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A nation must think before it acts.
Contrary to the increasingly popular image of Russia as an aggressive, imperialist state, the primary drivers in Russia’s foreign policy are domestic. They include new economic confidence, new soft power, and remaining security vulnerabilities. In response to these conditions, Russia pursues opportunities for economic growth and stability, and it builds strategic alliances in the near and distant abroad in order to address increasing security threats. The often-used comparison of Russia’s foreign policy assertiveness to the Soviet Cold War policy is inaccurate. A better parallel is to Russia’s 1890s policy led by Finance Minister Sergei Witte: strong internal economic development through state-driven liberalization, while avoiding foreign policy adventures. The United States should follow a policy of pragmatic substantive engagement, rather than neo-containment, toward Russia.