White chess pieces standing up near fallen black piece.

Competitive Strategies Against Russia Are Seductive, Dangerous and Unnecessary

April 16, 2018
Joshua Rovner

This is a summary of an article originally published by War on the Rocks.   

The author writes that competitive strategies are “efforts to coax adversaries into self-defeating policies" and that intentionally or not, "some aspects of the Trump administration’s approach to Russia look like a competitive strategy." While the U.S. has economic advantages, giving it the upper hand in an arms race in which Moscow would have to spend unsustainable amounts to keep pace, Rovner argues that Washington should resist this temptation. For one, the U.S. does not have the necessary understanding of Russia's military doctrine. Secondly, he argues that "Putin is perfectly capable of making strategic blunders all on his own." Third, such an approach would actually reinforce Putin's domestic narrative, and finally, the goal itself is too vague. Rovner writes that competitive strategies are deliberately risky by nature, as the same fear that allows one side control the pace of competition can also inspire the other side to make irrational decisions. "Russia seems vulnerable to competitive strategies because of its oversensitivity and proclivity for overreaction, but these are precisely the reasons why such an approach is ill-advised. Of all the reasons to put competitive strategy on the backburner, none is more urgent than the danger of a needless confrontation.”

Read the full article at War on the Rocks. 


Joshua Rovner

Joshua Rovner is an associate professor in the School of International Service at American University.

Photo by Dan Wiedbrauk shared under a CC BY-ND 2.0 license.