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[ 143 ] book review roundtable • the russia balance sheet also carries certain risks. Can one be sure that the data one is gathering reflects the most important variables in the minds of key decisionmakers? Without an explicit discussion of the assumptions about what is driving social outcomes, there is a risk of leaving out some important variables. In contrast to the balance sheet approach, scenario planning is more likely to force one to think outside the box—to pay attention to issues that may not be captured by conventional measures but which may turn out to be crucial drivers of future developments. The book’s relative silence on the question of Russia’s political evolution is the most obvious lacuna in this particular balance sheet. This silence is all the more surprising given that political factors seem to be driving the various pathologies in economic development, public health, and international cooperation. This reviewer would have liked to have seen more discussion of the social and political challenges the regime faces, the balance between competing elite factions, the tension between the regions and the federal center, and the weakness of intermediary institutions. Misreading Russia: The Washington Consensus Strikes Out Again Stephen Blank If one were looking for a book that represents the broad consensus inside the Beltway about Russia, this would be it. The virtues of The Russia Balance Sheet are considerable. But a more searching analysis of Russia is needed if the reader and the policy community for whom this book was most likely written are to understand Russia fully. In this respect, the book falls short. This shortcoming does not imply that the authors have failed to provide a considerable level of data and assessment; for example, they present an insightful analysis of the problems connected with Russia’s key industry, the energy sector. Likewise, Åslund and Kuchins provide an excellent account of why the issues connected to the World Trade Organization (WTO) are important for Russia and the country’s economic and foreign relations. Similarly, the book provides a very fine account of Russia’s demographic and health challenges and the potential impact of these issues on the economy. stephen blank is Research Professor of National Security Affairs with the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College. He can be reached at . [ 144 ] asia policy Many of the recommendations on policy—for example, transforming Russia from a principal agent to one of the parties involved in efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue—are also sound. Despite the excellence of individual sections, however, the book has weaknesses that reduce its value as an overall analysis of Russia’s course and trajectory. The major fault of The Russia Balance Sheet is that it too readily accepts the Beltway consensus and Russia’s presentation of itself in the world and thus does not sufficiently analyze the driving forces of Russia’s overall policies. This weakness is particularly acute with respect to Russian policy in areas beyond the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and relations with Europe and the United States. In particular, policy experts have failed to account for Russian foreign policy beyond areas of immediate interest to the U.S. policy community. This failure limits that community’s ability to see Russian policy in all its totality: foreign policy, domestic policy, and the integration of the two. Whereas every Russian leader since Lenin has underlined the unity of domestic and foreign policy, most writing on Russia in the United States analyzes Russian foreign policy in a vacuum, failing to link domestic to foreign policy. The Russian Balance Sheet falls into this trap. Admittedly, foreign policy toward the United States has been the primary focus of Russian attention and is naturally of interest to the United States. Yet no Russian statesman makes the mistake of disregarding Russia’s relationships with China and the rest of Asia or the growing commercial and political ties to the Middle East, Latin America, and even Africa. In addition, the book does not contain sustained analysis of Russian defense policies. This all too common omission, which the authors share with the vast majority of U.S. pundits, gravely compromises readers’ ability to understand...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2960
Print ISSN
1559-0968
Pages
pp. 143-147
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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