March 17, 2017
US President Donald J. Trump’s administration should pursue a policy of “constrainment”—an attempt to hinder Russian revanchism while bolstering Western alliances—to counter Russia’s aggression on the world stage, according to a new Atlantic Council report.

Ash Jain, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center for International Security, joined James Nixey, head of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House, for a Facebook Live discussion to examine the idea of constrainment and how it can help the United States oppose Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to undermine the West. This policy is outlined in Strategy of “Constrainment”: Countering Russia’s Challenge to the Democratic Order of which Jain is a co-author.


In the current geopolitical climate, “Russia poses a clear threat to Western interests,” said Jain. Nixey echoed his sentiment, adding: “Russia means to undermine us; it means us harm.” He described how the conflict is not one of territory, but of ideology. According to Nixey, Russia means to rearrange the post-Cold War order, and Western allies must counter the Kremlin’s attempt to fracture the rules-based liberal order because “this is something worth defending.”

In light of these circumstances, Jain and Nixey claimed it is imperative that Western allies, with the leadership of the United States, stand up to Putin. The concept of constrainment lays forth a strategy to achieve this end.

Jain outlined the five key pillars of the strategy: defend against and deter potential Russian threats, penalize Russian violations of global norms, wage a battle of narratives to contest Russian propaganda, support the aspirations of the Russian people, and maintain Western unity through multilateral alliances.

However, “we do need to stay engaged with Russia,” Jain said. “The question is not whether we engage, but how,” he said. According to both experts, the Trump administration must abide by a policy of principled engagement.

Rachel Ansley is an editorial assistant at the Atlantic Council.  

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