Russia is in an economic crisis. Their military capabilities are on a decline. They severely lack in allies, especially in Europe. And yet, Vladimir Putin is able to perform this weakening hand so incredibly powerfully. This leads to more and more nations, like the Philippines, becoming more attracted to aligning with Moscow (and Beijing) over Washington.
One potential explanation is the Donald Trump line, that Putin is such a strong leader he can overcome any weaknesses that his country might have. That’s seriously debatable, as Putin has repeatedly shown that his capabilities for subtleties in his foreign policy are highly limited.
Another possible rationale is that the Russian’s strengths are so specialized into important realms of modern society. For example, one of the major strengths of the Soviet Union was the math and science education, so it’s no surprise that a lasting impact of the Soviet Union is that Russia is blessed with incredible computer capabilities, which gives them the ability to hack nearly anyone or anything at will.
So how does the United States counter that? Although some might say that making counter-investments in technologies could be a good strategy, I would posit that the best thing to do would be to play our own strengths. Rather than hacking the Kremlin, perhaps the focus should be on increasing investments on American military forces in Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, and other regions that Russia has strategic interests in. Rather than fixing our weaknesses, I would propose that Vladimir has proven over the past decade and a half that a stronger strategy would be to focus on our strengths and to flaunt and deploy them wisely.
Another major strength of the United States is our appeal as a beacon of democracy. When the world watches and sees in our Congress extreme levels of bureaucracy, incompetence, and ineffectiveness, they see a nation of discordance. They are pushed away from the United States and our allies, and towards Russia and China, and their respective allies. Thus, the best best counter-measures would be to find ways to streamline our Congressional processes, improve upon our disastrous ineffectiveness, and resolve our extreme polarization.