Current Readings on May 8 – Gessen on US Diplomacy

With the close of the spring semester upon us, I’d like to write about what I’m reading that’s related to the topics of this site. Today, that topic is American policy toward Russia. This article in the NYT Magazine, “The Quiet Americans behind the US–Russia Imbroglio,” by Kieth Gessen, gets at a number of issues that, in a somewhat different form, have been on my mind.

I joke that I’ve been a lot more interesting at parties over the last couple of years—really since the blowup in Ukraine in early 2014—because everyone wants to talk to me about Russia.

“What is Putin doing? What’s Putin thinking?”

I have some standard answers for this. One of which is as follows: “I don’t know. But I do know that anyone who says they do doesn’t know what they’re talking about.”

Usually what follows is an attempt to explain how the last twenty-five years of post–Soviet Russian relations with the United States looks from a Russian perspective, ground covered by Gessen, even if it’s not front and center in the piece. What Gessen valuably provides, however, is a story of the diplomacy (or lack thereof), the ideas, and the people who are driving this, out of the spotlight, when the politicians aren’t grandstanding about Russian election interference.

In short, I’d be curious to learn what you all out there think of Gessen’s piece.