What priorities should drive U.S. policy toward Russia?
Fourth edition. February 2015.

U.S. relations with Russia are entering a new phase. Russia has emerged from the turmoil it experienced after the Soviet Union fell and is claiming a new role in international relations, a role that has led to disagreements with the United States. Russia has sought to assert its own course in the world and reestablish the influence and respect that it believes a country of its size and strength deserves. How the United States should handle this evolving relationship is an open question. Russia’s Transformation: Challenges for U.S. Policy is designed to help to students consider this important issue.


The background readings have been written to prepare students to thoughtfully consider the policy choices before them. Part I offers an historical overview of U.S. relations with the Russian empire and the Soviet Union. Part II surveys the economic and political changes that Russia has undergone since the Soviet collapse. Part III concentrates on the leading challenges facing U.S. policymakers with respect to Russia and its neighbors.


Examining the Principles of U.S. Cold War Policy

In this lesson students examine George Kennan's 1947 Foreign Affairs article. Students identify the beliefs that formed the basis of his views and analyze his thesis.

U.S.-Soviet Propaganda

After examining selections from a Soviet textbook and a U.S. comic book, students analyze the impact of propaganda on international politics.

Geography of Russia

Students practice map-reading skills and consider how geography affects international politics.

Looking at Russia

Students analyze photographs of present day Russia to learn about Russian life and society. Students consider the benefits and limitations of using photographs as a source for learning about Russia.

The Options Role Play

The three policy options are designed to help students clarify their thoughts and, ultimately, articulate their own views. Each option is grounded in a clearly defined philosophy about the U.S. role in the world and the U.S. relationship to Russia.

Constructing Policy

In a culminating activity after the options role play, students articulate their own recommendations for U.S. policy toward Russia and compare their guidelines to a those outlined in a speech by President Obama. Students then assess a speech by Russia's President Putin that outlines the Russia's rationale for Russian policy in the Crimean Peninsula and Ukraine.

Supplemental Resources

Additional reference material for added context and support.


Figes, Orlando. Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia (New York: Henry Holt, 2002). 544 pages.

Dawisha, Karen. Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Own’s Russia? (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014). 464 pages.

Kissinger, Henry. World Order (New York: Penguin Press, 2014). 432 pages.

Kotkin, Stephen. Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse 1970-2000 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001). 245 pages.

Remnick, David. Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire (New York: Random House, 1993). 576 pages.

An excellent collection of primary sources (including documents, images, audio, video) from the Soviet era.
An archive of contemporary domestic, international, and Russian press accounts about current events in Russia.
has articles and information about Russia that is updated frequently.
is a blog and podcast of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty that covers Russian news and politics in detail.
A bilingual (Russian-English) Library of Congress website that offers a multi-media examination of the exploration and settlement of the Russian-American frontier in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.
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