If There Is a Neocon Warning – Pay Attention


John R. Houk

© June 26, 2019

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) in conjunction with the Think Tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI) has put together a report measuring Russia’s potential threat to American interests today.

 

In the Bush II Presidential years the AEI had a Neoconservative reputation in its policy advocacy. In this day and age Neocons are pretty much castigated by the American Left and American Right.

 

On a personal level I have been an admirer of Neoconservatism’s American Exceptionalism and a Foreign Policy based on military strength. Traditional Conservatives (sometimes called Paleocons) view this kind of aggressive Foreign Policy as a Big Government budget destroyer. There are those the American Left would label as the racist Right who castigate Neocons as ex-Communist Jews that can’t be trusted.

 

There is a large amount of truth to the “ex-Communist” association since a large number of early Neocon proponents were indeed Communists or at least Marxist sympathizers, BUT these rebels against Communism woke up to the ideological failures. Socialism (and yes this includes National Socialism aka Nazism) and varieties of Marxism have led to much of history’s oppressive regimes and the genocide of huge groups of human beings.

 

However, to label a “Communist” a “Jew” is a bit of an oxymoron. Communists are anti-religion atheists by nature and a good Jew practices the religious faith of Judaism. It is true there are people of a Jewish heritage that have repudiated the religious tenets of Judaism and embraced Marxist-Communist ideology. If one embraces Communism one rejects religion. That would make a Jew who became a Communist an ex-Jew. Incidentally, a person of Christian heritage, Islamic heritage, Buddhist heritage or any religious heritage who embraces Communism have rejected their religious heritage and have become an ex-whatever heritage.

 

Condemning all Jews because a few rejected their religious heritage should logically lead to the same condemnation of other people rejecting their religious heritage. I doubt Jew-haters follow that logic since one rarely hears the label that all Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. are evil because a few accept atheistic One World Government Communism. Hence the hypocrisy of hating Jews because of Communism is just plain racism. (Muslims hate Jews because their revered writings tell them to hate Jews [Percentages]. That’s a whole different kind of racism. One sees that kind of racism among idiot Christians who believe all Jews are responsible for killing Jesus when it was a secret night tribunal of Jewish leaders fearing a rebellion would displace status among their Roman overlords. Human fear and jealousy got Jesus Crucified. God’s love Resurrected the Son of God which offers Saving Redemption to ALL who Believe in the Risen Savior – to the Jew first then to the non-Jew.)

 

The American Left deride the Neocons’ American Exceptionalism as nationalistic anti-globalist rejectors of Socialism/Marxism.

 

Have Neocons made mistakes? DEFINITELY! The principle of nation-building based on American Republic Representative-Democracy only works in cultures amenable to the Western heritage. This unfortunate discovery became evident in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those cultures have been brainwashed into Islamic thought for too long for the populace to understand let alone accept Western Representative Democracy.

 

When Neocons have a warning about Russia in relation to American National Interests and National Security the benefit of the USA is what is in mind.

 

JRH 6/26/19

Your generosity is always appreciated:

Please Support NCCR

**********************

CONFRONTING THE RUSSIAN CHALLENGE

 

Russian Soldier

 

By Frederick W. KaganNataliya Bugayova, and Jennifer Cafarella

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY (PDF)

Institute for the Study of War

[Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute]

June 2019

 

Russia poses a significant threat to the United States and its allies for which the West is not ready.  The West must act urgently to meet this threat without exaggerating it.  Russia today does not have the military strength of the Soviet Union. It is a poor state with an economy roughly the size of Canada’s, a population less than half that of the U.S., and demographic trends indicating that it will lose strength over time.  It is not a conventional military near-peer nor will it become so.  Its unconventional warfare and information operations pose daunting but not insuperable challenges.  The U.S. and its allies must develop a coherent global approach to meeting and transcending the Russian challenge.

 

[Download the full report here and the Executive Summary here.]

 

The Russian Threat

 

President Vladimir Putin has invaded two of his neighbors, Georgia and Ukraine, partly to stop them from aligning with NATO and the West.  He has also illegally annexed territory from both those states. He has established a military base in the eastern Mediterranean that he uses to interfere with, shape, and restrict the operations of the U.S. and the anti-ISIS coalition.  He has given cover to Bashar al Assad’s use of chemical weapons, and Russian agents have used military-grade chemical weapons in assassination attempts in Great Britain.  Russia has threatened to use nuclear weapons, even in regional and local conflicts. And Moscow has interfered in elections and domestic political discourse in the U.S. and Europe.

 

The Russian threat’s effectiveness results mainly from the West’s weaknesses.  NATO’s European members are not meeting their full commitments to the alliance to maintain the fighting power needed to deter and defeat the emerging challenge from Moscow. Increasing political polarization and the erosion of trust by Western peoples in their governments creates vulnerabilities that the Kremlin has adroitly exploited.

 

Moscow’s success in manipulating Western perceptions of and reactions to its activities has fueled the development of an approach to warfare that the West finds difficult to understand, let alone counter.  Shaping the information space is the primary effort to which Russian military operations, even conventional military operations, are frequently subordinated in this way of war.  Russia obfuscates its activities and confuses the discussion so that many people throw up their hands and say simply, “Who knows if the Russians really did that?  Who knows if it was legal?”—thus paralyzing the West’s responses.

 

Putin’s Program

 

Putin is not simply an opportunistic predator.  Putin and the major institutions of the Russian Federation have a program as coherent as that of any Western leader.  Putin enunciates his objectives in major speeches, and his ministers generate detailed formal expositions of Russia’s military and diplomatic aims and its efforts and the methods and resources it uses to pursue them.  These statements cohere with the actions of Russian officials and military units on the ground.  The common perception that he is opportunistic arises from the way that the Kremlin sets conditions to achieve these objectives in advance. Putin closely monitors the domestic and international situation and decides to execute plans when and if conditions require and favor the Kremlin. The aims of Russian policy can be distilled into the following:

 

Domestic Objectives

 

Putin is an autocrat who seeks to retain control of his state and the succession.  He seeks to keep his power circle content, maintain his own popularity, suppress domestic political opposition in the name of blocking a “color revolution” he falsely accuses the West of preparing, and expand the Russian economy.

 

Putin has not fixed the economy, which remains corrupt, inefficient, and dependent on petrochemical and mineral exports.  He has focused instead on ending the international sanctions regime to obtain the cash, expertise, and technology he needs.  Information operations and hybrid warfare undertakings in Europe are heavily aimed at this objective.

 

External Objectives

 

Putin’s foreign policy aims are clear: end American dominance and the “unipolar” world order, restore “multipolarity,” and reestablish Russia as a global power and broker.  He identifies NATO as an adversary and a threat and seeks to negate it.  He aims to break Western unity, establish Russian suzerainty over the former Soviet States, and regain a global footprint.

 

Putin works to break Western unity by invalidating the collective defense provision of the North Atlantic Treaty (Article 5), weakening the European Union, and destroying the faith of Western societies in their governments.

 

He is reestablishing a global military footprint similar in extent the Soviet Union’s, but with different aims. He is neither advancing an ideology, nor establishing bases from which to project conventional military power on a large scale.  He aims rather to constrain and shape America’s actions using small numbers of troops and agents along with advanced anti-air and anti-shipping systems.

 

Recommendations

 

A sound U.S. grand strategic approach to Russia:

 

  • Aims to achieve core American national security objectives positively rather than to react defensively to Russian actions;

 

  • Holistically addresses all U.S. interests globally as they relate to Russia rather than considering them theater-by-theater;

 

  • Does not trade core American national security interests in one theater for those in another, or sacrifice one vital interest for another;

 

  • Achieves American objectives by means short of war if at all possible;

 

  • Deters nuclear war, the use of any nuclear weapons, and other Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD);

 

  • Accepts the risk of conventional conflict with Russia while seeking to avoid it and to control escalation, while also ensuring that American forces will prevail at any escalation level;

 

  • Contests Russian information operations and hybrid warfare undertakings; and

 

  • Extends American protection and deterrence to U.S. allies in NATO and outside of NATO.

 

Such an approach involves four principal lines of effort.

 

Constrain Putin’s Resources.  Russia uses hybrid warfare approaches because of its relative poverty and inability to field large and modern military systems that could challenge the U.S. and NATO symmetrically.  Lifting or reducing the current sanctions regime or otherwise facilitating Russia’s access to wealth and technology could give Putin the resources he needs to mount a much more significant conventional threat—an aim he had been pursuing in the early 2000s when high oil prices and no sanctions made it seem possible.

 

Disrupt Hybrid Operations.  Identifying, exposing, and disrupting hybrid operations is a feasible, if difficult, undertaking.  New structures in the U.S. military, State Department, and possibly National Security Council Staff are likely needed to:

 

  1. Coordinate efforts to identify and understand hybrid operations in preparation and underway;

 

  1. Develop recommendations for action against hybrid operations that the U.S. government has identified but are not yet publicly known;

 

  1. Respond to the unexpected third-party exposure of hybrid operations whether the U.S. government knew about the operations or not;

 

  1. Identify in advance the specific campaign and strategic objectives that should be pursued when the U.S. government deliberately exposes a particular hybrid operation or when third parties expose hybrid operations of a certain type in a certain area;

 

  1. Shape the U.S. government response, particularly in the information space, to drive the blowback effects of the exposure of a particular hybrid operation toward achieving those identified objectives; and

 

  1. Learn lessons from past and current counter-hybrid operations undertakings, improve techniques, and prepare for future evolutions of Russian approaches in coordination with allies and partners.

 

The U.S. should also develop a counter-information operations approach that uses only truth against Russian narratives aimed at sowing discord within the West and at undermining the legitimacy of Western governments.

 

Delegitimize Putin as a Mediator and Convener.  Recognition as one of the poles of a multipolar world order is vital to Putin.  It is part of the greatness he promises the Russian people in return for taking their liberty.  Getting a “seat at the table” of Western-led endeavors is insufficient for him because he seeks to transform the international system fundamentally.  He finds the very language of being offered a seat at the West’s table patronizing.

 

He has gained much more legitimacy as an international partner in Syria and Ukraine than his behavior warrants.  He benefits from the continuous desire of Western leaders to believe that Moscow will help them out of their own problems if only it is approached in the right way.

 

The U.S. and its allies must instead recognize that Putin is a self-declared adversary who seeks to weaken, divide, and harm them—never to strengthen or help them.  He has made clear in word and deed that his interests are antithetical to the West’s.  The West should therefore stop treating him as a potential partner, but instead require him to demonstrate that he can and will act to advance rather than damage the West’s interests before engaging with him at high levels.

 

The West must not trade interests in one region for Putin’s help in another, even if there is reason to believe that he would actually be helpful.  Those working on American policy in Syria and the Levant must recognize that the U.S. cannot afford to subordinate its global Russia policy to pursue limited interests, however important, within the Middle East.  Recognizing Putin as a mediator or convener in Syria—to constrain Iran’s activities in the south of that country, for example—is too high a price tag to pay for undermining a coherent global approach to the Russian threat.  Granting him credibility in that role there enhances his credibility in his self-proclaimed role as a mediator rather than belligerent in Ukraine.  The tradeoff of interests is unacceptable.

 

Nor should the U.S. engage with Putin about Ukraine until he has committed publicly in word and deed to what should be the minimum non-negotiable Western demand—the recognition of the full sovereignty of all the former Soviet states, specifically including Ukraine, in their borders as of the dates of their admission as independent countries to the United Nations, and the formal renunciation (including the repealing of relevant Russian legislation) of any right to interfere in the internal affairs of those states.

 

Defend NATO.  The increased Russian threat requires increased efforts to defend NATO against both conventional and hybrid threats.  All NATO members must meet their commitments to defense spending targets—and should be prepared to go beyond those commitments to field the forces necessary to defend themselves and other alliance members.  The Russian base in Syria poses a threat to Western operations in the Middle East that are essential to protecting our own citizens and security against terrorist threats and Iran.  Neither the U.S. nor NATO is postured to protect the Mediterranean or fight for access to the Middle East through the eastern Mediterranean. NATO must now prepare to field and deploy additional forces to ensure that it can win that fight.

 

The West should also remove as much ambiguity as possible from the NATO commitment to defend member states threatened by hybrid warfare.  The 2018 Brussels Declaration affirming the alliance’s intention to defend member states attacked by hybrid warfare was a good start.  The U.S. and other NATO states with stronger militaries should go further by declaring that they will come to the aid of a member state attacked by conventional or hybrid means regardless of whether Article 5 is formally activated, creating a pre-emptive coalition of the willing to deter Russian aggression.

 

Bilateral Negotiations.  Recognizing that Russia is a self-defined adversary and threat does not preclude direct negotiations.  The U.S. negotiated several arms control treaties with the Soviet Union and has negotiated with other self-defined enemies as well.  It should retain open channels of communication and a willingness to work together with Russia on bilateral areas in which real and verifiable agreement is possible, even while refusing to grant legitimacy to Russian intervention in conflicts beyond its borders.  Such areas could include strategic nuclear weapons, cyber operations, interference in elections, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty, and other matters related to direct Russo-American tensions and concerns.  There is little likelihood of any negotiation yielding fruit at this point, but there is no need to refuse to talk with Russia on these and similar issues in hopes of laying the groundwork for more successful discussions in the future.

 

READ THE FULL REPORT HERE.

________________________

If There Is a Neocon Warning – Pay Attention

John R. Houk

© June 26, 2019

_______________________

CONFRONTING THE RUSSIAN CHALLENGE

 

1400 16th Street NW, Suite 515 Washington, DC 20036
ph. (202) 293-5550


©2007 – 2019 THE INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR

 

Monroe Doctrine, Venezuela & Russia


John R. Houk

© April 6, 2019

 

Nations recognizing presidential power (Maduro vs Guaidó) during the 2019 Venezuelan presidential crisis as of 28 February 2019:

 

Conservatives enjoy using the example of Venezuela as an example of the failures of Socialism as the dominant political doctrine of a nation.  But there is more than Socialism to add to Venezuela’s failure.

 

Not long ago Venezuela had a Presidential election in which Nicolás Maduro (Moros) – who succeeded Hugo Chavez upon his deathfraudulently won. Venezuela’s Nationally Assembly chose Juan Guaidó (full name: Juan Gerardo Guaidó Márquez) as interim President.

 

Most nations sided with Guaidó over Maduro but Maduro had the Venezuelan military behind him. And now the power of former Communist Russia is behind Maduro and sending military personnel to Venezuela. European powers sending their military to the North and South American continents has never set well with the U.S. government since official policy every American should have learned in some form of civics class – The Monroe Doctrine first voiced in 1823.

 

In case you  missed that class or are victimized by America’s current Leftist education system, here is a roughly 6-minute Youtube primer:

 

VIDEO: What is MONROE DOCTRINE? What does MONROE DOCTRINE mean? MONROE DOCTRINE meaning & explanation

 

Posted by The Audiopedia

Published on Feb 22, 2017

 

 

The Monroe Doctrine was a U.S. policy of opposing European colonialism in the Americas beginning in 1823. It stated that further efforts by European nations to take control of any independent state in North or South America would be viewed as “the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.” At the same time, the doctrine noted that the U.S. would recognize and not interfere with existing European colonies nor meddle in the internal concerns of European countries. The Doctrine was issued in 1823 at a time when nearly all Latin American colonies of Spain and Portugal had achieved or were at the point of gaining independence from the Portuguese and Spanish Empires.

 

President James Monroe first stated the doctrine during his seventh annual State of the Union Address to Congress. The term “Monroe Doctrine” itself was coined in 1850. By the end of the 19th century, Monroe’s declaration was seen as a defining moment in the foreign policy of the United States and one of its longest-standing tenets. It would READ THE REST

 

For greater detail on the emergence of the Monroe Doctrine, its historical application and eventual Latin American resentment:

 

 

 

 

America currently is fairly split between the GOP and Dems still under the influence of the Obama make-America-weak-again (MAWA treason) doctrine. MAWA links:

 

 

 

 

Yup, you would be correct. I blame Barack Hussein Obama for Russia having the cojones to send anything military to the Socialist-Marxist Nicolás Maduro the dictator of Venezuela.

 

Below is an Institute for the Study of War (ISW) analysis looking at Russia propping up the Maduro dictatorship seeing if President Trump will continue the Monroe Doctrine.

 

JRH 4/6/19

Your generosity is always appreciated:

Please Support NCCR

********************

Russia in Review: March 26 – April 4, 2019

 

By Darina Regio and Michaela Walker

April 5, 2019 2:06 PM

Institute for the Study of War

 

Russia in Review is a weekly intelligence summary (INTSUM) produced by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). This ISW INTSUM series sheds light on key trends and developments related to the Russian government’s objectives and its efforts to secure them. Receive future Russia in Review INTSUM products via-email by signing up for the ISW mailing list.

Reporting Period: March 26 – April 4, 2019 (read the previous Russia in Review here)

Authors: Darina Regio and Michaela Walker

Key TakeawayRussia intensified its military support and extended its economic lifeline to the Nicolas Maduro regime in Venezuela. The Kremlin is reinforcing Maduro to protect Russian investments in Venezuela and confront the U.S. in the Western Hemisphere. Meanwhile, NATO is responding to Russia’s reinforced military posture in Eastern Europe.

The Kremlin is reinforcing Nicolas Maduro’s regime to contest the U.S. in South America and protect Russia’s investments in Venezuela. Russia has doubled down on its long-standing support of Maduro after Venezuela’s National Assembly, the official legislative body, declared Maduro’s rule to be illegitimate on account of a sham election in 2018. The National Assembly President Juan Guaido declared himself Interim President of Venezuela on constitutional grounds on January 23, 2019.[1] The U.S. and more than 50 other countries have recognized the decision. The Kremlin has condemned the transition as “colonial” and “aggressive.”[2] The Kremlin has blocked measures against Maduro in the UN Security Council and lauded Russia’s “strategic partnership” with Venezuela.[3]

Russia has intensified its effort to secure the regime in Venezuela militarily. Venezuelan officials stated on April 4 that they do not rule out the possibility of additional Russian military personnel arriving in Venezuela.[4] The Kremlin deployed 100 military advisors, including cybersecurity specialists, led by Russian Ground Forces Chief of Staff Col. Gen. Vasily Tonkoshkurov to Venezuela on March 23.[5] U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams stated that one of the force’s tasks is to repair Venezuela’s S-300 Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (SAMS).[6] The advisors are also likely tasked with reinforcing Maduro’s security. Russia also reportedly deployed 400 contractors from the private military company (PMC) Wagner Group to Venezuela in January 2019 to provide support and physical protection to Maduro.[7] Russia has relied on the Wagner Group to support its operations in Syria, Ukraine, and Africa. The Kremlin cannot afford to project significant military power into South America and is using limited tools, such as PMC and military advisors, to achieve its objectives.

The force marked the latest escalation in the military assistance provided to Maduro by the Kremlin. Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez inaugurated a helicopter flight simulator in Venezuela built in cooperation with Rosoboron export on March 29.[8] Lopez noted that Venezuela and Russia would open a similar flight simulator for Russian Su-30MK2 ‘Flanker-C’ fighter jets as well as a factory to produce AK-103 Kalashnikovs by late 2019. The plant is part of a long-delayed deal signed in 2006.[9] Russia also dispatched two nuclear-capable Tu-160 ‘Blackjack’ strategic bombers to Venezuela in December 2018.[10] Russia has sold at least $4 billion worth of military equipment to Venezuela since 2006, including 5,000 Man-Portable Air-Defense Systems (MANPADS), 23 Su-30MK2 ‘Flanker-Cs’, 10 Mi-35M ‘Hind-E’ attack helicopters, and at least three S-300VM SAMS.[11]

The Kremlin is also economically entrenched in Venezuela. Russia maintains large investments in Venezuela, particularly in the oil, gold mining, and military industrial sectors. The Government of Russia and Rosneft have lent Venezuela at least $17 billion since 2006.[12]Maduro most recently secured a $6 billion investment package in the oil and mining sectors after a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in December 2018.[13] The deal occurred despite tensions between Rosneft and Venezuelan state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) regarding faltering debt payments by Venezuela. Russia is a key exporter of wheat to Venezuela.[14] The Kremlin has also been working on a revival plan for Venezuela’s economy and proposed an informal draft for Maduro’s consideration in January 2019, shortly before the Maduro was faced with the opposition challenge.[15]

The Kremlin is providing other economic lifelines to mitigate international sanctions against Maduro. Russia reportedly converted 30 tons of gold stored on behalf of Venezuela into $1.2 billion in cash for Maduro in January 2019.[16] PDVSA moved its regional headquarters from Lisbon to Moscow in March 2019 and opened a bank account in Gazprom bank in Russia in February 2019 to circumvent European sanctions.[17] Rosneft has also stepped in to support oil production in Venezuela, providing valuable chemical thinners to dilute its heavy crude oil and tankers to ship the resulting product to refineries in India.[18]

The Kremlin aids Maduro in pursuit of Putin’s larger objectives, including the end of American hegemony and asserting Russia as a global power to be reckoned with. The Kremlin intends to prevent what it frames as an American attempt to overthrow Maduro’s regime.[19] Putin has a strong aversion to forced regime change – regardless of the circumstances – given his concerns about preserving his own regime. The Kremlin likely also views the preservation of Maduro’s regime as a potential long-term vector for influence in the Western Hemisphere. Russia engaged in a similar calculus with its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov stated that Venezuela would not become “another Syria” for Russia, and the Kremlin will likely use various means at a reasonable cost to ensure that Maduro’s regime stays in power.[20]

Meanwhile, Russia continues to reinforce its military posture in the European theater while portraying the U.S. as a disruptor of the international balance. The Kremlin is deploying anti-access, area-denial (A2AD) systems in the European part of Russia and holding sporadic military drills near NATO borders. The Russian Western Military District held an unannounced air defense exercise across five different regions bordering several NATO members on March 19.[21] The drills included more than 1,000 troops, 30 aircraft, and 20 S-300 surface-to-air missile systems. Russia’s 7th Guards Mountain Air Assault Division later held a major exercise involving 1,500 troops and 300 military vehicles on the occupied Crimean Peninsula on March 25.[22] Russia previously deployed additional S-400 SAMS to Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula on February 8, Leningrad Oblast near St. Petersburg on March 12, and Kaliningrad Oblast between the Baltics and Poland on March 15.[23] Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced on February 4, 2019, that Russia will develop a land-based version of the naval intermediate-range Kalibr cruise missile and land-based launchers for hypersonic short- to medium-range missiles in response to the U.S. notice that it will withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in light of Russia’s long-standing non-compliance. Putin stated that Russia would deploy intermediate- or short-range missiles only in response to similar U.S. deployments.[24]The Kremlin conducts sporadic military drills in order to test responses from NATO and threaten the West’s partners. Russia will continue to call its actions a ‘symmetric’ response to the U.S. in order to justify further deployments on the European border.

NATO is responding to the changing Russian military posture by building up its military capabilities. The U.S. signed defense cooperation agreements with Lithuania on April 2 and with Hungary on April 4.[25] NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced that the alliance will increase its naval presence and activity in the Black Sea to protect NATO allies’ security interests.[26] The Permanent Representative of the U.S. to NATO Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison emphasized that NATO’s presence was intended to ensure safe passage of Ukrainian vessels through the Kerch Strait. Two ships from Standing NATO Maritime Group Two made port calls in Odesa on April 1 the day after Ukraine’s presidential elections, while a third arrived in Poti, Georgia.[27] Stoltenberg also announced that the alliance has committed to constructing a $260 million U.S. military equipment storage facility in Powidz, Poland. Stoltenberg confirmed that this project is intended to “underpin the increased U.S. presence in Poland.”[28] Russia is much less likely to carry out a conventional attack against NATO member states along its borders if it is clear that the U.S. will defend those states militarily and that it can readily do so. NATO member nations should be prepared for an increase in covert Russian operations as a result of a defensive NATO military buildup.


[1] Doug Stanglin, “U.S. Recognizes Venezuela Opposition Leader Juan Guaido as President; Russia Backs Maduro,” USA Today, January 23, 2019, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2019/01/23/venezuela-juan-guaido-declares-himself-president-amid-protests/2658642002/.
[2] [“Commentary of the Official Russian Foreign Ministry Representative M. V. Zakharova Regarding the U.S. Line with Respect to Venezuela,”] Russian Foreign Ministry, March 30, 2019, http://www.mid(.)ru/ru/maps/ve/-/asset_publisher/xF355DHtiSes/content/id/3595365; [“Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zakharova Media Presser Regarding Accusations of Russian Meddling in Venezuela’s Internal Affairs,”] Russian Foreign Ministry, March 26, 2019, http://www.mid(.)ru/ru/maps/ve/-/asset_publisher/xF355DHtiSes/content/id/3591552.
[3] [“Opening Remarks by Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov During Meeting with Venezuelan Executive Vice President Rodrigues, Moscow, March 1, 2019,”] Russian Foreign Ministry, March 1, 2019, http://www.mid(.)ru/ru/maps/ve/-/asset_publisher/xF355DHtiSes/content/id/3550044; Michael Schwirtz, “Russia Blocks Venezuela Measure at U.N, Calling It a U.S. Ploy for Regime Change,” The New York Times, February 28, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/28/world/americas/russia-venezuela-veto-united-nations.html.
[4] “Venezuelan Deputy Minister Says More Russian Troops Could Arrive – Interfax,” Thomas Reuters Foundation, April 04, 2019, http://news.trust.org//item/20190404095809-d5vel/.
[5] Matt Spetalnick, “Russian Deployment in Venezuela Includes ‘Cybersecurity Personnel’: U.S. Official,” Reuters, March 26, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics-russians/russian-deployment-in-venezuela-includes-cybersecurity-personnel-u-s-official-idUSKCN1R72FX.
[6] “Briefing With Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams,” U.S. Department of State, March 29, 2019, https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2019/03/290780.htm.
[7] Maria Tsvetkova and Naton Zverev, “Exclusive: Kremlin-linked Contractors Help Guard Venezuela’s Maduro – Sources,” Reuters, January 25, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics-russia-exclusive/exclusive-kremlin-linked-contractors-help-guard-venezuelas-maduro-sources-idUSKCN1PJ22M.
[8] Alec Luhn and Harriet Alexander, “Russia Opens Military Helicopter Training Center in Venezuela,” The Telegraph, April 2, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/04/02/russia-opens-military-helicopter-training-centre-venezuela/.
[9] [“Kalashnikov Plant in Venezuela Will Be Finished by End of the Year,”] Interfax, February 18, 2019, https://www.interfax(.)ru/world/651019.
[10] Tom Phillips, “Venezuela Welcomes Russian Bombers in Show of Support for Maduro,” The Guardian, December 10, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/10/venezuela-russian-bombers-maduro.
[11] “SIPRI Arms Transfers Database,” The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, March 11, 2019, https://www.sipri.org/; Girish Gupta, “Exclusive: Venezuela Holds 5,000 Russian Surface-to-Air MANPADS Missiles,” Reuters, May 22, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-arms-manpads/exclusive-venezuela-holds-5000-russian-surface-to-air-manpads-missiles-idUSKBN18I0E9; “Venezuela Allocates $480m to Buy Sukhoi Aircraft from Russia,” Air Force Technology, November 01, 2015, https://www.airforce-technology.com/uncategorised/newsvenezuela-allocates-480m-to-buy-sukhoi-aircraft-from-russia-4708156/; “Upgraded ‘Hinds’ for Venezuela,” Air Forces Monthly, February 15, 2017, https://airforcesmonthly.keypublishing.com/2017/02/15/upgraded-hinds-for-venezuela/; “Venezuela: Military Alert Following the Political Crisis in the Country,” ImageSat International, https://imagesat.maps.arcgis.com/apps/Cascade/index.html?appid=1677a63fa94548ecae49bf1dae1d26bd.
[12]Anton Troianovski, “Russia Spent Billions to Build Influence in Venezuela. Now it Faces a Bet Gone Bad,” The Washington Post, January 25, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/01/24/russia-spent-billions-build-influence-venezuela-now-it-faces-bet-gone-bad/?utm_term=.f7b04c1ca198.
[13] Corina Pons and Luc Cohen, “Venezuela signs oil, gold investment deals with Russia: Maduro,” Reuters, December 06, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-russia/venezuela-signs-oil-gold-investment-deals-with-russia-maduro-idUSKBN1O51WX.
[14] Alexandra Ulmer and Marianna Parraga, “Exclusive: Rosneft’s Sechin Flies to Venezuela, Rebukes Maduro Over Oil Shipments,” November 24, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-venezuela-exclusive/exclusive-rosnefts-sechin-flies-to-venezuela-rebukes-maduro-over-oil-shipments-idUSKCN1NT0TJ; Polina Devitt, “Russia Helping Venezuela with Wheat Supplies, Says Foreign Minister,” March 01, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics-russia-wheat-idUSKCN1QI4EC.
[15] “Russia Offers Venezuela Plan on Revitalizing Economy – Deputy Finance Minister,” Sputnik, January 15, 2019, https://sputniknews(.)com/latam/201901151071490301-russia-venezuela-economy/.
[16] Irek Murtazin, [“Golden Flight,”] Novaya Gazeta, January 31, 2019, https://www.novayagazeta(.)ru/articles/2019/01/31/79378-zolotoy-reys; [“Another Mysterious Nordwind Airlines Flight Flew from Moscow to Venezuela, and Then to Africa,”] Novaya Gazeta, March 4, 2019, https://www.novayagazeta(.)ru/news/2019/03/04/149712-iz-moskvy-v-venesuelu-a-zatem-v-afriku-letal-esche-odin-zagadochnyy-reys-nordwind-airlines.
[17] Polina Ivanova and Maria Tsvetkova, “Venezuela to Move State Oil Firm PDVSA Office from Lisbon to Moscow,” Reuters, March 01, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics-russia-pdvsa/venezuela-to-move-state-oil-firm-pdvsa-office-from-lisbon-to-moscow-idUSKCN1QI4BM; Corina Pons and Marianna Parraga, “Exclusive: Venezuela Shifts Oil Ventures’ Accounts to Russian Bank – Document, Sources,” Reuters, February 09, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics-pdvsa-banks-exclus/exclusive-venezuela-shifts-oil-ventures-accounts-to-russian-bank-document-sources-idUSKCN1PY0N3.
[18] Mariana Zuñiga, Anthony Faiola and Anton Troianovski, “Mariana Zuñiga, Anthony Faiola and Anton Troianovski,” The Washington Post, March 29, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/as-maduro-confronts-a-crisis-russias-footprint-in-venezuela-grows/2019/03/29/fcf93cec-50b3-11e9-bdb7-44f948cc0605_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.82716599f2c8.
[19] “We Won’t Allow a Color Revolution in Venezuela, Moscow Says,” The Moscow Times, February 15, 2019, https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2019/02/15/we-wont-allow-a-color-revolution-in-venezuela-moscow-says-a64509.
[20] [“Sergei Lavrov: Ukraine “Added Heat” in the Efforts of the United States to Punish Russia,”] Moskovskij Komsomolets, April 03, 2019, https://www.mk(.)ru/politics/2019/04/03/sergey-lavrov-ukraina-dobavila-zharu-v-staraniya-ssha-nakazat-rossiyu.html.
[21] [“More Than 30 Airplanes and About 20 Units of the S-300PM Air Defense Missile Systems of the Western Military District Involved in Exercise in 6 Russian Regions,”] Russian Defense Ministry, March 19, 2019, https://structure.mil(.)ru/structure/okruga/west/news/more.htm?id=12222184; “Russian S-300 Missile Systems Destroy Notional Enemy’s Aircraft in Drills,” TASS, March 19, 2019, http://tass(.)com/defense/1049302.
[22] Illia Ponomarenko, “Russian Airborne Forces Hold Large Offensive Drills in Occupied Crimea,” Kyiv Post, March 25, 2019, https://www.kyivpost.com/ukraine-politics/russian-airborne-forces-hold-large-offensive-drills-in-occupied-crimea.html.
[23] Yulia Krimova, “S-400 Exercises to Protect Crimea from Airborne Attack Began,” Rossiyskaya Gazeta, February 8, 2019, https://rg(.)ru/2019/02/08/reg-ufo/s-400-pristupili-k-ucheniiam-po-zashchite-kryma-ot-vozdushnyh-atak.html; “Regimental Set of S-400 Air Defense Systems Enters Duty in Russia’s West,” TASS, March 15, 2019, http://tass(.)com/defense/1048805; “New S-400 Unit of the Western Military District Began Their Military Service in Leningrad Oblast,” TASS, March 12, 2019, https://tass(.)ru/armiya-i-opk/6208057.
[24] “Meeting with Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu,” The Kremlin, February 2, 2019, http://en.kremlin((.))ru/events/president/news/59763.
[25] Sebastian Sprenger, “Lithuania is First Baltic Nation to Sign US Defense-Cooperation Pact,” Defense News, April 04, 2019, https://www.defensenews.com/global/europe/2019/04/03/lithuania-is-first-baltic-nation-to-sign-us-defense-cooperation-pact/; “United States and Hungary Sign Defense Cooperation Agreement,” U.S. Department of State, April 04, 2019, https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2019/04/290921.htm; “United States, Lithuania Sign Defense Cooperation Plan,” U.S. Department of Defense, April 02, 2019, https://dod.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/1803624/united-states-lithuania-sign-defense-cooperation-plan/.
[26] “Stoltenberg: NATO Coordinates Efforts to Support Ukraine in Black Sea,” Ukrinform, April 05, 2019, https://www.ukrinform(.)net/rubric-defense/2674814-stoltenberg-nato-coordinates-efforts-to-support-ukraine-in-black-sea.html; “NATO to Deter Russia in Black Sea with Heightened Surveillance, U.S. Says,” The Moscow Times, April 03, 2019, https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2019/04/03/nato-to-deter-russia-in-black-sea-with-heightened-surveillance-us-says-a65067.
[27] “NATO Ships Visit Odesa,” NATO Allied Maritime Command, April 01, 2019, https://mc.nato.int/media-centre/news/2019/nato-ships-visit-odesa.aspx; “SNMG2 Visits Georgian Port of Poti,” NATO Allied Maritime Command, April 01, 2019, https://mc.nato.int/media-centre/news/2019/snmg2-visits-georgian-port-of-poti.aspx.
[28] James Marson, “NATO Plans Facility in Poland to Store U.S. Military Equipment,” The Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/nato-plans-facility-in-poland-to-store-u-s-military-equipment-11553271255.

____________________

Monroe Doctrine, Venezuela & Russia

John R. Houk

© April 6, 2019

___________________

Russia in Review: March 26 – April 4, 2019

 

2018 Institute for the Study of War- www.understandingwar.org

 

ISW Blog Homepage

ISW Who We Are Page

HOW WE GOT HERE WITH RUSSIA


The Soviet Union and an overt Communist agenda managed by a Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist Russian government may have come to an end, BUT old guard Communists want to make Russia a global threat again. If you couple the Russian agenda with the American Left (you could say Socialist/Marxist) agenda, the United States of America is under threat from without and within.

 

Below is an Institute for the Study of War (UnderstandingWar.org) analysis of how Russia has arrived at its current state of existence.

 

(I have not included the table of contents, sponsor credits, author info, et al. I did include the rather lengthy End Notes section. For those other attributes you will have to click the ISW PDF link.)

 

JRH 3/14/19

Your generosity is always appreciated:

Please Support NCCR

********************

HOW WE GOT HERE WITH RUSSIA:

THE KREMLIN’S WORLDVIEW

 

By Nataliya Bugayova

March 2019

Institute for the Study of War [PDF]

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

The Kremlin’s increasingly assertive foreign policy, including its illegal occupation of Crimea in 2014 and its intervention in Syria in 2015, came unexpectedly to many in the West. . These events were nonetheless mere extensions of the worldview held by Russian President Vladimir Putin.. This worldview was built on more than two decades of compounded dissatisfaction with the West as well as Putin’s cumulative experiences in his ongoing global campaigns to achieve his core objectives: the preservation of his regime, the end of American hegemony, and the reinstatement of Russia as a global power.. Some of these ambitions were tamed, and others expedited, by external events, yet their core has remained the same and often at odds with the West.. The U..S.. believed that a brief period of non-assertive foreign policy from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s had become the new norm for Russia.. This period was not the norm but an anomaly.. Putin’s foreign policy has always been assertive, similar to Russia’s historic foreign policy.. The U..S.. may thus find itself once again surprised by Putin.. This paper examines the evolution of Russia’s foreign policy worldview since the collapse of the Soviet Union to help understand the likely next priorities of the Kremlin..

 

INTRODUCTION

 

The U.S. has routinely attempted to reset relations with Russia since the rise to power of Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2000. The Soviet Union’s collapse led legions of scholars and policy-makers to pivot towards the new issues of a post-Soviet Middle East, Europe, and Asia. An entire generation of Americans hardly thought about Russia. The Russian Federation was seen as a former foe that could be integrated—albeit uneasily—into the international system led by the U.S.

 

Yet Russia did not view the slate as clean. The Kremlin’s foreign policy narrative, by contrast, soon focused on America’s disregard for its interests and the need to achieve a multipolar international system free of U.S. hegemony. Putin has remained clear on these goals since his ascent to the Kremlin. Russia needed to recover from its weakened state, reestablish itself as a global power, and achieve a new world order that held up the Kremlin as an equal—not a dependent—to the U.S.

 

Putin’s twenty-year tenure in power has had a cumulative effect on his worldview. . His assertiveness has grown in step with his strengthened grip on domestic power and his growing perception that he faces only limited international pushback. His personal resentment of geopolitical slights has grown and fed back into Russia’s national security dialogue. The influence of other forceful national security leaders has also grown. Putin has responded to internal challenges by seeking foreign policy distractions. The direction of his aims has always been consistent even if the vigor and rancor with which they are pursued has increased.

 

Putin’s public tone has mirrored this evolution.. In 2000, Putin “did not see reasons that would prevent … cooperation with NATO under the condition that Russia would be treated as an equal partner” with the West.1 By 2007, he was openly attacking the unipolar world order of the post-Cold War: “It is a world in which there is one master, one sovereign … This is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within … The model is flawed because at its basis there is and can be no moral foundations for modern civilization.”2 By 2014, Putin was justifying action against this system: “There is a limit to everything … and with Ukraine, our Western partners have crossed the line.”3 The core concepts of his policy remained stable even as his rhetoric shifted from cautious outreach to direct criticism.

 

Putin’s worldview is Russia’s foreign policy. . The Kremlin’s foreign policy views largely predate the rise of Putin. Putin’s two decades in power, however, have enshrined his worldview as Russia’s. Putin’s Russia—unlike its predecessors—has no state machine or elite capable of balancing out his instincts and narratives. The Soviet Politburo typically served as a counterbalance to the rulers of the Soviet Union with the exception of Joseph Stalin. Imperial Russian had a base of influential elite that frequently shaped policy ideas with notable exceptions such as Peter the Great and Ivan the Terrible. Putin’s intimate circle of advisors is comparatively small with a contingent of military and security service leaders who have climbed with him for twenty years. Not all Russians accept (let alone support) all of these foreign policy ideas but their disagreement matters little among a population by-and-large focused on day-to-day issues. Putin’s and Russia’s foreign priorities, at least for the moment, are the same.

 

The line between narrative and belief has blurred over the last twenty years.. The Kremlin’s talking points are propaganda and it is easy to dismiss them as such. However, these narratives have been repeated and amplified for two decades. They have become self-sustaining and rebounded back into the national security debate. Even if Putin’s inner convictions differed from his rhetoric, he has imbued an entire generation—indeed, an entire national psyche—with a sense of grievance against the West. These narratives will thus inform the overall arc of the Kremlin’s foreign policy for years to come.

 

The following sections trace the articulation and evolution of this worldview since the fall of the Soviet Union. Americans tend to group the major events and thoughts of the past two decades into a series of historical periods such as the Cold War, the 1990s (prior to 9/11), and the administrations of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. Russians hold a different view of recent events. These divergent interpretations of history—often reflected in rhetoric—are crucial to understanding the antagonistic worldview of Putin vis-à-vis the U.S. and NATO.

 

The Evolution of the Kremlin’s Foreign Policy graph

 

1991 – 1999: THE YELTSIN PERIOD

 

Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s tenure focused on establishing post-Soviet Russia and putting it on a democratic trajectory amidst enormous internal challenges. Yeltsin became the first president of the newly-created Russian Federation after the dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991. Russia’s economy soon collapsed from the shock of a rapid attempted transition from centralized control to the free market. Millions fell into poverty. State structures, including law enforcement and the military, were greatly weakened. Criminality spread across the former Soviet Union. An economic oligarchy emerged as a small number of individuals rapidly accumulated vast wealth, often taking advantage of the privatization of undervalued state assets. Russia suffered several terrorist attacks originating from groups in the North Caucuses, particularly the Chechen Republic. Yeltsin launched a largely failed military campaign to regain control over these territories in 1994. Communist hardliners meanwhile continued their efforts to regain control of Russia. They attempted to seize power violently in 1993 and then peacefully in the 1996 Russian Presidential Election. They failed both times—but both failures came too close for comfort.

 

Russian President Boris Yeltsin worked to improve the relationship between Russia and the U.S. during his two terms in the Kremlin. However, assertive foreign policy narratives had already begun to reemerge in Russia by the mid-1990s.

 

Yeltsin initially prioritized strategic partnership with the U.S. … and broader integration with the West.. “We have left behind the period when America and Russia looked at each other through gun sights,” Yeltsin said in his historic 1992 Address to the U.S. Congress.4 Yeltsin’s Foreign Minister Andrey Kozyrev advocated for Russia to join the club of developed civilized democracies and practice equal cooperation with the former Soviet Union.5 Russia and the U.S. signed numerous bilateral cooperation agreements.6 Russia joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace, which aimed to build trust between NATO and the former Soviet Union. Russia withdrew all of its troops from Germany by 1994.7 Russia also engaged the West for help with its economic reforms.

 

Assertive foreign policy rhetoric began to reemerge in the context of the 1996 Russian Presidential Election.. Economic turmoil continued to grip Russia and Yeltsin’s political opponents blamed the West for the failure of liberal economic reforms. These voices argued that Russia had disregarded its national interests in its attempts to cooperate with the U.S. and that Yeltsin’s administration had made too many concessions—such as agreeing to curb its arms sales to Iran or failing to oppose the initial expansion of NATO—with little to show in return.8 Yeltsin, likely influenced by electoral pressures, appointed Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Director Yevgeny Primakov as Russian Foreign Minister in 1996. Primakov criticized his predecessor for pursuing a “toothless” foreign policy that subordinated national interests to a desire to join the so-called “civilized world.”9 He claimed that Russia had become the “led” rather than the leader in foreign affairs.10 The Kremlin repeats these accusations to this day.11 Yeltsin also oversaw the passage of eased citizenship requirements for Russians outside of the Russian Federation that set the stage for later confrontations with neighbors in the former Soviet Union.12

 

Primakov refocused the conversation on national interests and introduced one of Russia’s first narratives regarding a multipolar world order. . He advocated for a multipolar international system that would not be dominated by the U.S.—a concept later embraced by Putin. He promoted a diversified foreign policy that called for expanded ties with India and China. Russia joined the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in 1998. Primakov also stressed the need for Russia to abandon the role of a “junior” partner to the U.S. Current Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov credited the establishment of Russia’s independent foreign policy to Primakov in 2014, asserting that historians would ultimately term it the Primakov Doctrine.13

 

The Kremlin adopted a new and more assertive National Security Concept in 1997.. The document identified “NATO expansion as a national security threat” and warned that “other states are activating their efforts to weaken” Russia.14 The document also outlined more paternalistic policies towards the former Soviet Union. It included a passage prioritizing the “proclamation of the Russian language as the state language and the language of international communication of the people of Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States as a critical factor towards unifying the people of multinational Russia.” The document nonetheless concluded that the main threats to Russia’s national security were predominantly domestic and non-military challenges.

 

Yeltsin and the U. .S. . suffered their biggest diplomatic divide over the intervention of NATO in Yugoslavia in 1999. . Yeltsin opposed airstrikes by NATO against Serbia during the Kosovo War and called on the U.S. President Bill Clinton not to “take this tragic step” in the Balkans.15 NATO nonetheless launched the operation in order to end human rights abuses by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic—an ally of Russia—against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. It occurred without authorization from the UN and over the protests of Russia. Yeltsin nonetheless responded within the framework of NATO by insisting upon the inclusion of the Russian Armed Forces in the subsequent international NATO Kosovo Force (KFOR).

 

Yeltsin and Primakov nevertheless recognized the continued importance of dialog with the U..S.. and NATO.. Yeltsin’s disagreement with the U.S. on Yugoslavia did not fundamentally affect other areas of relations between the U.S. and Russia. He signed several additional agreements with NATO including the 1997 Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation, and Security.16 He continued to stress the importance of cooperation with the U.S. and Russia’s aspiration to join the Group of Seven (or G7) in his national security address to the Russian Federal Assembly in 1996.17 Russia joined the G7 in 1997. Yeltsin maintained a warm personal relationship throughout his two terms in office with U.S. President Bill Clinton.18 Primakov also advocated throughout his life for international integration and cooperation with the West and NATO.19

 

Yeltsin and his foreign policy team did not yet operate within the framework of a grudge against the West.. They were largely pragmatic, sometimes confrontational, and increasingly assertive—but rarely bitter.20 Primakov laid out some of the most important theoretical bases of the policy later pursued by Putin but neither he nor Yeltsin acted on them seriously while in office. Russia remained too weak to pursue any of its emerging ambitions, especially after it suffered a major financial crisis in 1998.21 Yeltsin regardless was unlikely have turned hard against the U.S. His tenure was marked by a determination to build democratic institutions, integrate with the West, and prevent the return of the Communists.

 

1999 – 2002: THE EARLY PUTIN YEARS

 

Yeltsin resigned and appointed Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as Acting President on December 31, 1999. Russia was still recovering from its financial collapse in 1998. Economic oligarchs were actively influencing the political processes of the Kremlin. Putin was leading a second campaign in Chechnya which started in 1999. Russia continued to suffer from deadly terrorist attacks, including a major hostage crisis in Moscow in 2002 that killed 130 individuals.

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin had already formed one of his key foreign policy narratives—the critique of American global hegemony and its disregard for Russia after the Cold War—before his rise to power. Referring to the 1999 Kosovo War, then-Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Putin argued that “a group of countries is actively trying to change the world order that was established after World War II … The U.N. is being removed from the process of solving of one of the most acute conflicts” in Europe.22 Putin would continue to accuse “the so-called ‘victors’ in the Cold War” of trying to “reshape the world to suit their own needs and interests” throughout his terms in the Kremlin.23

 

Putin nevertheless focused on domestic affairs during his first years in office and revealed little animus against the West.. Putin viewed the weakness of the state and its internal economic turmoil as existential threats to Russia. “For the first time in the past two hundred to three hundred years, [Russia] is facing a real danger of sliding into the second and possibly third echelon of world states,” Putin wrote the day before his appointment as Acting President.24 He focused on rebuilding the economy and the strength of the government as well as consolidating his own grip on power. He prioritized strengthening law enforcement and security services, taming the oligarchs, eliminating political opponents, and regaining federal control over the Chechen Republic.

 

Putin’s initial advisory team would ascend to key roles in Russia’s national security and foreign policy debate. . Putin’s close circle of trusted military and intelligence officials brought with them a specific set of grievances and goals—first and foremost the restoration of domestic control and internal influence lost during the 1990s. Some of these early political officials would later play a key role in the development of foreign policy in the Kremlin:

 

  • Nikolai Patrushev replaced Putin as FSB Director in 1999. Patrushev currently heads Russia’s Security Council—the equivalent of the U.S. National Security Council (NSC).

 

  • Sergey Chemezov worked for Putin in Yeltsin’s Chemezov is currently the CEO of Rostec, a major state-owned defense-industrial conglomerate.

 

  • Igor Sechin served as Putin’s Chief of Staff when Putin was First Deputy Mayor of St. Petersburg. Sechin is currently the Executive Chairman of Rosneft, the state oil company.25

 

  • Sergey Naryshkin worked with Putin in the KGB and St. Petersburg. Naryshkin has held various roles in Putin’s Kremlin since 2004 and currently serves as SVR Director.26

 

  • Sergey Ivanov served as the head of Russia’s Security Council in 1999. Ivanov held various prominent roles in Putin’s Kremlin including Minister of Defense, First Deputy Prime Minister, and Chief of Staff of the Presidential Administration.

 

Putin viewed the Kosovo War as a precedent that threatened the sovereignty of Russia. . He feared that the West could support a similar unilateral declaration of independence by breakaway regions such as Chechnya and force a halt to military operation against extremists launching attacks in the heart of Russia. Putin was convinced that this threat would “not stop with Chechnya’s independence” and that “Chechnya would be used as a platform to attack the rest of Russia.” He warned that the precedent could spread to other territories such as Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Tatarstan, and ultimately threaten the core of the Russian Federation. “If we do not stop the extremists [in Chechnya], we are risking a second Yugoslavia across the entire territory of the Russian Federation—the Yugoslavization of Russia,” Putin asserted in 2000.27

 

The idea that Russia must “fight to exist”—one of the key tenets in Putin’s foreign policy—also emerged at this time. Putin believed that the U.S. provided covert support to terrorists in Chechnya in order to destabilize Russia.28 The West in turn criticized the ongoing military campaign in Chechnya for its brutality and high levels of civilian casualties.29 Putin believed that if he conceded to calls to decrease the intensity of his military operations, Russia would face disintegration. His broader narrative reflected a core fear of state collapse and loss of territory. This rhetoric also tied back into earlier sentiments within the Kremlin that Russia was weak after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and risked losing sovereignty to external forces—in particular, the U.S.30 It followed, according to this view, that Russia must assert itself on the global stage to maintain its independence. The Kremlin began to view a less active foreign policy as another sign of lost sovereignty, a view that persists to the present day.

 

Putin’s early relationship with the U. .S. . nevertheless largely followed the path set by Yeltsin and Primakov. . Putin noted the prospect of cooperating on an equal basis with NATO in 2000.31 He supported the U.S. counter-terrorism mission against al Qaeda after 9/11 and signed an agreement in 2002 establishing the NATO-Russia Council.32 He emphasized the pursuit of democracy and stressed that “Russia is a part of European culture.” He criticized the unilateral withdrawal of the U.S. from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 but still signed a bilateral Strategic Offensive Reduction Treaty in 2003 (later superseded by the New START Treaty in 2011). He largely readopted Yeltsin’s 1997 National Security Concept in January 2000.33

 

 

Putin later adopted a new Foreign Policy Concept in June 2000. The document continued a trend of assertive rhetoric toward the former Soviet states. It called for creating “a friendly belt on the perimeter of Russian borders.”34 It also stressed the need to “strengthen Russian sovereignty and achieve firm positions in the world community, consistent with the interests of the Russian Federation as a great power, as one of the most influential centers of the modern world.”

 

2003 – 2004: ACCELERATION

 

Putin’s foreign policy experienced an inflection in 2003 and 2004. A series of external and domestic factors accelerated Putin’s ambitions and foreign pursuits. He became more assertive on the international stage as he began to solidify his grip on domestic power.

 

Putin established in this period a firm grip on the internal affairs of Russia.. Russia quickly repaid its outstanding debts to the West, meeting its obligations to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by 2005 and the Paris Club by 2006.35 Both of these payments occurred ahead of schedule. The debt repayment was a point of personal pride for Putin that demonstrated the regaining strength and independence of Russia.36 Meanwhile, Russia was gradually restoring control over Chechnya after a military campaign that largely destroyed the regional capital of Grozny. Chechnya passed a constitution in 2003 that ostensibly granted broad autonomy to the Chechen Republic but preserved firm control from the Kremlin.

 

Putin also eliminated or otherwise subordinated rival powerbrokers during this period, mainly oligarchs with influence over the political process.37 Boris Berezovsky—one of Russia’s most powerful tycoons—fled to Britain in 2001. Mikhail Khodorkovsky—another powerful and influential oil baron—was imprisoned in 2003. The remaining oligarchs largely accepted Putin’s demand that they should not interfere in politics. Putin expanded the reach of the security services and strengthened the power of state. He further centralized power by eliminating the direct elections of regional governors in favor of presidential appointments in 2004.38

 

Putin began efforts to reintegrate former Soviet states into some form of political grouping led by Russia. . Putin pressured Ukraine to join the Common Economic Space—an integrated market for the former Soviet states that would later evolve into the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).39 Ukraine entered the deal alongside Belarus and Kazakhstan in 2003.40 Ukraine later distanced itself from this process under pro-Western Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko. The Kremlin also applied similar pressure to Georgia under Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze.41 Shevardnadze had exercised a more independent foreign policy, including a stated intent to join NATO, which threatened the continued influence of Putin’s Russia.42

 

Putin’s ambitions to regain control over his perceived rightful sphere of influence accelerated after a series of global events in 2003 and 2004..

 

  • The 2003 U..S.. Invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam Hussein struck several nerves with Russia. Putin held a strong aversion to forced regime change given his concerns about preserving his own regime. He was upset about a loss of influence in the Middle East due to the destruction of a former Soviet ally. He also resented the U.S. for acting over his objections and without explicit authorization by the UN (similar to the Kosovo War).

 

  • Putin was even more concerned by the “color revolutions” that saw a wave of peaceful protests against corrupt regimes in several former Soviet states, including Georgia’s 2003 Rose Revolution and Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution. Putin accused the U.S. of instigating the revolutions and imposing “external governance” over these states.43 This perceived threat was deeply concerning to the Kremlin. It undermined the stated national security goal of creating a “friendly belt of neighbors” and presented a potential challenge to the regime itself. Putin held up the ‘color revolutions’ as an object lesson and a warning, stressing that the Kremlin “should do everything necessary so that nothing similar ever happens in Russia.”44 Putin internalized the notion of the “color revolution” as a method of covert destabilization by the West.

 

  • The Kremlin also criticized the expansion of NATO in 2004, when the alliance accepted seven new states in Eastern and Southern Europe. Russia remained more concerned, however, about its loss of control over the states of the former Soviet Union than the potential military threat from NATO. Putin stated at the time that the enlargement was “not a threat” to Russia but called it a “counterproductive” step that could not “effectively counter the main threats that we are facing today.”45 The Kremlin ultimately feared the emergence of widespread “anti-Russian rhetoric” as former Soviet states and clients moved towards NATO.46

 

The Kremlin nonetheless remained relatively moderate in its rhetoric against the West.. “It was difficult for us when the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the ABM Treaty. It was difficult for us when, bypassing the UN Security Council, they started the war in Iraq. Nonetheless, our countries have managed … to prevent a return to confrontation … [through] common sense and the understanding that common strategic interests … outweigh any tactical differences,” stated Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in 2004.47 Putin also stated at the time that the U.S. remained a priority partner of Russia on some of the most pressing global problems, such as the War on Terror.48 The relative calmness of this rhetoric belied the fact that Putin was preparing to start speaking and acting openly to counteract what he perceived as a growing disregard for his interests.

 

2004 – 2012: OPEN CONFRONTATION

 

Putin easily won reelection in the 2004 Russian Presidential Elections. Russia benefitted from high oil prices. Putin later (due to term limits) accepted the post of Russian Prime Minister in 2008. He nonetheless continued to largely dictate the policies of the Kremlin and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. The Russian Constitution was modified to change the length of presidential terms from four to six years, effective after the departure of Medvedev.

 

“The United States has overstepped its national borders in every way” – Russian President Vladimir Putin, 2007

 

Putin increasingly pushed his foreign policy campaigns towards open confrontation in this period. He escalated his rhetoric against the U.S. and NATO. He simultaneously limited the civil liberties of Russians, presenting the measures as necessary to defeat subversion by the West.

 

The Kremlin launched a set of campaigns to regain control over former Soviet states..

 

  • Russia launched a major information campaign to restore its diminished political influence in Ukraine after the 2004 Orange Revolution. This campaign evolved into a decade-long effort to inflame domestic grievances and fuel popular sentiments against the West and the central government in Kyiv. The Kremlin would tap into this groundwork to launch its subversion campaign in Eastern Ukraine in 2014.

 

  • Russia also started a subversion campaign against the Baltic States following their accession to NATO. Russia launched a wave of cyberattacks on banks, media outlets, and government organizations in Estonia in 2007 shortly after the Government of Estonia decided to relocate a memorial to the Soviets from World War II. The Kremlin argued that the move dishonored the memory of Russia’s victory over Nazi Germany. Russia also applied other diplomatic pressures on the Baltic States, including a ban on certain imports from Latvia in 2006.49

 

  • The Kremlin framed the continued engagement of the U.S. and NATO with Ukraine and Georgia as national security threats to Russia.50 Russia invaded Georgia in August 2008 —four months after the 2008 NATO Bucharest Summit in which NATO signaled its ultimate intent to incorporate Georgia into NATO. Putin carved off the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and subsequently recognized their unilateral declarations of independence from Georgia (made possible by the continued presence of the Russian Armed Forces).

 

  • Russia continued to expand the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), which now includes Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan as well as a free trade agreement with Vietnam. Putin also attempted to coopt Moldova, Ukraine, and Georgia into the EEU, although all three countries ultimately chose instead to sign association agreements with the European Union. Russia is still attempting to use the EEU as a tool to build regional influence and global credibility through agreements with states outside of the former Soviet Union such as Egypt.

 

Putin expanded on his narrative criticizing American hegemony and advocating for the return of a multipolar world.. Putin stated that “attempts to rebuild modern multifaceted civilization, created by God, according to the barracks-room principles of a unipolar world are extremely dangerous” during a visit to India in 2004.51 Putin later elaborated on this narrative at the 2007 Munich Security Conference. “We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law … The United States has overstepped its national borders in every way.”52 He accused the West of using international organizations as “vulgar instrument[s] designed to promote the foreign policy interests of one or a group of countries.” This rhetoric would become a central line of argument for the Kremlin. “The ambitions of one group have grown so much that they are presented as the opinions of the entire world community, which they are not,” Putin stated in 2014.

 

Putin also started to introduce aggressive rhetoric against NATO.. Putin stressed at the 2007 Munich Security Conference that NATO’s expansion was intended to encircle Russia.53 This statement was a departure from his initial reaction three years prior, in which he claimed that the enlargement of the alliance did not pose a national security threat to Russia. The context of this statement highlighted the increasingly combative tone adopted by Putin.

 

The intervention of NATO in Libya in 2011 further fueled Putin’s resentment of the West. .

 

Putin condemned international support for the intervention as a “medieval call for crusades.”54 He nonetheless ran into disagreement with then-Russian President Medvedev, who asserted that “all that is going on in Libya is connected with the outrageous behavior of Libya’s authorities and crimes that were completely against their own people.”55 Russia, possibly as a result of this internal debate, did not veto a resolution by the UN Security Council to impose a “no-fly zone” over Libya in 2011. The intervention eventually escalated into a full-blown military campaign that resulted in the overthrow and death of Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi.

 

Putin interpreted this incident as a betrayal at the hands of the West. Putin accused the U.S. and NATO of cynically manipulating the international system to impose regime change in Libya. “[The West] was [initially] saying ‘we do not want to kill Gaddafi’ and now even some officials are saying ‘yes, we are aiming to destroy Gaddafi.’ Who allowed [them] to do this? Was there a trial? Why have they decided to take up this right to execute a person?” Putin asked shortly before the death of Gaddafi in October 2011.56 The Kremlin also regretted its loss of political influence and multi-billion dollar industrial contracts in Libya.57 Medvedev later articulated the resulting grudge, stating that the shift from a limited intervention to protect civilians to the destruction of a sovereign government was “a cynical deception on the part of those who claim to be the world’s moral and political leaders … The cynical deception occurred at the [UN] Security Council’s roundtable. Its decisions were distorted and violated, while the so-called temporary military coalition usurped the powers of the United Nations.”58 Putin determined not to repeat this mistake and Russia began to consistently vote against UN Security Council resolutions aimed at addressing similar conflicts in Syria and the Middle East.59

 

The Kremlin also intensified its narrative about U. .S. . inference in the affairs of Russia. Russia. accused the West of using non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as covert means to orchestrate ‘color revolutions’ in the former Soviet Union.60 Putin claimed that external actors were financing political activities in Russia in 2005.61 He signed a new law on NGOs in 2006 that aimed to “deny registration to any organization whose goals and objectives…create a threat to the sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity, national unity, unique character, cultural heritage, and national interests of the Russian Federation.”62

 

The Kremlin criticized democratization aid to the former Soviet Union—ironically at a time when the U.S. was considering cuts to such aid.63

 

Putin may have held genuine fears of a ‘color revolution’ in Russia but his public accusations also aimed to justify domestic oppression in the face of an external threat from the West. The Kremlin accused the U.S. State Department of interfering with its judicial system after the U.S. voiced concerns about the arrest of Khodorkovsky in 2003.64 This idea of malign foreign interference itself was not new. The 1997 Russian National Security Concept mentions the threat of “purposeful interference by foreign states and international organizations in the internal life of Russia’s peoples.” Russia’s assertion that foreign press statements constituted itself an interference in sovereign affairs, however, aligned with Putin’s larger effort to redefine state sovereignty as forbidding even international commentary on the internal affairs of Russia.

 

Putin was thus unimpressed by the announced “reset” of relations with Russia by U..S.. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009.. U.S. President Barack Obama stated that the U.S. would abandon plans to build a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe in September 2009.65 Putin praised the decision but rejected the idea of any reset in relations. “We are not talking about ‘reset’ … The U.S. Administration offered us this term,” Putin stated in 2009 and 2012.66 The divergence in worldviews between the U.S. and Russia remained stark despite outreach from the West.

 

2012 – 2018: PUTIN’S COUNTEROFFENSIVE

 

Putin was reelected as Russian President in 2012. He continued to crack down on civil liberties and protests against his reelection. Russia’s economy was stabilizing. Russia was accepted to the World Trade Organization in 2011. The World Bank labeled Russia a high-income country in 2013.67 In 2014, Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych suspended the signing of an association agreement with the European Union—sparking the Euromaidan Revolution. A series of protests forced Yanukovych to flee Ukraine. Meanwhile, the Syrian Revolution—part of the wider Arab Spring—descended into the Syrian Civil War. Russia interfered in both countries. The West began to impose sanctions on Russia for its violations of international norms. The Russian ruble collapsed due to the sanctions as well as a drop in global oil prices.

 

Putin won a third term as Russian President 2012. He moved quickly to regain and expand his domestic control and global influence.

 

Putin soon faced one of the most serious anti-regime protests during his time in office as mass demonstrations rallied against perceived electoral manipulation in the 2011 Russian Legislative Elections and 2012 Russian Presidential Elections. Thousands protested against Putin’s inauguration to a third presidential term in Bolotnaya Square in Moscow in May 2012. The Kremlin in turn detained hundreds of protesters and dozens of them in what became known as the ‘Bolotnaya Square’ Case. Street protests continued but largely died out by July 2013.

 

Putin continued to pressure civil society in the name of defending Russia against the West with the 2012 Foreign Agent Law.. The law, which granted him the authority to expel a number of American NGOs from Russia, was one of the first acts of his third term. The law was partly a response to the passage of the Magnitsky Act by the U.S. in 2012. The Magnitsky Act aimed to punish officials responsible for the death of Sergey Magnitsky, who died in prison in Moscow after investigating fraud involving Russian officials in 2009.

 

“No one listened to us then. So listen now” – Russian President Vladimir Putin, 2018

 

The 2014 Euromaidan Revolution in Ukraine was a major accelerant of Putin’s aggressive international agenda. . Euromaidan represented Putin’s fundamental fear of a loss of control over his neighbors—but also presented an opportunity for him to realize his long-standing foreign policy goals in the former Soviet Union. In February 2014, Putin deployed Russian Armed Forces to occupy the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine. Russia subsequently organized an illegal referendum to annex Crimea. Putin sought in part to protect strategic naval basing for the Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, which had nowhere to go if Kyiv cancelled its deal with Russia. Putin also feared that the new Government of Ukraine would push to join NATO. He therefore engineered a separatist insurgency and military intervention in Eastern Ukraine aimed at asserting control over the politics of Kyiv. Putin framed external support to the protests as “crossing the line” by the West. “They have lied to us many times,” Putin said in his address on Crimea joining Russia to the Russian Federal Assembly in 2014. “[They have] made decisions behind our backs, informed us after the fact. This happened with NATO’s expansion to the East, as well as the deployment of military infrastructure at our borders. They kept telling us the same thing: ‘This does not concern you.’”68

 

Putin also launched a military intervention in Syria in September 2015. . He aimed to prevent a repeat of Iraq and Libya, where Russia inaction resulted in a loss of valuable clients in the Middle East. Putin did not intend to lose yet another one of Russia’s remaining allies whose ties dated back to the Soviet Union. He also sought the practical benefits of strategic air and naval basing on the Eastern Mediterranean Sea as well as expanded diplomatic leverage in the Middle East. The U.S. was not coherently pursuing a regime change against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, focusing instead on the narrow fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Yet Putin rejected the nuances of this policy. He deployed combat aircraft and special forces to sustain an air campaign and ground assistance mission in support of Assad and his allies in Iran (including combat forces from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and Lebanese Hezbollah). He framed his campaign as a fight against terrorism, posturing as an effective regional partner and peace-broker.69 The Kremlin nonetheless emphasized that Assad was the “only legitimate power” in Syria and legitimized its own military intervention as a formal request from the sovereign Government of Syria.70

 

Putin continued to frame his actions as a requirement for Russia’s sovereignty: “Sometimes I think, maybe it would be better for our bear to sit quiet, rather than to chase piglets in the forest and to eat berries and honey instead.. Maybe they will leave [our bear] in peace. They will not. Because they will always try to put him on a chain … They will rip out its fangs and its claws [i.e. nuclear weapons]. Once they’ve ripped out its claws and fangs, the bear is no longer needed. They will make a stuffed animal out of it… It is not about Crimea. We are protecting our sovereignty and our right to exist.”71 This sentiment reflects one of Putin’s earliest and core narratives—Russia must assert itself to maintain its sovereignty. Putin has similarly framed sanctions as an effort by the West to punish the growing “might and competitiveness” of Russia. The Kremlin often asserts that Russia has historically been punished when it “rose from its knees.”72 It argues that Putin is the subject of international scorn not because of his foreign interference but because of his resistance to the West. Putin also continued to accuse the U.S. of systematic interference in the domestic affairs of Russia. The latest Russian National Security Strategy identified “intelligence activity by special services and organizations of foreign states” as one of the top national security threats facing Russia.73 The U.S. is “all over our domestic policy, they’re sitting on our head, dangling their feet and chewing bubble gum,” Putin told Megan Kelly on NBC in 2017.74

 

  • Putin has argued that his regime is being scapegoated for domestic failings in the U..S.. and Europe.. The Kremlin accuses the West of using Russia to justify additional defense spending or their domestic and foreign policy failures.75 Putin condemned NATO for inventing “imaginary and mythical threats such as the Russian military threat … It’s pleasant and often profitable to portray yourself to be defenders of civilization from some new barbarians, but Russia doesn’t plan to attack anyone.”76 Putin has framed the passage of the Magnitsky Act as driven by a constant domestic pressure in the U.S. to adopt laws targeting Russia.77 He more recently has claimed that the U.S. used Russia as an excuse to justify its own unilateral and long-planned decision to suspend its participation in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 2019.78

 

Putin has pushed a narrative of the accelerating decline of the West. . Putin attributes global trends, such as the rise of populism, to the failure of the current governance models in which citizens lose trust in their leaders and the value of democracy.79 “Even in the so-called developed democracies, the majority of citizens have no real influence on the political process and no direct and real influence on power,” Putin stated in 2016.80 He added that “it is not about populists … ordinary people, ordinary citizens are losing trust in the ruling class.” The Kremlin reinforces these attacks on democratic processes as part of its effort to protect its regime against an internal revolution as well as its global campaign to undermine rival democratic institutions in the West.

 

The Kremlin frames all of its campaigns as defensive measures that are part of an attempt to restore balance to international relations.. The Kremlin justifies its actions as a response to any number of provocations, escalations, and parallel actions by the U.S. and NATO.81 “Of course we should react to [NATO’s military buildup].

 

How? Either the same as you and therefore by building a multi-billion-dollar anti-missile system or, in view of our present economic and financial possibilities, by developing an asymmetrical answer … I completely agree if you say that the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) is not directed against us, just as our new weapons are not directed against you,” Putin stated in 2007.82 Putin often stresses that Russia is open to partnerships and never seeks confrontation with its “partners in the East or West.”83

 

2019 AND BEYOND

 

Vladimir Putin won his fourth term as Russian President in March 2018.

 

“No one listened to us then. So listen now,” he stated in his address to the Russian Federal Assembly in 2018 while showing a video of the new nuclear capabilities developed by Russia.84

 

Putin’s core objectives remain constant—the preservation of his regime, the end of American global hegemony, and the restoration of Russia as a mighty and feared force to be reckoned with on the international stage. Some of his foreign policy pursuits are purely pragmatic and aimed at gaining resources. Others are intended for domestic purposes and have nothing to do with the West.

 

Most are justified, however, as responses to alleged threats, aggressions, lies, and interference by the West.

 

Putin may believe that he is approaching his goal of a multipolar international system. “Everything is being restored, the world is becoming, if it has not already become, multipolar,” he stated in 2018.85 He has not yet offered the vision for his next goals in this new order, but they will almost certainly involve further reductions in the global operations of the U.S. and its allies.

 

CONCLUSION

 

Putin’s assertiveness has been accelerated or dampened by various factors over time, including his confidence in his domestic grip on power, his economic stability, his dependence on the West, and his perception of the available latitude to act freely on the world stage without major pushback.

 

The West’s actions were a factor—but not the core driver—in Putin’s foreign policy. The U.S. tried to improve relations with Russia several times after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Putin nonetheless became arguably most assertive during the Obama Administration even as the U.S took strong steps to make amends with Russia, including a halt to plans to build a missile defense shield in Poland. The West hesitated for years to impose penalties on Russia for its repeated violations of international laws and norms including its invasion of Georgia and its cyberattacks on Estonia. The West only gradually started to impose sanctions on Russia after persistent human rights violations such as the death of Sergey Magnitsky or undisputable aggression such as the occupation of the Crimean Peninsula. It wasn’t until the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election that most Americans finally became cognizant of the full threat posed by Russia.

 

While the U.S. largely focused elsewhere, Putin escalated his global military posture, scapegoated his internal problems on the West, and used the myth of foreign interference to justify tighter controls over Russians in

 

Russia. Putin notably has almost never used similar rhetoric against China, which arguably presents one of the biggest national security challenges to Russia. China continues to expand its influence in places that Putin claims are beyond his ‘red lines’— the former Soviet Union and Russia itself. Yet Putin continues to condition his population to defend against NATO—an alliance that is currently struggling to persuade its members to devote two percent of their gross domestic products to military spending.

 

The West’s behavior has not altered the fundamental principles guiding Putin’s foreign policy thought, which has remained largely unchanged since 2000. Putin believes that Russia is a great power that is entitled to its own spheres of influence and deserves to be reckoned with in all key decisions. He asserts that the true deviation from the norm was Russia’s moment of weakness in the 1990s and that Russia is merely reemerging to its rightful place in the international system.

 

Many of Putin’s principles are incompatible with the rules-based order and worldview of the West.

 

Putin’s concept of national sovereignty, for example, is often at odds with the sovereignty of other nations. European states enjoy the sovereign right to join NATO. Many of them hold legitimate security concerns about a resurgent Russia. Putin, however, does not view many of these states as truly sovereign. The Kremlin often describes smaller states as externally governed or too weak to hold foreign policy agency. For this reason, it often perceives revolutions or significant internal inflections in the former Soviet Union and beyond as subversive actions by the West rather than popular movements fueled by legitimate grievances. The Kremlin believes that it must maintain control over its neighbors and preserve or expand its historic spheres of influence. Its rhetoric against NATO is less about its fear of a direct military threat and more about its fear of a loss of its power and influence. Putin often frames violations of others’ sovereignty as a defense of his own.

 

Putin also aims to delegitimize the concept of humanitarian intervention as articulated by the West. He places his principles of state sovereignty above humanitarian concerns and asserts that legitimate governments have the right to resolve their internal affairs independent of external pressure. The Kremlin often frames any Western attempts to criticize Russia’s human rights record or those of its allies and clients as interference in sovereign internal affairs.

 

Putin sometimes reverses this rule and justifies his external interference on general human rights grounds. Russia often reserves the right to act against foreign governments in order to protect ethnic Russians. A key example is the Crimean Peninsula. Russia intervened militarily and organized an illegal referendum to annex Crimea to Russia under the boot of the Russian Armed Forces. The referendum and subsequent occupation did not change Crimea’s status under international law—to this day, Crimea remains a legal part of Ukraine. Putin nonetheless defends his intervention as a necessary action to “defend” an “oppressed” population of Russians.

 

Putin’s seemingly facile and convenient rhetoric can be easy to dismiss as cynical. His rhetoric is not empty, however. It is a declaration of his key foreign principle, one that is at odds with the fundamental basis of the rules-based international order – namely, that only the mighty are truly sovereign..

 

It is also easy to imagine that miscommunication is the source of conflict between Putin’s Russia and the West. This idea is false. Bush, Obama, and Trump have all reached out to Putin, sought to accommodate his interests as they understood them, and tried to soften policies and language that might offend him. Yet the Kremlin has responded with increasingly resentful language and actions.

 

Putin does not trust statements from the White House. He views the U.S. as dismissive of Russia’s vital interests regardless of any changes in administrations or rhetoric. Putin fundamentally views the shape of the current international order as the primary challenge to his interests. He believes, as he has said over and over, that a global hegemony, by which he means a world order led by America, is unacceptable to Russia.

 

Putin is no mere opportunistic predator. He may not always have a clear plan and acts expediently at times, but he knows what kind of world he wants and, even more so, what kind he does not. He seeks a world without NATO, with the U.S. confined to the Western Hemisphere, with Russia dominant over the former Soviet Union and able to do what it likes to its own people without condemnation or oversight, and with the Kremlin enjoying a literal veto at the UN Security Council over actions that any other state wishes to take beyond its borders. He has been working towards such a world since the moment he took office. His most recent statements suggest that he thinks he is getting closer. If the West aims to avoid further strategic surprise and preserve the rule-based international order, it must understand this divergent worldview and accept that Putin, when it comes to his stated foreign policy goals and priorities, is often a man of his word.

 

ENDNOTES

 

Nataliya Gevorkyan, Natalya Timakova, and Andrei Kolesnikov, [First Person: Conversations with Vladimir Putin] (Moscow: Vagrius Press, 2000), http://lib(.)ru/ MEMUARY/PUTIN/razgowor.txt.

 

  1. Vladimir Putin, “Speech and Following Discussion at the Munich Security Conference,” Kremlin, February 10, 2007, http://en.kremlin(.)ru/events/ president/transcripts/24034.

 

  1. Vladimir Putin, “Address by the President of the Russian Federation,” Kremlin, March 18, 2014, http://en.kremlin(.)ru/events/president/news/20603.

 

  1. “Summit in Washington; Excerpts from Yeltsin’s Speech: ‘There Will Be No More Lies’,” Reuters, June 18, 1992, https://www.nytimes.com/1992/06/18/world/ summit-in-washington-excerpts-from-yeltsin-s-speech-there-will-be-no-more-lies.html.

 

  1. Marina Lebedeva, Ksenia Borishpolets, and Maksim Kharkevich, [Russia in Global Politics] (Moscow: Moscow State Institute of International Relations, 2013), pg. 27, https://mgimo(.)ru/upload/docs_3/Russia-v-global-politike.pdf.

 

  1. [“Russian-American Relations in 1992 – 1996: Reference,”] RIA Novosti, April 4, 2011, https://ria(.)ru/20110404/360851191.html; “Vancouver Declaration: Joint Statement of the Presidents of the United States and the Russian Federation,” U.S. Government Publishing Office, April 4, 1993, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/ pkg/WCPD-1993-04-12/pdf/WCPD-1993-04-12-Pg545.pdf; [“Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission,”] Kommersant, June 20, 1995, https://www. kommersant(.)ru/doc/112167.

 

  1. Rick Atkinson, “Russian Troops Leave Germany,” Washington Post, September 1, 1994, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1994/09/01/russian-troops-leave-germany/65e3176c-fbe6-47c4-979d-f5fdcb259f6c.

 

  1. John Broder, “Russia Ending Deal on Arms Negotiated by Gore,” New York Times, November 23, 2000, https://www.nytimes.com/2000/11/23/world/ russia-ending-deal-on-arms-negotiated-by-gore.html; [“Boris Yeltsin’s Visit to the U.S.,”] Kommersant, September 30, 1994, https://www.kommersant(.)ru/ doc/91124.

 

  1. Yevgeny Primakov, [A World Without Russia? The Consequences of Political Myopia] (Moscow: Rossiyskaya Gazeta, 2009), https://www.e-reading(.)club/chapter.php/98451/4/ Primakov_-_Mir_bez_Rossii__K_chemu_vedet_politicheskaya_blizorukost%27. html.

 

  1. [“Yevgeny Primakov: I Hope Putin Becomes President,”] Vesti, December 12,

2011, https://www.vesti(.)ru/doc.html?id=658070#.

 

  1. [“Putin Criticized Former Russian Foreign Minister Kozyrev,”] TASS, October 19, 2017, https://tass(.)ru/politika/4661540; Alexander Grishin, [“Former Russian Foreign Minister Pleased to Serve the United States,”] Komsomolskaya Pravda,

 

July 22, 2015, https://www.kp(.)ru/daily/26409/3284411/.

  1. [“Decree of the President of the Russian Federation #386,”] Kremlin, April 10, 1992, http://kremlin(.)ru/acts/bank/1184; [“Federal Law on the State Policy of the Russian Federation Regarding Compatriots Abroad,”] Kremlin, May 24, 1999, http://www.kremlin(.)ru/acts/bank/13875.

 

  1. Russia 24, [“Lavrov: Historians Will Formulate the ‘Primakov Doctrine’,”] YouTube, October 29, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLiOIJ0HpR4.
  2. [“Presidential Decree on the Approval of the National Security Concept of the Russian Federation,”] Collection of Legislation of the Russian Federation, December 29, 1997, http://www.szrf(.)ru/szrf/doc. phtml?nb=100&issid=1001997052000&docid=1210NationalSecurityConcept.

 

  1. [“TV Address of Russian President Boris Yeltsin on March 24, 1999 Regarding the Threat of NATO Strikes Against Yugoslavia,”] Kommersant, March 25, 1999, https://www.kommersant(.)ru/doc/215535.

 

  1. “Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation, and Security Between NATO and the Russian Federation,” NATO, May 27, 1999, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/ natolive/official_texts_25468.htm.

 

  1. [“On National Security: Address of the Russian President to the Federal Assembly,”] Nezavisimaya Gazeta, July 14, 1996, http://www.rusconstitution(.)ru/ timestream/event/499/; Sergei Kortynov, [Conceptual Foundations of National and International Security] (Moscow: Higher School of Economics, 2007), https://textbooks(.)studio/uchebnik-mejdunarodnie-otnosheniya/poslaniya-natsionalnoy-bezopasnosti-prezidenta.html.

 

  1. Strobe Talbott, “Boris and Bill,” Washington Post, May 26, 2002, https://www. washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/magazine/2002/05/26/boris-and-bill/ ba5a863c-ece7-4e67-bd74-f81c2982c938.

 

  1. [“Academic Hour,”] Kommersant, January 14, 2015, https://www.kommersant(.)ru/ doc/2645293; Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation, [“Yevgeny Primakov’s Presentation at the Meeting of the ‘Mercury Club’,”] YouTube, January 14, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Yg375FTjYE.

 

  1. [“Man of Life: Yevgeny Primakov,”] Russia-1, https://russia(.)tv/brand/show/ brand_id/4981/.

 

  1. Sebastian Walsh, “A History of Debt Defaults: Russia 1998,” Financial News, July 27, 2011, https://www.fnlondon.com/articles/a-history-of-debt-defaults-russia-1998-20110727.

 

. Public Russian Television, [“The New FSB Director Vladimir Putin Gives an Interview: 1999,”] December 7, 2017, YouTube, https://youtu.be/JDb57RK5SgI.

 

  1. [“Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club,”] Kremlin, October 27, 2016, http://kremlin(.)ru/events/president/news/53151; [“Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club,”] Kremlin, October 24, 2014, http://kremlin(.)ru/ events/president/news/46860.

 

  1. Vladimir Putin, [“Russia at the Turn of the Millennium,”] Nezavisimaya Gazeta, December 30, 1999, http://www.ng(.)ru/politics/1999-12-30/4_millenium. html.

 

  1. Roman Anin, “The Secret of the St. Princess Olga,” OCCRP, August 2, 2016, https://www.occrp.org/en/investigations/5523-the-secret-of-the-st-princess-olga.

 

  1. [“Naryshkin Told How He Met Putin,”] RIA Novosti, December 9, 2018, https://ria(.)ru/20181209/1547687041.html.

 

  1. Gevorkyan, Timakova, and Kolesnikov, [First Person: Conversations with Vladimir Putin] http://lib(.)ru/MEMUARY/PUTIN/razgowor.txt.

 

  1. Mosaic, “The Putin Interviews—Oliver Stone Part 1 of 4,” YouTube, June 12, 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvlKSbYkTXI.

 

  1. “Chechens Fear Risks of Leaving—And Staying,” CNN, December 8, 1999, http://archives.cnn.com/1999/WORLD/europe/12/08/russia.chechnya.03/; Steven Greenhouse, “U.S. Sharply Rebukes Russia For Its Offensive

 

in Chechnya,” New York Times, April 12, 1995, https://www.nytimes. com/1995/04/12/world/us-sharply-rebukes-russia-for-its-offensive-in-chechnya.html; Vagif Guseynov, [“Evolving Western Positions Regarding the Chechen Crisis,”] Nezavisimaya Gazeta, February 29, 2000, http://www.ng(.)ru/ specfile/2000-02-29/15_evolution.html.

 

  1. Russia 24, [“Putin: Film by Andrey Kardashev. Full Video,”] YouTube, March 24, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9Pu0yrOwKI; [“Putin: Russia Has Maintained Sovereignty and Made Breakthroughs in Important Areas,”] RIA Novosti, December 19, 2017, https://ria(.)ru/20171219/1511255375.html; [“2013: Vladimir Putin’s Red Lines,”] Rossiyskaya Gazeta, September 26, 2013, https:// rg(.)ru/2013/09/26/valdai.html; [“The Best Moments of Putin’s Interview,”] Argumenty i Fakty, March 14, 2018, http://www.aif(.)ru/politics/russia/ne_imeyu_ prava_slabost_proyavlyat_samye_yarkie_momenty_iz_intervyu_putina; DenTV, [“Alexander Dugin: Russians Are on the Verge of Losing Their Identity,”] YouTube, March 6, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7dzL3IodxQ.

 

  1. Gevorkyan, Timakova, and Kolesnikov, [First Person: Conversations with Vladimir Putin] http://lib(.)ru/MEMUARY/PUTIN/razgowor.txt.
  2. “NATO-Russia Relations: A New Quality,” NATO, May 28, 2002,

https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_19572.htm.

 

  1. [“Presidential Decree on the National Security Concept of the Russian Federation,”] Kremlin, January 10, 2000, http://kremlin(.)ru/acts/bank/14927.
  2. [“Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation,”] Nezavisimaya Gazeta, July 11,

2000, http://www.ng(.)ru/world/2000-07-11/1_concept.html.

  1. “Russia Paid Off IMF Debts,” UPI, February 1, 2005, https://www.upi(.)com/ Russia-has-paid-off-IMF-debts/66111107283700/; “Russia Pays Off Paris Club Debts,” BBC, August 25, 2006, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/5271122. stm; [“Why Russia Had to Pay the Soviet Debts,”] TASS, August 21, 2017, https://tass(.)ru/ekonomika/4033459.

 

  1. [“Putin Talked About the IMF Debts of the Former Soviet Republics That Russia Paid Off,”] Lenta, June 13, 2017, https://lenta(.)ru/news/2017/06/13/debtimf/.
  2. David Filipov, “Russia Cracking Down on ‘Oligarch’ Empires,” Chicago Tribute, July 12, 2000, https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2000-07-12-0007120402-story.html; David Crouch, “Ousting the Oligarchs,”

 

The Guardian, May 31, 2005, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2005/ may/31/russia; Marshall Goldman, “Putin and the Oligarchs,” Foreign Affairs, November/December 2004, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/russia-fsu/2004-11-01/putin-and-oligarchs.

 

  1. [“Putin Cancelled the Elections of Governors,”] Korrespondent, December 12, 2004, https://korrespondent(.)net/world/109086-putin-otmenil-vybory-gubernatorov; Jeremy Bransten, “Russia: Putin Signs Bill Eliminating Direct Elections of Governors,” RFE/RL, December 13, 2004, https://www.rferl. org/a/1056377.html.

 

  1. [“On the Eve of Single Economic Space: Kuchma Against the Diplomats,”] Ukrayinska Pravda, September 17, 2003, https://www.pravda.com(.)ua/rus/ news/2003/09/17/4374367.
  2. [“Common Economic Space: Reference.”] RIA Novosti, January 1, 2012,

 

  1. https://ria(.)ru/20120101/529308191.html.

 

  1. Statement by President of Georgia Eduard Shevardnadze,” NATO, November 22, 2002, https://www.nato.int/docu/speech/2002/s021122h.htm; Jean-Christophe Peuch, “Georgia: Shevardnadze Officially Requests Invitation to Join NATO,” RFE/RL, November 22, 2002, https://www.rferl.org/a/1101463.html.

 

  1. Russia 24, [“Putin: Film by Andrey Kardashev. Full Video,”] YouTube, March 24, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9Pu0yrOwKI; [“Putin Called External Control Humiliating for Ukraine,”] Lenta, August 17, 2015, https://lenta(.)ru/news/2015/08/17/putinobukraine/.

 

  1. [“Putin Said That the Authorities Will Not Allow ‘Color Revolutions’ in Russia,”] RIA Novosti, April 12, 2017, https://ria(.)ru/20170412/1492073208.html; Darya Korsunskaya, “Putin Says Russia Must Prevent ‘Color Revolution’,” Reuters, November 20, 2014, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-putin-security-idUSKCN0J41J620141120.

 

  1. Glenn Kessler, “NATO Seeks to Soothe Russia,” Washington Post, April 3, 2004, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2004/04/03/nato-seeks-to-soothe-russia/2c46ac29-1b42-4121-8fc8-3fdf8302ee40; Seth Mydans, “Putin Doubts Expanded NATO Meets New Threats,” New York Times, April 9, 2004, https://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/09/world/putin-doubts-expanded-nato-meets-new-threats.html; [“Interview with Wall Street Journal,”] Kremlin, February 11, 2002, http://kremlin(.)ru/events/president/transcripts/21498.

 

  1. Vladimir Bogdanov, [“Growing Irritation in Moscow,”] Rossiyskaya Gazeta, March 30, 2004, https://rg(.)ru/2004/03/30/kreml.html.

 

  1. [“The Common Interests of Fighting Global Threats Outweigh Any Differences Between Russia and the United States,”] RIA Novosti, February 13, 2004, https://ria(.)ru/20040213/526860.html.
  2. [“Press Conference for Russian and Foreign Journalists,”] Kremlin, December 23,

2004, http://kremlin(.)ru/events/president/transcripts/22757.

  1. [“Onishchenko Discovered Carcinogens in Latvian Sprat,”] Lenta, November 9,

2006, https://lenta(.)ru/news/2006/11/09/sprots/.

 

  1. [“Putin Promises Substantive Support to Abkhazia and South Ossetia,”] Izvestia, April 3, 2008, https://iz(.)ru/news/422147#ixzz3aV2E3Gyz.
  2. [“Putin: Russia, India, and China Can Prevent the Creation of a ‘Unipolar World’,”] Lenta, December 4, 2004, https://lenta(.)ru/news/2004/12/04/putin.
  3. Putin, “Speech and Following Discussion at the Munich Security Conference,”

February 10, 2007, http://en.kremlin(.)ru/events/president/transcripts/24034.

  1. ibid.
  2. Isabel Gorst and Neil Buckley, “Medvedev and Putin Clash Over Libya,” Financial Times, March 21, 2011, https://www.ft.com/content/2e62b08e-53d2-11e0-a01c-00144feab49a.
  3. “Russia Did Not Veto in UN to Protect Libyan Civilians—Medvedev,” RT, March

21, 2011, https://www.rt(.)com/russia/medvedev-un-resolution-lybia/.

 

  1. Russia-1, [“Putin Against Killing of Gaddafi,”] YouTube, April 26, 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFBOxGdrXR8.

 

  1. Alexei Anishchuk, “Gaddafi Fall Cost Russia Tens of Billions in Arms Deals,” Reuters, November 2, 2011, https://www.reuters.com/article/russia-libya-arms-idUSL5E7M221H20111102.

 

  1. Tom O’Connor, “Russia Says U.S. and Allies Lied When They Attacked Libya, Now It’s Ready to Get Involved,” Newsweek, November 13, 2011, https://www. newsweek.com/russia-says-us-allies-lied-libya-ready-help-1213872.

 

  1. Peter Ferdinand, “The Positions of Russia and China at the UN Security Council in the Light of Recent Crises,” European Parliament, March 1, 2013, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/note/join/2013/433800/ EXPO-SEDE_NT%282013%29433800_EN.pdf.

 

  1. [“Patrushev Talks About Western Actions Against Russia,”] Pravda, May 5, 2005, https://www.pravda(.)ru/news/world/12-05-2005/56630-patrushev_zapad_ revoljucija_sng_lukashenko_belorussija_demping-0/.

 

  1. [“Putin Will ‘Order Music’ Himself,”] Polit, July 20, 2005, http://www.polit(.)ru/news/2005/07/20/musicputt/.

 

  1. Katherin Machalek, “Factsheet: Russia’s NGO Laws,” Freedom House, https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/Fact%20Sheet_0.pdf.

 

  1. [“U.S. Will Teach Foreign Journalists How to Talk About Democracy,”] RBC, December 14, 2005, https://www.rbc(.)ru/ politics/14/12/2005/5703bb819a7947afa08c909d; Curt Tarnoff, “U.S. Assistance to the Former Soviet Union,” Congressional Research Service, April 14, 2005, https://www.everycrsreport.com/files/20050414_ RL32866_4df4f774f1d7136d7c55b5330924fb4f2a63a2d2.pdf.

 

  1. “Yukos: Russia Hits Back at U.S.,” CNN, November 1, 2003, http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/europe/11/01/yukos/index.html.

 

  1. Luke Harding and Ian Traynor, “Obama Abandons Missile Defence Shield in Europe,” The Guardian, September 17, 2009, https://www.theguardian.com/ world/2009/sep/17/missile-defence-shield-barack-obama.

 

  1. Polina Khimshiashvili [“Putin Did Not Notice the ‘Reset’,”] Vedomosti, December 20, 2012, https://www.vedomosti(.)ru/politics

 

  1. World Bank, Country and Lending Groups, 2015, https://web.archive.org/ web/20140702131322/http://data.worldbank.org/about/country-and-lending-groups.

 

  1. Vladimir Putin, “Address by President of the Russian Federation,” Kremlin, March

18, 2014, http://en.kremlin(.)ru/events/president/news/20603.

 

  1. [“Putin Explained Troop Deployment to Syria,”] Moskovskij Komsomolets, September 30, 2015, https://www.mk(.)ru/politics/2015/09/30/putin-obyasnil-vvedenie-rossiyskikh-voysk-v-siriyu.html.

 

  1. [“Peskov: Russia Will Be the Only Country Operating in Syria on Legitimate Basis,”] Gordon, September 30, 2015, https://gordonua(.)com/news/worldnews/ peskov-rossiya-budet-edinstvennoy-stranoy-osushchestvlyayushchey-operacii-v-sirii-na-legitimnoy-osnove-100135.html.

 

  1. RT, [“Putin: The Bear Will Never Be Left Alone,”] YouTube, December 18, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cwh5be7Jts.

 

  1. NTV, [“Vladimir Putin’s Press Conference 2018,”] YouTube, December 20, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ea1xHJhQl50.

 

  1. [“Presidential Decree #683: ‘On the National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation’,”] Rossiyskaya Gazeta, December 31, 2015, https://rg(.)ru/2015/12/31/ nac-bezopasnost-site-dok.html.

 

  1. “‘Take A Pill’: Putin Accuses U.S. Of Hysteria, Destabilizing The World,” RFE/ RL, June 2, 2017, https://www.rferl.org/a/st-pete-forum-putin-accuses-us-destabilizing-international-arena/28525266.html; Russia-1, [“Putin’s Best Moments with NBC’s Megyn Kelly,”] YouTube, June 4, 2017, https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=12s_n6F2ZEQ.

 

  1. [“Putin Believes That Anti-Russian Rhetoric May Decline in the U.S. After 2020,”] TASS, October 18, 2018, https://tass(.)ru/politika/5691040.
  2. “Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club,” Kremlin, October 27,

2016, http://en.kremlin(.)ru/events/president/news/53151.

 

  1. RIA Novosti, [“Putin About ‘Magnitsky Act’,”] YouTube, December 26, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4TTRnZB9cI.

 

  1. RT, [“Putin Responded to Pompeo’s Ultimatum on the INF Treaty,”] YouTube, December 5, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohONm97wt20.

 

  1. [“Putin: Most Citizens Do Not Have Influence Over Power in Democratic Countries,”] RIA Novosti, October 27, 2016, https://ria(.) ru/20161027/1480141794.html; NTV, [“Vladimir Putin’s Press Conference 2018,”] YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ea1xHJhQl50.

 

  1. [“Putin: Most Citizens Do Not Have Influence Over Power in Democratic Countries,”] RIA Novosti, October 27, 2016, https://ria(.)ru/20161027/1480141794.html.

 

  1. NTV, [“Vladimir Putin’s Press Conference 2018,”] YouTube, December 20, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ea1xHJhQl50.

 

  1. Putin, “Speech and Following Discussion at the Munich Security Conference,” February 10, 2007, http://en.kremlin(.)ru/events/president/transcripts/24034.
  2. Putin, “Address by the President of the Russian Federation,” March 18, 2014, http://en.kremlin(.)ru/events/president/news/20603.

 

  1. [“No One Listened to Us Then. So Listen Now,”] BBC, March 1, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/russian/news-43240396.

 

  1. “Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club,” October 18, 2018, http://en.kremlin(.)ru/events/president/news/58848

 

__________________

Edited from the PDF version by John R. Houk

 

1400 16TH STREET NW, SUITE 515 | WASHINGTON, DC 20036 | UNDERSTANDINGWAR.ORG | 202.293.5550

 

1789 MASSACHUSETTS AVENUE NW | WASHINGTON, DC 20036 | CRITICALTHREATS.ORG | 202-862-5800

 

Russia, Iran & Turkey Axis


John R. Houk

© October 18, 2017

 

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has put together a map showing how the Russian military is targeting civilians in Putin’s effort to support Iranian client dictator Bashar al-Assad to remain in power in Syria.

 

Take notice of the regimes in full military cooperation to keep al-Assad in power: Russia, Iran and incredulously NATO-member Turkey.

 

Russia officially may not be a Communist nation, but an old Communist former-Soviet Union KGB officer runs Russia in Vladimir Putin. Ever since the October 1917 Lenin led Communist revolution overthrew and assassinated the Russian Czar and the entire royal family, Russia has been no friend of the USA.

 

Iran ceased being an American friend after crazy Khomeini kicked out the Shah, killing royal loyalists, killing fellow anti-Shah revolutionaries, including Western-minded Iranian civilians, and allow Khomeini activists to overrun the U.S. Embassy in Tehran holding American Embassy staff under torturous conditions for 444 days.

 

Turkey became an essential Cold War ally of the U.S. because the Communist Soviet Union was an actual threat to the Turkish Republic. Hence, Turkey became a member of NATO in Europe’s goal to be protected from Russian Communist imperialism which at the time made Eastern Europe Communist vassals. What changed with Turkey?

 

One – Russia became less a Communist global exporter and more a nationalist power broker. Two – Turkey under Erdogan’s leadership, has experienced a revival of Islamic originalism. Meaning Turkey is on a path to be a Sunni radical Islamic propagator as much as Iran is a radical Shia Islamic propagator. The only redeeming factor Turkey-Iran is eventually the age-old Sunni-Shia rivalry will eventually click in. Until Sunni-Shia mutual hatred diverts Turkey and Iran, Russia, Iran and Turkey have one mutual interest of taking down American power. Eventually all three will turn on each other, but until then American National Interests will face a tough road of uneasy speculative choices.

 

JRH 10/18/17

Please Support NCCR

****************

*This e-mail is being resent with the corrected title and dates in the banner. We apologize for any inconvenience.

 

Russia Renews Targeting Civilians

[Info pertains to these dates: August 14 – October 7, 2017]

 

By Matti Suomenaro and the ISW Syria and Turkey Teams

Sent 10/17/2017 8:40 AM

Institute for the Study of War (ISW)

Email sent from: press@understandingwar.org

 

Russia renewed its violent, indiscriminate air campaign against civilians in Western Syria in order to coerce groups opposed to the Bashar al-Assad regime to accept a ceasefire or ‘de-escalation zone’ in Idlib Province. Russia shifted its air campaign to target rebel-held terrain in Idlib and Hama Provinces following an offensive launched by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) – the successor of Syrian al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fatah al-Sham – in Northern Hama Province on September 19. The Russian Ministry of Defense launched an immediate disinformation operation to present this shift in its air campaign as a legitimate series of strikes against extremist groups attempting to disrupt a ‘de-escalation zone’ in Idlib Province brokered by Russia, Turkey, and Iran on September 15. Russia nonetheless mounted a systematic campaign of airstrikes against civilian infrastructure – including hospitals, schools, power stations, and mosques – as well as former U.S.-backed rebel groups unaffiliated with HTS or al Qaeda. The strikes marked a return to the widespread punitive air campaigns Russia previously directed against opposition-held terrain across Western Syria. Russia also employed advanced weapons systems to further inflict violence against Idlib Province under the guise of counter-terrorism operations. The Russian Black Sea Fleet’s Permanent Mediterranean Task Force launched Kalibr cruise missiles targeting Ma’arat al-Numan in Southern Idlib Province on September 22. Russia Tu-95MS ‘Bear’ strategic bombers later launched Kh-101 cruise missiles targeting the outskirts of Idlib City on September 26. Russia’s deliberate use of violence against civilians precludes any legitimate, Russian-enforced ‘de-escalation’ zone in Idlib Province.

 

Russia also leveraged its ongoing air campaign to co-opt Turkey away from the U.S. and NATO in order to further set conditions for the planned ‘de-escalation zone’ in Idlib. Russia concentrated its airstrikes in areas of Western Idlib Province along the Syrian-Turkish Border from September 25 – 30. The Russian Air Force likely sought to interdict the movement of HTS and opposition forces ahead of a Turkish Armed Force (TSK) deployment into Idlib by targeting rebel-held areas connecting Western Aleppo Province to the Bab al-Hawa Border Crossing on the Syrian-Turkish Border as well as key supply routes around Idlib City. Turkish President Recep Erdogan subsequently announced the start of cross-border operations to implement the Idlib ‘de-escalation zone’ on October 7. Erdogan stated that Russia would support his intervention. The TSK began deployments to observation positions in Northern Idlib Province near the majority-Kurdish Afrin Canton on October 12 following earlier reconnaissance missions. Russia likely perceives an opportunity to exploit widening diplomatic fissures between the U.S. and Turkey. Russia could thus attempt to use the ‘de-escalation zone’ to compel Turkey into deeper – albeit temporary – cooperation with Russia in Northwestern Syria at the expense of the United States.

 

The following graphic depicts ISW’s assessment of Russian airstrike locations based on reports from local Syrian activist networks, statements by Russian and Western officials, and documentation of Russian airstrikes through social media. This map represents locations targeted by Russia’s air campaign, rather than the number of individual strikes or sorties. The graphic likely under-represents the extent of the locations targeted in Eastern Syria, owing to a relative lack of activist reporting from that region.

High-Confidence Reporting. ISW places high confidence in reports corroborated by documentation from opposition factions and activist networks on the ground in Syria deemed to be credible that demonstrate a number of key indicators of Russian airstrikes.

Low-Confidence Reporting. ISW places low confidence in reports corroborated only by multiple secondary sources, including from local Syrian activist networks deemed credible or Syrian state-run media.

 

ISW – Russian Airstrikes in Syria map- 8-14 to 9-14-17

 

[Blog Editor: The following posted on email but not webpage]

 

The preceding graphic depicts ISW’s assessment of Russian airstrike locations based on reports from local Syrian activist networks, statements by Russian and Western officials, and documentation of Russian airstrikes through social media. This map represents locations targeted by Russia’s air campaign, rather than the number of individual strikes or sorties. The graphic likely under-represents the extent of the locations targeted in Eastern Syria, owing to a relative lack of activist reporting from that region.

 

Visit our websites — www.understandingwar.org and http://iswresearch.blogspot.com  — and follow us on Twitter (@TheStudyofWar).

_______________

Russia, Iran & Turkey Axis

John R. Houk

© October 18, 2017

_________________

Russia Renews Targeting Civilians

 

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization. ISW advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education. We are committed to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives. Visit us at www.understandingwar.org.

 

The Institute for the Study of War, 1400 16th Street NW, Suite 515, Washington, DC 20036

 

ISW Who We Are Page

 

We are on the front lines of military thinking.

 

Our Mission

 

The Institute for the Study of War advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education. We are committed to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives. ISW is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization.

 

We believe ground realities must drive the formulation of strategy and policy. In pursuit of this principle, ISW conducts detailed, open-source intelligence analysis to provide the most accurate information on current conflicts and security threats. ISW researchers spend time in conflict zones conducting independent assessments and enhancing their understanding of realities on the ground. Through reports and timely events, our research educates military and civilian leaders, reporters, and the public to enhance the quality of policy debates.

 

PUTIN’S REAL SYRIA AGENDA


While Dems are crying about the unproven collusion between President Trump and the Russians to win Election-2016 AND ignoring Dem collusion with the Russians (which is better documented), Russia is quietly changing the balance of power in the Middle East by colluding with Iran for geopolitical regional power.

The Dems are either saps or more than willing to stealthily cooperate with the former Soviet Union whose President is a former uber-spy Vladimir Putin.

 

JRH 3/20/17

Please Support NCCR

************

PUTIN’S REAL SYRIA AGENDA [Summary/Intro]

 

By Genevieve Casagrande

Mar 20, 2017

Institute for the Study of War [ISW]

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s primary objective in Syria is to constrain U.S. freedom of action – not fight ISIS and al Qaeda. Russia’s military deployments at current levels will not enable the Iranian-penetrated Assad regime to secure Syria. Moscow’s deepening footprint in Syria threatens America’s ability to defend its interests across the Middle East and in the Mediterranean Sea. The next U.S. step in Syria must help regain leverage over Russia rather than further encourage Putin’s expansionism.

 

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) produced this report with the Critical Threats Project (CTP). The insights are part of an intensive multi-month exercise to frame, design, and evaluate potential courses of action that the United States could pursue to destroy the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) and al Qaeda in Syria. The ISW-CTP team recently released “America’s Way Ahead in Syria,” which details the flaws in the current U.S. approach in Iraq and Syria and proposes the first phase of a strategic reset in the Middle East.

 

+++

Putin’s Real Syria Agenda

By Genevieve Casagrande and Kathleen Weinberger

March 2017

ISW – PDF

 

Russia’s intervention in Syria in September 2015 fundamentally altered the balance of the Syrian Civil War.1 Russia re-established momentum behind Syrian President Bashar al Assad and his Iranian allies at a moment when major victories by ISIS and Syrian rebels threatened to force the regime to contract into Syria’s central corridor.2 The capabilities Russia deployed were not limited to the airframes, artillery, and personnel needed to conduct a counter-terrorism or counterinsurgency mission, however. Russia deployed advanced air defense and ballistic missile systems, naval units, air superiority aircraft, and other capabilities in a display of major Russian force projection in the region. Russian President Vladimir Putin is altering the balance of power in Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean through sustained Russian military operations and additional deployments of high-end capabilities.

 

Russian Force Projection

 

Russia ultimately seeks to expand its permanent naval and air bases on the Syrian coast in order to further project force into the Mediterranean and Middle East. Russia’s establishment of an anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) exclusion zone from its bases at Latakia and Tartous allows Russia to create de-facto no fly zones in the Eastern Mediterranean as well as over most of Syria. These A2/AD zones constrain U.S. freedom of movement and ultimately raise the cost of U.S. involvement in Syria.3 Russia deployed the naval version of the S-300 to protect the airspace over Latakia airbase in Syria in November 2015.4 Russia also deployed the S-400 in late November 2015 shortly after the Turkish downing of a Russian jet.5 Russia has since deployed an additional seven S-300 systems in an effort to build in redundancies, advance the integration of its air defenses, and provide more comprehensive coverage.6 The S-300 and S-400 systems are road mobile and interoperable, increasing the difficulty of neutralizing the systems. [See Appendix I]

 

Putin wants to challenge the U.S. and its allies by increasing Russian military and political influence in the Middle East. Russia has rotated a wide range of naval vessels to participate in the conflict in order to demonstrate the capabilities of these units and Russia’s willingness to deploy them in the Mediterranean. Russia has deployed some of its most advanced non-nuclear naval capabilities to the Eastern Mediterranean.7 Russian subsurface and surface vessels successfully engaged ground targets in Syria after launching Kalibr cruise missiles from the Mediterranean and Caspian Seas.8 Russia has shown it can undertake precision strikes with the nuclear-capable Kalibr cruise missile at significant distance.

 

Russia also maintains anti-ship capabilities in the Mediterranean, including the Bastion-P coastal defense system. Russia demonstrated the land attack capabilities of the Bastion in November 2016.9 Russia has also deployed battle cruisers that bring advanced anti-ship and air defense capabilities off the Syrian coast. Russia’s deployment of its much-ridiculed aircraft carrier the Admiral Kuznetsov nevertheless showcased its force projection capabilities and intent to exhibit its naval presence in the Mediterranean.10 [See Appendix II]

 

Putin has deployed air defense and anti-ship systems to Syria in order to threaten the United States. Russia does not need these systems to support the counter-terrorism campaign it claims it is waging against anti-Assad opposition groups in Syria. Those groups do not operate aircraft or naval vessels. Russia also deployed the nuclear capable SS-26 ‘Iskander’ ballistic missiles to Syria and used the systems to attack opposition held terrain.11 The Iskander missiles provide no meaningful additional advantage against the opposition. The only conceivable target for these advanced systems is the U.S. and its allies. [See Appendix III]

 

Constrain U.S. Freedom of Action

 

Russia has used its deployment to constrain U.S. freedom of action and limit American policy options in Syria. Russia deployed the S-300 and S-400 air defense systems to deter the U.S. from direct military action against the Assad regime through the unilateral establishment of a no-fly zone. Russia has also forward deployed assets beyond its air and naval bases on the coast in order to further complicate the personnel are primarily concentrated in Latakia, Aleppo, and Tartous Provinces, but are also active in Hama, Homs, Damascus, and Hasakah and include a wide range of units including air assault, tank, medical, naval infantry, and special operations forces. [See Appendix IV]

 

Russia has intentionally removed potential U.S. partners within the armed opposition from the battlefield in Syria. Russian airstrikes from October 2015 to March 2017 have primarily targeted the mainstream Syrian opposition – not ISIS – in order to ensure the opposition’s defeat through its submission, destruction, or transformation. The Russian air campaign has driven what remains of the mainstream opposition closer to Salafi-jihadi groups, which are stronger and better able to defend against intensified pro-regime military operations. Russia is also exacerbating radicalization through its deliberate, illegal targeting of civilians. Russia has consistently targeted hospitals, schools, and other critical civilian infrastructure throughout the sixteen months of its air campaign.

 

Russian Testing Grounds

 

Russia has also used sustained use of transport aircraft in Syria to exercise the Russian military’s overall combat readiness and force projection capabilities. Expeditionary logistics and force projection is difficult for militaries to exercise, in general. Russia is exercising expeditionary logistics by air and sea in Syria.13 Russia is refining its ability to deploy its military personnel and equipment rapidly at a large scale in order to message its ability to threaten the U.S. and its NATO and European allies. Russia announced its intent to prioritize the development of naval equipment for troop transport on March 8 in order to increase the Russian Navy’s ability to provide logistical support in Syria and in other coastal zones.14 Russia also re-supplies and provides combat support for prospect of direct U.S. strikes against the Syrian regime for fear of inadvertently hitting Russian troops. Sources estimated that Russia maintains between 1,500 and 4,000 military personnel in Syria.12 These forces in Syria through frequent deliveries from Russian Il-76 and An-124 transport aircraft. As of October 2016, these transport aircraft were making multiple trips to Syria each month and it is likely that these aircraft continue to make regular trips to Syria. [See Appendix V]

 

Limitations of Russian Capabilities

 

Putin faces a number of economic and military constraints that limit the resources Russia can bring to bear in Syria. Russia’s economic crisis has forced Russia to balance limited resources across key theaters like Ukraine, the Baltics, the Middle East, and domestically in Russia. Putin has opted to pursue multiple, mutually reinforcing lines of effort using a diverse set of naval, air, missile, and ground capabilities in Syria. The overlap allows Russia to extract significant benefits with minimal cost. The Russian military has demonstrated its many shortcomings during its deployment to Syria, including frequent friendly fire incidents, losses of Russian aircraft, a poor performance by Russia’s aging aircraft carrier the Admiral Kuznetsov, and reports of mechanical failure of Russian equipment.15

 

The Russian deployment, at current levels, will be insufficient to grant Assad victory over the opposition, al Qaeda, or ISIS. Russia, Iran, and the regime have been unable to sustain significant simultaneous operations against ISIS and the Syrian opposition, despite Russia’s considerable airframe deployments. Russian airframes were unable to prevent ISIS’s recapture of Palmyra in December 2016 alongside a final pro-regime push to defeat the opposition in Aleppo, for example.16 Russia has instead used ‘cessation of hostilities’ agreements to drawdown its airstrikes against the opposition and surge its air campaign against ISIS for limited periods of time.17 Salafi-Jihadi groups have meanwhile begun to consolidate the opposition under more effective command-and-control structures, increasing rebels’ capabilities and resiliency.18 This dynamic will not only lead to a protracted and bloody civil war for the foreseeable future, but it ultimately raises the requirements for the U.S. to deal with the conflict.

 

Implications

 

Russia is both an unacceptable and ineffective partner against jihadists in Syria. The Russian deployment is inconsistent with Putin’s narrative that Russia intervened in Syria in order to combat terrorists. Many of its capabilities have no utility in the anti-ISIS fight. Putin instead seeks to use Russia’s deployment to subordinate U.S. military action and policies to Russian objectives in Syria. Russia’s aggressive deployment to Syria intends to deter the U.S. from intervening for fear of incurring significant costs. Russia has largely pursued its objectives in Syria with impunity. It has deprived the U.S. of freedom of maneuver, disrupted U.S. partnerships with key allies in the region, and facilitated Russia’s emergence as a geopolitical force in the region. Any potential partnership with Russia in Syria will further strengthen jihadists and force the U.S. to capitulate to a Russian vision for the broader Middle East that endangers America’s security interests.

 

Genevieve Casagrande is a Syria Analyst at the Institute for the Study of War. Kathleen Weinberger is a Russia and Ukraine Analyst at the Institute for the Study of War. Institute for the Study of War Twitter: @TheStudyofWar Critical Threats Twitter: @criticalthreats

 

[Blog Editor: From this point forward the rest of the report are the Appendices (i.e. charts) and Notes. The last section is actually longer than the report itself. To view the Appendices and Notes go to the PDF.]

 

____________________

©2007 – 2017 THE INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR

 

Who is ISW

 

We are on the front lines of military thinking.

 

Our Mission

The Institute for the Study of War advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education. We are committed to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives. ISW is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization.

 

Our History

Dr. Kimberly Kagan founded ISW in May 2007, as U.S. forces undertook a daring new counterinsurgency strategy to reverse the grim security situation on the ground in Iraq. Frustrated with the prevailing lack of accurate information documenting developments on the ground in Iraq and the detrimental effect of biased reporting on policymakers, Dr. Kagan established ISW to provide real-time, independent, and open-source analysis of ongoing military operations and READ THE REST

 

ISW Report Examines the Free Syrian Army


Free Syrian Army - logo in background

Intro: Free Syrian Army

John R. Houk

© April 2, 2013

 

As Americans we should be kept up to date on the civil war happening now in Syria. Syria has been ruled by the Assad family for over 40 years as a ruthless dictatorship that is supportive of Syria’s minority religion of Alawite Shia Islam.

 

Al_Assad_family portraitWhen the Arab Spring began to erupt across North Africa (Maghreb) against despotic regimes and influenced by Islamists but with secular minded Muslims in tow. The throw the dictators out syndrome reached Syria. Unfortunately for the anti-dictatorship crowd in Syria the current dictator Bashar al-Assad has aligned his regime politically and militarily with aspiring regional power Iran. Frankly I believe the Syrian civil war has lasted over a couple years because of Iranian support for the Assad Regime which has been a conduit connection with Lebanon’s Shi’ite terrorists Hezbollah.

 

Syria’s rebels are represented by the majority Sunni Muslims of which the most powerful elements are al Qaeda/Wahhabi influenced Islamists. This is significant because the Obama Administration is committed to bringing down Assad but is in the dilemma of supporting American-Jew hating Islamists to bring down Assad’s regime. Many people including me believe the secrecy being maintained by the Obama Administration has to do with Benghazigate; i.e. Islamic terrorists attacking a Consulate-like building in Benghazi killing Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others. The scandal surrounds the capability to prevent the attack (See HERE, HERE and HERE) and the reason that Stevens was there in the first place. That reason could be something to do with sending Qaddafi captured weapons to the Syrian rebels which in all likelihood are also American-Jew-hating Islamists.

 

Below is an email introduction from Institute for the Study of War (ISW) which has a link to a summary of the Free Syrian Army.

 

JRH 4/2/13

Please Support NCCR

******************************

ISW Report Examines the Free Syrian Army

 

ISW – For Immediate Release

Contact person: Maggie Rackl

Sent: Mar 25, 2013 at 4:34 PM

 

ISW’s latest report, The Free Syrian Army, analyzes how rebel commanders on the ground in Syria have begun to coordinate tactically in order to plan operations and combine resources. This cooperation has facilitated many important offensives and rebels have taken control of the majority of the northern and eastern portions of the country. However, rebels have been unable to capitalize on these successes, and fighting has largely stalemated along current battle fronts particularly in the key areas of Aleppo, Homs and Damascus.

 

In her report, ISW Senior Syria Analyst Elizabeth O’Bagy explores how rebels have attempted to overcome the fragmentation and disorganization that have plagued Syria’s armed opposition since peaceful protestors took up arms in December 2011. A lack of unity has made cooperation and coordination difficult on the battlefield and has limited the effectiveness of rebel operations.

 

On December 7, 2012, rebel leaders from across Syria announced the election of a new 30-member unified command structure called the Supreme Joint Military Command Council, known as the Supreme Military Command (SMC). The Supreme Military Command improves upon previous attempts at armed opposition unification through higher integration of disparate rebel groups and enhanced communication, which suggest that it could prove to be an enduring security institution. The SMC has the potential to serve as a check on radicalization and help to assert a moderate authority in Syria. If the SMC can create enough incentives for moderation it will likely be able to marginalize the most radical elements within its structure.

 

There remain a number of critical obstacles ahead for the SMC. They include the incorporation of existing command networks, which will have an impact on command and control and resource allocation; mitigating the strength of extremist groups; and managing disparate sources of financing. As the SMC develops its institutional capacity, its ability to assert greater authority will likely depend on its transactional legitimacy and its ability to distribute critical resources to rebel-held communities. Overcoming these obstacles will be difficult, especially as the nature of the conflict transforms and the sectarian polarization makes it more challenging to create a strong military institution and professional armed force.

_____________________

The Free Syrian Army

Executive Summary

 

By Elizabeth O’Bagy

Institute for the Study of War

 

Fragmentation and disorganization have plagued Syria’s armed opposition since peaceful protestors took up arms in December 2011 and began forming rebel groups under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army. A lack of unity has made cooperation and coordination difficult on the battlefield and has limited the effectiveness of rebel operations.

 

Since the summer of 2012, rebel commanders on the ground in Syria have begun to coordinate tactically in order to plan operations and combine resources. This cooperation has facilitated many important offensives and rebels have taken control of the majority of the eastern portion of the country, overrunning their first provincial capital in March 2013 with the capture of al-Raqqa city. However, rebels have been unable to capitalize on these successes, and fighting has largely stalemated along current battle fronts particularly in the key areas of Aleppo, Homs and Damascus. 

 

In order to overcome the current military stalemate, the opposition needs to develop an operational level headquarters that can designate campaign priorities, task units to support priority missions, and resource these units with the proper equipment to execute their missions. Recently, the opposition has established a new national military structure that may grow to serve this purpose.

 

On December 7, 2012, rebel leaders from across Syria announced the election of a new 30-member unified command structure called the Supreme Joint Military Command Council, known as the Supreme Military Command (SMC). The Supreme Military Command improves upon previous attempts at armed opposition unification through higher integration of disparate rebel groups and enhanced communication, which suggest that it could prove to be an enduring security institution.

 

The SMC includes all of Syria’s most important opposition field commanders, and its authority is based on the power and influence of these rebel leaders. Its legitimacy is derived from the bottom-up, rather than top-down, and it has no institutional legitimacy apart from the legitimacy of the commanders associated with the council. Thus, the SMC is not structurally cohesive, and its ability to enforce command and control is dependent on the cooperation of each of its members.

 

The incorporation of rebel networks has resulted in chains of command that are not uniform across the five fronts, with each sub-unit retaining their own unique authority structures.

The SMC’s primary function to date has been to serve as a platform for coordination. Regardless of the limits of its current command and control, the SMC has played an important role in syncing rebel operations with several notable successes. It has allowed for greater opportunities for collaboration and coordination among the disparate rebel groups operating in Syria.

 

As the SMC develops its institutional capacity, its ability to assert greater authority will likely depend on its transactional legitimacy and its ability to distribute critical resources to rebel-held communities.

 

To date, disparate sources of funding have significantly handicapped the rebels’ ability to unite and consolidate authority on a national level. Although private sources of funding will likely continue outside the parameters of the SMC, uniting the support channels of rebels’ main state sponsors will be fundamental to ensuring the legitimacy of the new organization. The ability to provide resources and material support to its sub-units is the determining factor in whether or not the SMC will be able to unite rebel forces under its command and establish a level of command and control.

 

The SMC has the potential to serve as a check on radicalization and help to assert a moderate authority in Syria. If the SMC can create enough incentives for moderation it will likely be able to marginalize the most radical elements within its structure. To this end, the SMC has recognized the importance of the inclusion of some of the more radical forces, while still drawing a red line at the inclusion of forces that seek the destruction of a Syrian state, such as jihadist groups like Jabhat Nusra.

 

Ultimately, even if the SMC only serves as a mechanism for greater cooperation and coordination, it is a significant development in that it has united the efforts of rebel commanders across Syria. It is the first attempt at unity that incorporates important commanders from all Syrian provinces and has enough legitimacy on the ground to even begin the process of building a structure capable of providing a national-level chain of command.

 

Syria’s state security apparatus will collapse as the Assad regime finishes its transformation into a militia-like entity. The Supreme Military Command is currently the only organization that could serve to fill the security vacuum left by this transformation. As the Syrian opposition begins to build a transitional government, the SMC could create a framework for rebuilding Syria’s security and governing institutions if properly supported. The SMC’s ability to act as a basis for a national defense institution will be an important component in filling the power vacuum left by Assad’s fall and will aid in a secure and stable Syria.

 

There remain a number of critical obstacles ahead for the SMC. They include the incorporation of existing command networks, which will have an impact on command and control and resource allocation; mitigating the strength of extremist groups; and managing disparate sources of financing. Overcoming these obstacles will be difficult, especially as the nature of the conflict transforms and the sectarian polarization makes it more challenging to create a strong military institution and professional armed force. Although the SMC must do its part internally to overcome these obstacles, its success will largely depend on greater international support and access to more resources.

 

The goal behind U.S. support to the opposition should be to build a force on the ground that is committed to building a nonsectarian, stable Syria, with a government more likely to respect American interests. Working with the SMC could enhance America’s position vis-à-vis Syria’s armed opposition and provide a mechanism for stability should the Assad regime fall.

 

PDF Document:

The free Syrian army

MIDDLE EAST SECURITY REPORT 9

March 2013

_____________________

Intro: Free Syrian Army

John R. Houk

© April 2, 2013

____________________

ISW Report Examines the Free Syrian Army

 

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization. ISW advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education. We are committed to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives.

 

©2007 – 2013 THE INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR

 

Who We Are Page

 

If YOU Think Peace will Break-out in the Middle East, You’re Dreaming


Israel-Iran war map in German

John R. Houk

© August 18, 2012

 

I don’t have to be a prophet to predict that a war will explode in the Middle East soon. The Muslim nations surrounding Israel have been trying to destroy the Jewish State ever since their modern independence in 1948. For some Islamic Supremacist jealousy cannot court the concept of a sliver of land that a religion other than Islam sets the parameters for governance in the region.

 

Couple this with the old Arab League set up of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) which has been legitimized by Western Powers by linking the PLO to a Western created Palestinian Authority (PA). Western reasoning for the PA is idiotically attempting to set up Israeli-Arab peace by grabbing Israeli land by forcing Israel to accept a Jew-hating sovereign Palestine to Israel’s East.  Of course there is PLO-independent Hamas to the southwest of Israel which is a tool of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and there is Iranian client terrorists Hezbollah to the north of Israel. Iran has been rattling swords against Israel for over half a decade. Egypt is becoming a Radical Muslim State as the Muslim Brotherhood tentacles spread through its government. Muslim Brotherhood Clerics have been voicing a call for unity among Muslim-Arabs for a pan-Islamic State with Jerusalem as its capital city. Syria directly north and east of Israel has been an Iranian client rattling swords against Israel ever since 1948 but they are having a problem with a civil war currently. I look to Syria to continue hostility with Israel no matter who wins that civil war. And there is Lebanon to the north which has become a client of the Shia dominated Hezbollah. Lebanon essentially has become a State within a State.

 

This report from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and written by Christopher Harmer will give you an idea what an all out war in the Middle Eastern region will look like. And by all out war I mean more than the USA and any coalition of the willing trying to use Western concepts in rebuilding a nation-state.

 

This war will have the appearance initially of multiple Muslim nations and Islamic terrorists attacking tiny Israel. If America honors its treaty with Israel will enter into the fray. If America enters the fray I have little doubt that Russia and Communist China will at first join in the Muslim side because of oil. America’s NATO allies will have to join on our side because an increasingly militant Russia will be a little scary for Europe that has diverted most of its money to Socialist programs that are barely staying afloat PLUS the issue of oil will force Europe to join USA-Israel so they are not cut off by a potential Russia-China-Iran victory.

 

I might point out the allegiance of nations I am pointing out here is conditional only our Treaty allies honor the military treaty terms. It could go bad for the USA if other variables take place in which treaties are broken.

 

The first broken treaty that would make a lot of nations very pleased is if America fails to honor our military treaty with Israel. If Obama is around when this war breaks out Obama could very easily throw Israel under the bus to see if another 1948 miracle occurs with Israel surviving multiple fronts of invasion.

 

Another scenario is that various European nations break away from NATO to join the Russia-China-Iran axis for petroleum and petro-Dollars/petro-Euros with the hope of abandoning America would ease the socio-economic pain that will occur if the NATO is honored on the European side.

 

When all out war breaks out globally this time it will make the ugliness of WWII look like a picnic.

 

WWIII Imagery

 

JRH 8/18/12 (You can also read the ISW text version of “Threat and Response: Israeli Missile Defensedirectly below these thoughts at SlantRight 2.0.)

Please Support NCCR

Spillover from Syria


Kurdistan Map- Syria, Turkey, Iraq & Iran

Hmm … One really doesn’t read anything from the MSM relating to Iraq unless there is a story that arbitrarily insults the United States of America. You know though – I believe Iraq is still a nation that quite likely will split three ways when the last combat regiment leaves the region carved into a nation by the British (SA HERE) casting favors to tribal Arab allies during WWI.

 

In an instant Institute for the Study of War (ISW) email there is a news briefing about what is happening in Iraq as the American coalition of the willing downsizes its presence. Here a clue: The Syrian Civil War also includes Syrians other than Radical Muslim Sunnis that desire freedom from Shia Alawite President Bashar al-Assad.

 

JRH 8/5/12

Please Support NCCR

Will Post-America Iraq Disintegrate?


Iraq Ethnic Map 2 lg

John R. Houk

© April 14, 2011

 

The Iraq Surge was pretty much a successful military venture; however it did not wrap things up in terms of reliable stability for Iraq as a sovereign nation that roughly has a majority population of Iran sympathizing Shias, a lesser minority of Sunnis who ruled the nation for a half century and the ever disenfranchised Kurds who tend to Sunni Muslims but are viewed as second class citizens by Sunni and Shia Arabs as well as by the Shias of Iran.

 

When President G.W. Bush finally rallied enough political support both at home and with the Coalition of the Willing to depose psycho-dictator Saddam Hussein, there were brief moments of the thought to divide Iraq (SA HERE) into three regional nations to accommodate Shias, Sunnis and Kurds. I say brief because it became evident a divided Iraq would make the Iraq area an easy target for Iranian invasion especially since the Iraqi Shias are very sympathetic to the Mullah ruled Iran. Also there is the question of who controls and/or benefits from the still profitable amounts in the ground in Iraq. There is no doubt one group would invade the other group to gain access to the oil to benefit which ever tribal minded Shia, Sunni or Kurd. Not to mention that Turkey was prepared to go to war to make sure a sovereign Kurdish nation did not exist on their southern border (See this possible recent development).

 

Because of Iran hegemonic regional designs coupled with a nationalistic Islamist Turkish government dominating that still hates Kurds, when the USA leaves Iraq the thin glue that has held the current Iraq together may dissolve rapidly. This is problematic because America does have an invested interest in the prayer that Iraq stabilizes internally. The disintegration of an Iraq central government will make Iraq a target for Iran to usurp the Shia portion of Iraq.

 

Also Turkey’s Islamist government has been reaching out to Iran lately. I see a possibility of Turkey and Iran clandestinely pulling off a form of a Hitler-Stalin pact. That pact led Hitler to invade Poland from the west and Stalin’s Red Army invading Poland from the east. A Turkey-Iran pact might look like Iran’s military annexing Iraq’s Shia locations and Turkey annexing the Kurd areas of northern Iraq.

 

Since I am by far no-means a geopolitical expert (I am just a no-name blogger), check out the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) email which speculates with clarity Iraq’s situation and why it matters to American National Interests.

 

JRH 4/14/11

**********************************

ISW in Brief: An Uncertain Future for the U.S.-Iraq Partnership

 

By Ramzy Mardini

April 14, 2011

ISW Email

 

Last week, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited Iraq to discuss the timetable for the U.S. military’s withdrawal, currently scheduled to conclude by the end of this year. During his three-day visit, Secretary Gates met with Iraqi leaders and communicated the United States’ willingness to extend its troop presence beyond 2011 should the Iraqis make such a request. His visit comes amidst growing concerns that a December 2011 withdrawal will leave a dangerous security vacuum in Iraq.

Secretary Gates’ visit coincides with growing Iraqi sentiment against an extended U.S. forces presence in Iraq. In stark contrast to Gates’ offer of an extension, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other members of his coalition have rejected the possibility of a continued U.S. military presence. Maliki reportedly told Gates during their meeting that his government opposes “any presence of U.S. troops or other foreign troops” and that Iraqi forces were capable of maintaining security and “countering any attack,” suggesting they were no longer in need of U.S. support. Maliki’s argument, however, contradicts statements made by senior Iraqi military officials that they will require additional U.S. assistance for years to come.

 

Yet, the strongest opposition to a continued U.S. presence comes from the firebrand Shi’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose party holds 40 seats in the 325-seat Council of Representatives, more than any individual party in Iraq. Following last year’s election, Maliki relied on Sadr’s backing in order to retain his position as prime minister. Should Maliki come to support an extension by way of a renegotiated Security Agreement, he would surely lose Sadr’s support, a move which could jeopardize his premiership. If Maliki were to lose Sadrist backing, he would have to seek alliances elsewhere. Yet, even Iraqiyya—another major parliamentary bloc—has expressed mixed views toward a sustained U.S. presence.

 

The Sadrists have also been working to rally popular sentiment in favor of U.S. withdrawal, chiefly through anti-occupation demonstrations. On April 9, just one day after Gates’ departure, tens of thousands of Sadr loyalists flooded the streets in Baghdad to mark the eighth anniversary of the ousting of Saddam, with anti-American banners and slogans demanding the withdrawal of U.S. forces. During the rally, Sadrist spokesman Salah al-Obaidi threatened to reinstate the Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) militia and escalate popular opposition in response to a sustained U.S. military presence. A recent report in al-Hayat suggests that the leaders of the Iranian-linked militant group, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, would consider rejoining the Sadrists if JAM is armed and reactivated, which would further reinforce JAM’s ability to destabilize Iraq.

 

Though an extension of the U.S. presence is a politically unattractive prospect for Iraqis, there are many unresolved issues that threaten to unravel recent security gains. Unsettled territorial disputes between Arabs and Kurds—particularly in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk—may escalate into a civil war between the Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi security forces should the U.S. military presence be removed. Recent events have demonstrated the importance of a U.S. presence to mediate between the two factions. A recent incident in which the KRG deployed Peshmerga forces south of Kirkuk City, without consulting U.S. and Iraqi officials, heightened tensions and required Vice President Joe Biden to intervene to defuse the conflict. Both sides have come to the verge of armed conflict on multiple occasions, only to be deterred by the presence of U.S. forces.

 

Additionally, though extremist groups have been degraded, al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) remains active, and could seek to fill the security vacuum left by a U.S. withdrawal. In one of their deadliest attacks in recent years, on March 29, 2011, AQI attacked a government building in Tikrit, killing 56 people and wounding scores more, including several provincial councilmen and the chief of police of Salah-ad-Din governorate. This incident demonstrates that AQI retains its ability to conduct high-profile attacks, prompting questions and concerns about the readiness of Iraq’s security forces.

 

Though the Iraqi military has made significant strides towards self-sufficiency, it remains unable to fill critical external defense functions, like protecting its borders and controlling its airspace. For example, Iraq’s Air Force lacks sufficient aircraft and trained pilots to defend Iraqi airspace from incursions. Moreover, reduced capabilities in logistics and intelligence also limit Iraq’s defenses. It is also likely that, following a complete U.S. withdrawal, other interested parties, such as Iran, may seek to expand their influence in the region by exploiting Iraq’s vulnerabilities.

 

All of these elements make a continued U.S.-Iraq partnership especially important post-2011; however, time is running out, and delicate diplomatic engagement will be required if any agreement is to be reached.

__________________________________

Will Post-America Iraq Disintegrate?

John R. Houk

© April 14, 2011

__________________________________

ISW in Brief: An Uncertain Future for the U.S.-Iraq Partnership

 

Ramzy Mardini is a Research Analyst at ISW.

 

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization. ISW advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education. We are committed to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives.

 

www.understandingwar.org

 

ISW is a 501(c)(3) organization under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. All contributions are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

 

Copyright (C) 2011 Institute for the Study of War All rights reserved.

%d bloggers like this: