-passing” strategy is more efficient, but Moscow suffers from a lack of resources and chooses indirect countering, using any means necessary to counterbalance US power in Syria and beyond.
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Research Article| September 03 2019
Offensive versus Defensive Realism: Russia’s Policy of Countering the United States in Syria and Beyond
Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia
Dmitry Grafov (Ph.D. in Political Science) is a Senior Research Fellow in the Institute of Oriental studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Contemporary Arab Affairs (2019) 12 (3): 21–40.
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Dmitry Grafov; Offensive versus Defensive Realism: Russia’s Policy of Countering the United States in Syria and Beyond. Contemporary Arab Affairs 3 September 2019; 12 (3): 21–40. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/caa.2019.123002
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