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

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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
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©2007 – 2019 THE INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR

 

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

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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

 

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12 Indicted Russians, Helsinki and Russian Conspiracy


John R. Houk

© July 18, 2018

 

On July 13, Special Counsel Robert Mueller signed off on an Eleven Count Indictment against these Russian nationals purportedly to be members of Russian military Intelligence (aka GRU MORE DETAIL):

 

  • VIKTOR BORIS OVICH

 

  • BORIS ALEKSEYEVICH ANTONOV

 

  • DMITRIY SERGEYEVICH BADIN

 

  • IVAN SERGEYEVICH YERMAKOV

 

  • ALEKSEY VIKTOROVICH LUKASI

 

  • SERGEY ALEKSANDROVICH MORGACHEV

 

  • NIKOLAY YURYEVICH KOZACHEK

 

  • PAVEL VYACHESLAVOVICH YERSHOV

 

  • ARTEM ANDREYEVICH MALYSHEV

 

  • ALEKSANDR VLADIMIROVICH OSAD CHUK

 

  • ALEKSEY ALEKSANDROVICH POTEMKIN

 

  • ANATOLIY SERGEYEVICH KOVALEV

 

The Eleven Counts:

 

  • COUNT ONE: Conspiracy to Commit an Offense Against the United States

 

  • COUNTS TWO THROUGH NINE: Aggravated Identity Theft

 

  • COUNT TEN: Conspiracy to Launder Money

 

  • COUNT ELEVEN: Conspiracy to Commit an Offense Against the United States

 

After each count there are alleged details of the alleged crimes – 29 pages worth.

 

Isn’t it interesting Mueller doesn’t use some form of legalese claiming there was a conspiracy to hack the 2016 election with the cooperation with the Trump Campaign?

 

Kim DotCom claims the allegations in the indictment are very flimsy. The Gateway Pundit claims Kim DotCom said this:

 

In late May 2017 internet entrepreneur Kim DotCom claimed to have evidence that former DNC worker Seth Rich was involved in the leaked emails released by WikiLeaks.

 

Kim DotCom shared that he was willing to come to the US and give testimony if it is required.

 

Then Kim DotCom’s lawyers sent a letter to Robert Mueller saying he would come testify in the US and would provide evidence to the Investigation.

 

Kim DotCom

 

Kim DotCom later said trusting Mueller was a mistake and that the special counsel was out to destroy President Trump.

 

On Friday Kim DotCom responded to the latest Mueller indictments of another 12 Russian operatives.

 

Kim DotCom says the evidence in the indictment doesn’t survive a giggle test. Kim DotCom added today’s indictment confirmed that Mueller cannot be trusted.

 

Kim DotCom: Deep State indictment against Russian DNC hackers is so light on evidence that the DOJ should place a Weight Watchers logo on the front page. #ZeroCalories

Mueller knows that his PR stunt will never be tested in Court. The ‘Russian Conspirators’ will never see a US Court room.

 

(Kim DotCom: I Was Warned Not to Turn Over Seth Rich Evidence to Mueller; By Jim Hoft; The Gateway Pundit; 7/14/18)

 

Kim DotCom’s maintains DNC servers weren’t so much hacked but shared by Crooked Hillary campaign staffer Seth Rich. Rich was mysteriously murdered on the DC streets.

 

The Mueller indictments are the basis for the Leftist MSM and many Republicans are screaming and Crying President Trump has committed treason by meeting with Putin. After all, the indicted GRU Officers were under the direction of Vladimir Putin, right?

 

What really chapped the Trump-haters hide was not only did President Trump meet with Putin, but said he believed the Russian thug’s claim Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election cycle.

 

In all honesty, my gut tells me Putin is pitching a load of crap, ergo I am not pleased with Trump’s agreement with Putin. On the other hand, I believe President Trump did not want insult Putin publicly out of the hope he could work out some kind of geopolitical deal with Russia that would benefit the USA.

 

I believe Trump wheeling and dealing with Putin blew up in President Trump’s face, misjudging the stakes of any deal. Is a mistake an act of treason? HECK NO!

 

Indeed, President Trump the next day wisely walked back not pointing a finger at Russia. In a public statement on Tuesday the President admitted he erred in has grammar. Here’s the statement explaining his verbal error:

 

VIDEO: President Donald Trump: I Have “Full Faith And Support” For U.S. Intelligence Agencies | NBC News

 

Posted by NBC News

Published on Jul 17, 2018

 

During a meeting with members of Congress, President Trump clarified his statements during his summit with Russian President Putin in Helsinki when he cast doubt on the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies on Russian election interference. Trump said he misspoke and assured that he has “full faith and support” in American intelligence. He said he accepts the conclusion of Russian interference, but also diverted the blame to “other people” as well. READ THE REST

 

Mueller is closer to committing treason by obstructing Congressional inquiries into his Special Counsel team’s motives of trying to create evidence – NOTHING THERE – to form the basis for impeachment proceedings. Faking evidence is in essence the actions of coup against the Executive Branch of Trump’s Administration. AGAIN, giving credence of a Deep State operating in our government’s Executive Branch.

 

Here are some legit investigative reporting excerpts the Leftist MSM is still completely ignoring:

 

Former FBI Director James Comey asserted Thursday evening that he did not know beyond news reports that Hillary Clinton‘s campaign had paid for research that led to a dossier of unverified allegations about President Trump‘s ties to Russia.

 

“When did you learn that the [Democratic National Committee] DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign had funded Christopher Steele’s work?” Fox News anchor Brett Baier asked Comey on “Special Report,” referring to the dossier compiled by Steele, a former British spy.

 

“I still don’t know that for a fact,” Comey responded. “I’ve only seen it in the media. I never knew exactly which Democrats had funded. I knew it was funded first by Republicans.”

 

“That’s not true,” Baier interjected, referring to funding by Republicans.

 

“My understanding is that his work started … as oppo research funded by Republicans,” Comey maintained, adding the activity was “then picked up by Democrats opposed to Donald Trump.”

 

The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative publication, confirmed to the House Intelligence Committee in October that it originally funded the Trump project through the opposition research firm Fusion GPS.

 

The project until that point had focused on researching multiple Republican presidential candidates and was not looking at collusion with Russia, the Free Beacon said.

 

The Free Beacon maintained that none of the work product it received from Fusion GPS appeared in the dossier and the publication said it did not pay for any work performed by Steele, suggesting he became involved after the publication stopped funding the project. (Comey on Clinton camp paying for Trump dossier: ‘I still don’t know that for a fact’; By JULIA MANCHESTER; The Hill; 4/26/18 08:31 PM EDT)

 

Follow the money:

 

Steele — a former British spy and a Russia expert — was working on contract to Fusion GPS, a Washington-based public-relations firm, which, in turn, was on contract to a D.C. law firm, which, in turn, was on contract to the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC. Steele, that is to say, was working for Hillary Clinton. His job, among other things, was to collect opposition research on Trump from his network of Russian sources.

 

When Steele arrived in Rome, his famous “dossier” did not exist. The dossier, as we have come to know it, is some 17 reports that he compiled between June and December 2016. In early July, Steele had been working on the Clinton account for only a few weeks and had written but one report, dated June 20. (The Real Collusion Story; By MICHAEL DORAN; National Review; 3/13/18 6:30 AM)

 

Dems and Crooked Hillary Fingerprints:

 

A significant part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s basis for investigating the Trump campaign’s Russia ties is looking more and more like a political hit job carried out by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign. Her campaign’s fingerprints are on at least three separate pieces of information fed to the FBI, including the Christopher Steele dossier Republicans say formed the basis of a secret warrant obtained to spy on Trump campaign associate Carter Page.

 

A former State Department official confirmed on the record Thursday that Clinton associates were funneling information to Steele as he was compiling a dossier commissioned and paid for by the Clinton campaign and DNC. That’s on top of the recent revelation that a top Department of Justice official fed the FBI information compiled by his wife, who was working for the firm Clinton and the DNC were paying to dig up dirt on Trump, Fusion GPS.

 

 

“It is troubling enough that the Clinton Campaign funded Mr. Steele’s work, but that these Clinton associates were contemporaneously feeding Mr. Steele allegations raises additional concerns about his credibility,” Sens. Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, and Lindsey Graham wrote in the letter referring Steele to the FBI for a criminal investigation. (Hillary Clinton’s Fingerprints Are All Over The FBI’s Investigation Into Trump’s Russia Ties; By Rachel Stoltzfoos; The Federalist; 2/10/18)

 

If Mueller was truly a neutral Special Counsel, he would not only focus on the Trump Administration and Campaign in a conspiracy with Russians to win the election. There is plenty of evidence suggesting Crooked Hillary’s campaign committed conspiracy with Russian government to sway the election.

 

There is certainly the appearance that Crooked Hillary solicited Trump dirt from Russian operatives. Christopher Steele alleges the information on his discredited Dossier had Russian sources. Crooked Hillary’s campaign paid for that Dossier making that an act of conspiracy that involved the Russian government.

 

I am confidently certain Putin is a thuggish liar in proclaiming no meddling in the U.S. election process (and other American National Interest agendas). Nonetheless Putin threw a Russian monkey wrench at the Leftist MSM and the Democratic National Committee. He accused the DNC of receiving $400 MILLION contribution from nefarious Russian sources:

 

While the mainstream media, Democrats and the Never-Trump crowd clutched their pearls over President Trump and Vladimir Putin’s summit on Monday, a major bombshell was overlooked.

 

During the highly publicized joint press conference the Russian President not only called US. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s bluff on the indictment of 12 Russian officials, but blasted former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton for nefarious activities.

 

Putin said that he’d welcome U.S. officials to Russia to probe further into alleged Russia-Trump collusion. He also referenced Bill Broward, a U.S. born, London-based banker who’s been accused of improper donations to Democrats.

 

Putin suggested that perhaps, the Russians need an investigation of their own in regard to Broward:

 

For instance, we can bring up Mr. Browder, in this particular case.  Business associates of Mr. Browder have earned over $1.5 billion in Russia and never paid any taxes neither in Russia or the United States and yet the money escaped the country.

 

They were transferred to the United States. They sent [a] huge amount of money, $400,000,000, as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton.  Well that’s their personal case.

  

Well that’s their personal case.  It might have been legal, the contribution itself but the way the money was earned was illegal.

 

 So we have solid reason to believe that some [US] intelligence officers accompanied and guided these transactions.  So we have an interest in questioning them.

Broward has a complicated history with Fusion GPS, the group hired by the DNC and Hillary Clinton to concoct the now infamous Trump dossier.

 

READ ENTIRETY (Putin’s explosive claim US intelligence helped drop $400,000,000 Russian-linked money into Hillary campaign; By Renee Hayes; BizPac Review; 7/17/18)

 

See Also: PUTIN CLAIMS $400 MILLION FUNNELED TO HILLARY CAMPAIGN; WND; 7/16/18)

 

Finally, after Mueller indicted 12 Russian spies in an obvious propaganda campaign to make the dump Trump crowd happy, Rep. Devon Nunes had some relevant insight about Mueller and the FBI:

 

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) slammed Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 12 Russians accused of hacking activities during the 2016 presidential election because it only focuses on efforts to disrupt operations of Democratic Party campaign apparatuses.

 

Appearing on Fox News Nunes told host Maria Bartiromo that his House committee learned of the Russian meddling found in the Mueller indictments over a year ago and was included in his committee’s report months ago.

 

“It’s great that they indicted Russians — yes, they did bad things. They’re always up to bad things. We know that. They have very sophisticated intelligence capabilities in Russia. And they’re always — they’re constantly attacking the United States and our allies. However, in the indictment, they leave out some really important people that they also went after, so the indictment plays like they are only going after the Democrats, when Bob Mueller and all his investigators and his lawyers know for a fact that they also targeted Republicans. Why is that not in the indictment? It makes the indictment look ridiculous.”

 

 

Watch the interview here:

 

 

 

READ ENTIRETY (Nunes: ‘Ridiculous’ Mueller indictment ignores Russian efforts to hack GOP; By Larry O’Connor; Washington Times; 7/16/18)

 

You know, I’ve had a great respect for the FBI apart from the DOJ. I’ve listened to Conservative commentators repeat over and over how the FBI rank-and-file are law enforcement with integrity and all the existing corruption has been inherent in the FBI management/leadership. I gotta tell ya though, I beginning to think leadership corruption has been so pervasive that I gotta believe the corruption has filtered down to the rank-and-file.

 

If there hasn’t been any filter-down corruption, where in the heck is the mountain of integrity coming as one-voice to spill the beans on crooked leadership?

 

Especially since the Obama years, law enforcement and Intelligence operations in the Executive Branch have become so politicized, it is no wonder that Conservatives as myself are seeing the manifestation of a rogue Deep State in operation. A Deep State concept is something that had been relegated to fringe Conspiracy Theory like the Illuminati.

 

Not anymore. It is becoming obvious there is a corrupt government within the government.

 

JRH 7/18/18

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Other related News of possible interest:

 

Clinton Insider: To Keep Hillary from Losing, DNC Quietly Let Russia Hack DNC, Steal Data

 

No Russian Election Collusion—No Matter How The MSM Spin It

 

Bolton: Indictment of Russian Hackers Bolsters Trump’s Hand Ahead of Putin Summit

 

Trump Throws a Server Wrench into Mueller’s Indictment Machine

 

The GRU is one of Russia’s two main intelligence agencies

 

In case WaPo takes down their PDF of the Mueller Indictment against 12 Russians (sourced in 1st paragraph), HERE’S A GOOGLE DRIVE VERSION

 

NATO and Russia’s Naked Aggression


Intro to ‘NATO and Russia’s Naked Aggression

Intro by John R. Houk, Blog Editor

July 16, 2018

In case you were unaware, during the 2016 election cycle I was a Cruz for President kind-a-guy. After Trump sewed up the GOP nomination, I placed all my efforts behind his candidacy.

 

Nonetheless I was certain Crooked Hillary would win. Why? Because the Dem nomination was fixed and EVEN THOUGH she obviously committed felonies with an unsecured private email server, the Deep State showed the depth of its power by exonerating her of any crimes. The same kind of crimes that past Republican government officials were prosecuted, found guilty or pled guilty.

 

Even with my hesitation to support Trump anyway, he won. Then President Trump began unravelling Obama’s misdeeds except where the Dems and Never-Trumper Republicans have stalled the Trump agenda to Make-America-Great-Again.

 

And so, I have been willing to wait and see how some of controversial policy plans were rolled out even though those policies may look foolish on the outside.

 

Justin Smith addresses one of those uncertain policies in relation to Foreign Policy. Specifically President Trump’s plans to negotiate something with very untrustworthy Vladimir Putin and his Russia.

 

JRH 7/16/18

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NATO and Russia’s Naked Aggression

America’s Most Dangerous Adversary

 

By Justin O. Smith

Sent 7/15/2018 2:42 AM

 

President Trump has been right all along to harshly castigate our NATO allies for falling short of their duty and responsibility for their own defense contingencies and all associated expenses, but his suggestion that he could pull out of NATO unilaterally, a fact, is dangerous to the free world and serves to undermine NATO and play into Putin’s hands. Putin would love nothing better than to succeed in weakening the NATO alliance, and President Trump must always remain cognizant of the fact that, as long as Putin is in charge of the Kremlin, Russia will be a threat to the U.S. and its allies, a fact Trump seems to acknowledge on some levels and deny on others, in a curious schizophrenic sort of foreign policy.

 

As Europe has grown stronger, since WWII, it has never been a good financial partner to the United States, in the support of NATO, which was created 69 years ago for the defense of Europe. Our NATO allies have consistently handed the major burden to America, while the European Union runs trade surpluses at our expense, in excess of $100 billion a year.

 

Germany pays only 1.2 percent of its Gross Domestic Product on defense, while America spends 3.57 percent. And incredibly, the European Union collectively have a GDP that is tenfold larger than Russia’s. So why do we continue to pay the lion’s share of the free riders’ defense?

 

Before leaving, President Trump demanded all NATO members pay 4 percent, in order to meet present threats from Russia. One should note, its 1946 charter states that NATO decisions be consensus based. That means one member-state can block NATO’s entire agenda.

 

On the first day of the NATO summit, President Trump was most correct along a certain vein of thought, sitting down to breakfast with NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, [President Trump] was particularly harsh with Germany, as he remarked: “I have to say … it’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia where we’re supposed to be guarding against Russia. We’re supposed to protect you against Russia but they’re paying billions of dollars to Russia, and I think that’s very inappropriate … Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia.”

 

However, neither the U.S. or its NATO allies can lose sight of the fact the Putin is in fact an evil, murderous tyrant seeking the restoration of the Old Czarist Empire, more so than the communist era, and a regional hegemony and a set of buffer states in eastern Europe and central Asia that can add to Russia’s strategic depth. Putin is responsible for 298 murdered people aboard flight MH17 that Russia shot down over Ukraine in July of 2014. Let’s also not forget that Putin has invaded Georgia, annexed Crimea and invaded Ukraine, where a hot war is ongoing, not to mention Russia’s violations of the Open Skies and Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaties.

 

Additionally, Russia has violated several international agreements affecting European security, including the 1994 Budapest Memorandum that guaranteed Ukraine’s territorial integrity in exchange for its nuclear weapons; the 2008 Medvedev-Sarkozy ceasefire agreement, removing Russian troops from Georgia; and the September 2014 and February 2015 Minsk agreements, whose ceasefire provisions are regularly violated, as demonstrated by 80 Ukrainians killed and over 500 wounded in 2017 alone, and with 10,000 killed thus far in this conflict.

 

By and large, given that North Korea and Kim Jong Un benefited more from the one-on-one with President Trump and is currently intransigent and reneging on the so-called “agreement”, one should not look for anything to be different with Putin who holds many more cards than little Kim did. And yet, Trump has shown a willingness to abandon Georgia, Ukraine, and Crimea and granting concessions to Putin, in order to develop a better relationship with Russia. President Trump even went so far as to suggest at the recent G-7 meeting, that Putin and Russia should be allowed to return to the “G-8”, somehow oblivious to the fact that this would reward Putin’s bad behavior and ensure no future forthcoming change.

 

In asinine fashion, President Trump shocked the world and the G-7 officials in June, arguing that the Crimean peninsula should belong to Russia, because “people there speak Russian“. The assertion contradicted international law and longstanding U.S. and transatlantic policy of not recognizing the seizure of sovereign territory by force. Using Trump’s logic, Brighton Beach should belong to Russia too.

 

“Kiev’s main concern is that President Trump will unilaterally recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea”, effectively selling Crimea out to the Kremlin, said Daragh McDowell, senior Russia analyst at Verisk Maplecroft. Legally questionable, this would certainly demoralize U.S. allies and trigger greater domestic instability in Ukraine.

 

It’s no wonder that  NATO members Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Finland and Sweden, the Nordic Defense Cooperation nations, hardened their commitment to combat what they see as an escalation of naked Russian aggression. In 2015, Russia feigned an air assault against the Danish island of Bornholm, which served as a major intelligence outpost during the Cold War; and, according to Commodore Hans Helseth, a senior Norwegian defense official, these nations association with NATO has lowered the threshold of an armed Russian aggression against these nations.

 

In the meantime, Air Force General John Hyten, America’s top nuclear commander, warned the Senate Armed Services Committee in March, that Russia was sprinting to deploy a hypersonic nuclear weapon, a new breed of high-speed threats that the U.S is currently incapable of countering or defending against.

 

Although President Trump’s administration is keeping intense economic sanctions on Russia, and it has armed Ukrainian troops and expelled a number of Russian diplomats, Trump’s words vitiate these measures, when he says he “respects” Putin and places the violence of our country in the defense of other nation’s freedom, and for the greater moral good, on the same moral plane as Russian malevolent and naked aggression. In 2017, when asked by Fox News about Putin’s role in the murders and disappearances of so many journalists and opposition members, President Trump responded, “You think our country’s so innocent?”

 

Regardless of President Trump’s ahistorical perspective of NATO, less than half of NATO’s members are exerting much effort to dispel the notion that they are “free riders” who won’t properly defend and protect their own citizens. As Trump speaks about the NATO alliance, as though it’s a big confidence scam, and he accurately illuminates their financial malfeasance and negligence, if ever there was a time for NATO members to increase their defense spending, this is it.

 

Some have suggested the combination of a high-stakes NATO summit and a one-on-one meeting between Trump and Putin, in Helsinki, could bring about the most dramatic geopolitical shift since the end of the Cold War, and it just might, to our detriment, if Trump fails to recognize Putin as a foe. Most of NATO’s European members, such as Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, see Russia as one of the world’s most pressing security threats, and they are concerned that Trump might make undue concessions to Russia, like he recently did with North Korea. Whether it’s Helsinki or elsewhere, President Trump must show real determination and strength in the face of America’s most dangerous adversary.

_________________

Edited by John R. Houk

Any text enclosed by brackets as well as well as source links are by the Editor.

 

© Justin O. Smith

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

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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

 

Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Mgr John Podesta…Putin-Connected Russian Govt Fund


Boris-Natasha-Putin on DNC-Hillary Emails toon

Crooked Hillary and her Left Wing Mainstream Media comrades have been crucifying Donald Trump aa responsible for the Democratic Party hack with Russian help who in turn allegedly made the hacked info available through Wikileaks.

 

It’s a load of Dem Party crap!

 

Her hypocrisy is exposed by the author of Clinton Cash in an expose at Breibart.com. Crooked Hillary treacherously aided Russia and Putin by providing high tech data as a Crony Capitalist scheme of self-enrichment. Peter Schweizer reveals a significant amount of these Crony Capitalists are Hillary donors via the Clinton Foundation during her Secretary of State days and in preparation for her run as manipulative dictator … err … I mean President of the USA.

 

JRH 8/3/16 (Hat Tip BlackListed News)

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Report: Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Mgr John Podesta Sat on Board of Company that Bagged $35 Million from Putin-Connected Russian Govt Fund

Generated by  IJG JPEG Library
 

By  STEPHEN K. BANNON & PETER SCHWEIZER

1 Aug 2016

Breitbart.com

 

Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta sat on the board of a small energy company alongside Russian officials that received $35 million from a Putin-connected Russian government fund, a relationship Podesta failed to fully disclose on his federal financial disclosures as required by law.

 

That’s one of the many revelations from a 56-page report released late Sunday titled “From Russia with Money: Hillary Clinton, the Russian Reset, and Cronyism” by the non-partisan government watchdog group, the Government Accountability Institute (GAI). Breitbart Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon holds the same title in GAI and Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large Peter Schweizer serves as GAI’s president.

 

Both the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal ran stories on the newly released report late Sunday evening.

 

As part of her duties during the so-called Russian reset, then-Sec. of State Hillary Clinton led the way on U.S. involvement in a Russian government technology initiative that was intended to be the Russian equivalent of America’s Silicon Valley known as Skolkovo. The “innovation city,” located outside Moscow, has some 30,000 workers in state-of-the-art facilities under strict government control. As Slate described it in 2013, “In some ways, Skolkovo is eerily reminiscent of Soviet utopian city-building projects.”

 

According to the GAI report, Clinton’s State Dept. recruited U.S. tech giants like Google, Cisco, Intel. Indeed, out of 28 U.S., European, and Russian companies that participated in Skolkovo, 17 of them were Clinton Foundation donors or paid for speeches by Bill Clinton.

 

However, as involvement in Skolkovo by Clinton cronies increased, so, too, did the danger for the technology coming out of the Russian tech mecca to be used for Russian military purposes.

 

In 2014, the FBI issued what it called “an extraordinary warning” to several technology companies involved with Skolkovo. “The [Skolkovo] foundation may be a means for the Russian government to access our nation’s sensitive or classified research development facilities and dual-use technologies with military and commercial application,” warned Lucia Ziobro, the assistant special agent at the FBI’s Boston office. She added: “The FBI believes the true motives of the Russian partners, who are often funded by the government, is to gain access to classified, sensitive, and emerging technology from the companies.”

 

Still, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta sat on the executive board of a small energy company called Joule Unlimited. Joule, too, received the FBI letter warning about Skolkovo. Other Joule board members included senior Russian officials. According to the GAI report: “Two months after Podesta joined the board, Vladimir Putin’s Rusnano announced that it would invest up to one billion rubles into Joule Unlimited, which amounts to $35 million. That represents one-fifth of the entire amount of investment dollars Joule collected from 2007 to 2013.”

 

Rusnano, which former Russian education and science minister and current science advisor to Vladmir Putin Andrei Fursenko describes as “Putin’s child,” was founded by Putin in 2007.

 

The GAI investigative report says it’s unclear how much, if any, money Podesta made. The reason: Podesta was on the board of three Joule entities, but only listed two on his disclosure; the most important entity, Joule Stichting, he did not list. “Podesta’s compensation by Joule cannot be fully determined,” reads the report. “In his 2014 federal government disclosure filing, Podesta lists that he divested stock options from Joule. However, the disclosure does not cover the years 2011-2012.”

 

Why Podesta failed to reveal, as required by law on his federal financial disclosures, his membership on the board of this offshore company is presently unknown.

 

“But the flows of funds from Russia during the ‘reset’ to Podesta-connected entities apparently didn’t end with Joule Energy,” the report states. According to the GAI report, Podesta’s far-left think tank, Center for American Progress (CAP), took in $5.25 million from the Sea Change Foundation between 2010-2013.

 

Who was funding Sea Change Foundation? According to tax records, Sea Change Foundation at the time was receiving a large infusion of funds from a mysterious Bermuda-based entity called ‘Klein, Ltd.’…Who owns Klein? It is impossible to say exactly, given corporate secrecy laws in Bermuda. But the registered agent and lawyers who set up the offshore entity are tied to a handful of Russian business entities including Troika Dialog, Ltd. Leadership includes Ruben Vardanyan, an ethnic Armenian who is a mega oligarch in Putin’s Russia. Vardanyan also served on the board of Joule Energy with John Podesta.

 

The FBI and U.S. Army sounded the alarm bells about Skolkovo being a threatening pathway for Russia to accelerate its military technological capabilities. Why Hillary Clinton’s State Dept and her campaign manager were tied up in this raises serious questions that demand answers and transparency.

 

Listen to Bannon and Schweizer discuss of this article on Breitbart News Daily on SiriusXM:

 

https://soundcloud.com/breitbart/breitbart-news-daily-peter-schweizer-august-1-2016  

________________

Copyright © 2016 Breitbart

Russia Enters Syria – Is it Geopolitics or Prophecy?


A rebel group in Syria said to be backed by the US, claimed that Russian warplanes have hit its positions in the centrre (sic) of the country.

John R. Houk

© September 30, 2015

Pertaining to Israel, I have to be upfront. My view of the Jewish State is through the lens of the Holy Bible. As a Christian that means I am labelled a Christian Zionist. The kind of guy that Orthodox Jews mistrust due to history and the viewpoint that Christian evangelism is a threat to Judaism. I am also the kind of guy Left Wing (sometimes called Liberal and sometimes called Progressive) Jews loathe due to a non-secular pigeon-holing Israel in Biblical terms rather than a secular homeland for Jews to escape centuries of global antisemitism. Frankly I’m not claiming to know an Israeli/Jewish middle ground of the acceptance Christian Zionist friendship. I just pray a growing trust for Christians supporting Israel grows. At the same time I advise Jews – particularly Israeli Jews – to be wary of Western Leftists and of Progressive (Leftist) Christians who have disowned Biblical essentials and the reality of God Almighty.

NIV Quotes:

Ezek 39:27-29 “When I have brought them back from the nations and have gathered them from the countries of their enemies, I will show myself holy through them in the sight of many nations.” 28 “Then they will know that I am the LORD their God, for though I sent them into exile among the nations, I will gather them to their own land, not leaving any behind.” 29 “I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the house of Israel, declares the Sovereign LORD.”

Amos 9:13-15 “The days are coming, declares the LORD, when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills. 14 I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. 15 I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them, says the LORD your God.”

Jer 30:2 “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you. 3 The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their forefathers to possess,’ says the LORD.”

Jer 31:10 “Hear the word of the LORD, O nations; proclaim it in distant coastlands: ‘He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.”

Jer 33:7 “I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before.”

Ezek 37:21-27 …..“I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. 22 I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms.” (Quotes taken from: Israel: The Greatest Sign; By Ken Marineau; Bible Probe for Christians and Messianic Jews)

Stratfor bills itself as a geopolitical intelligence firm and as such does not look geopolitically through a Biblical lens. From Stratfor I have learned the strategic importance of Israel from history to the present. A Stratfor email was sent out that I believe is no coincidence of the timing of Putin’s Russia demanding the USA to stop bombing inside Syria. Russia is deploying troops to Syria AND so far its own strafing is occurring where ISIS is not in control. Could it be that Russia is engaging the Syrian rebels trying to topple Bashar al-Assad – the same rebels not connected to the brutal Islamic terrorists of ISIS and al Nusra?

Does Secretary of State John Kerry (representing Obama Administration) sound clueless to Russian intentions or what?

VIDEO: Kerry: US Welcomes Russia Strikes if Target IS

 

Published by Associated Press

Published on Sep 30, 2015

Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States is prepared to welcome Russia’s actions in Syria if they are directed at the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda. (Sept. 30)

Subscribe for more Breaking News:
Get updates and more Breaking News here:

The Associated Press is the essential global news network, delivering fast, unbiased [cough] news from every corner of the world to all media platforms and formats.

AP’s commitment to You can read the rest of the lame self-promotion

Is Russia jockeying itself to be the prophetic invaders from the north of Israel that ironically lines up with the Stratfor analysis of the geopolitical importance of Israel? Here is the Stratfor tease from the PDF:

Israel exists in three conditions. First, it can be a completely independent state. This condition occurs when there are no major imperial powers external to the region. We might call this the David model.

Second, it can live as part of an imperial system — either as a subordinate ally, as a moderately autonomous entity or as a satrapy. In any case, it maintains its identity but loses room for independent maneuvering in foreign policy and potentially in domestic policy. We might call this the Persian model in its most beneficent form.

Finally, Israel can be completely crushed — with mass deportations and migrations, with a complete loss of autonomy and minimal residual autonomy. We might call this the Babylonian model.

Below is the Stratfor PDF reformatted for blogging:

JRH 9/30/15

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The Geopolitics of Israel: Biblical and Modern

STRATFOR PDF

Downloaded 9/30/15

Notification Sent: 9/29/2015 9:42 PM

This study was originally published by Stratfor in 2008 as the first in a series of monographs on the geopolitics of globally important countries.

Introduction

The founding principle of geopolitics is that place — geography — plays a significant role in determining how nations will behave. If that theory is true, then there ought to be a deep continuity in a nation’s foreign policy. Israel is a laboratory for this theory, since it has existed in three different manifestations in roughly the same place, twice in antiquity and once in modernity. If geopolitics is correct, then Israeli foreign policy, independent of policymakers, technology or the identity of neighbors, ought to have important common features. This is, therefore, a discussion of common principles in Israeli foreign policy over nearly 3,000 years.

For convenience, we will use the term “Israel” to connote all of the Hebrew and Jewish entities that have existed in the Levant since the invasion of the region as chronicled in the Book of Joshua. As always, geopolitics requires a consideration of three dimensions: the internal geopolitics of Israel, the interaction of Israel and the immediate neighbors who share borders with it, and Israel’s interaction with what we will call great powers, beyond Israel’s borderlands.

Table of Contents

Introduction 2

Table of Contents 3

Israel in Biblical Times 4

Israeli Geography and Borderlands 6

Israeli Geography and the Convergence Zone 11

Internal Geopolitics 13

Israel and the Great Powers 15

The Geopolitics of Contemporary Israel 16

Israel in Biblical Times

Israel has manifested itself three times in history. The first manifestation began with the invasion led by Joshua and lasted through its division into two kingdoms, the Babylonian conquest of the Kingdom of Judah and the deportation to Babylon early in the sixth century B.C.

FIRST MANIFESTATION (1200 BCE)

 

The second manifestation began when Israel was recreated in 540 B.C. by the Persians, who had defeated the Babylonians. The nature of this second manifestation changed in the fourth century B.C., when Greece overran the Persian Empire and Israel, and again in the first century B.C., when the Romans conquered the region.

SECOND MANIFESTATION

The second manifestation saw Israel as a small actor within the framework of larger imperial powers, a situation that lasted until the destruction of the Jewish vassal state by the Romans.

Israel’s third manifestation began in 1948, following (as in the other cases) an ingathering of at least some of the Jews who had been dispersed after conquests. Israel’s founding takes place in the context of the decline and fall of the British Empire and must, at least in part, be understood as part of British imperial history.

THIRD MANIFESTATION (1948)

 

 

Israeli Geography and Borderlands

At its height, under King David, Israel extended from the Sinai to the Euphrates, encompassing Damascus. It occupied some, but relatively little, of the coastal region, an area beginning at what today is Haifa and running south to Jaffa, just north of today’s Tel Aviv. The coastal area to the north was held by Phoenicia, the area to the south by Philistines. It is essential to understand that Israel’s size and shape shifted over time. For example, Judah under the Hasmoneans did not include the Negev but did include the Golan. The general locale of Israel is fixed. Its precise borders have never been.

Thus, it is perhaps better to begin with what never was part of Israel. Israel never included the Sinai Peninsula. Along the coast, it never stretched much farther north than the Litani River in today’s Lebanon. Apart from David’s extreme extension (and fairly tenuous control) to the north, Israel’s territory never stretched as far as Damascus, although it frequently held the Golan Heights. Israel extended many times to both sides of the Jordan but never deep into the Jordanian Desert. It never extended southeast into the Arabian Peninsula.

Israel consists generally of three parts. First, it always has had the northern hill region, stretching from the foothills of Mount Hermon south to Jerusalem. Second, it always contains some of the coastal plain from today’s Tel Aviv north to Haifa. Third, it occupies area between Jerusalem and the Jordan River — today’s West Bank. At times, it controls all or part of the Negev, including the coastal region between the Sinai to the Tel Aviv area. It may be larger than this at various times in history, and sometimes smaller, but it normally holds all or part of these three regions.

Israel is well-buffered in three directions. The Sinai Desert protects it against the Egyptians. In general, the Sinai has held little attraction for the Egyptians. The difficulty of deploying forces in the eastern Sinai poses severe logistical problems for them, particularly during a prolonged presence. Unless Egypt can rapidly move through the Sinai north into the coastal plain, where it can sustain its forces more readily, deploying in the Sinai is difficult and unrewarding. Therefore, so long as Israel is not so weak as to make an attack on the coastal plain a viable option, or unless Egypt is motivated by an outside imperial power, Israel does not face a threat from the southwest.

Israel is similarly protected from the southeast. The deserts southeast of Eilat-Aqaba are virtually impassable. No large force could approach from that direction, although smaller raiding parties could. The tribes of the Arabian Peninsula lack the reach or the size to pose a threat to Israel, unless massed and aligned with other forces. Even then, the approach from the southeast is not one that they are likely to take. The Negev is secure from that direction.

The eastern approaches are similarly secured by desert, which begins about 20 to 30 miles east of the Jordan River. While indigenous forces exist in the borderland east of the Jordan, they lack the numbers to be able to penetrate decisively west of the Jordan. Indeed, the normal model is that, so long as Israel controls Judea and Samaria (the modern-day West Bank), then the East Bank of the Jordan River is under the political and sometimes military domination of Israel — sometimes directly through settlement, sometimes indirectly through political influence, or economic or security leverage.

Israel’s vulnerability is in the north. There is no natural buffer between Phoenicia and its successor entities (today’s Lebanon) to the direct north. The best defense line for Israel in the north is the Litani River, but this is not an insurmountable boundary under any circumstance. However, the area along the coast north of Israel does not present a serious threat. The coastal area prospers through trade in the Mediterranean basin. It is oriented toward the sea and to the trade routes to the east, not to the south. If it does anything, this area protects those trade routes and has no appetite for a conflict that might disrupt trade. It stays out of Israel’s way, for the most part.

Moreover, as a commercial area, this region is generally wealthy, a factor that increases predators around it and social conflict within. It is an area prone to instability. Israel frequently tries to extend its influence northward for commercial reasons, as one of the predators, and this can entangle Israel in its regional politics. But barring this self-induced problem, the threat to Israel from the north is minimal, despite the absence of natural boundaries and the large population. On occasion, there is spillover of conflicts from the north, but not to a degree that might threaten regime survival in Israel.

The neighbor that is always a threat lies to the northeast. Syria — or, more precisely, the area governed by Damascus at any time — is populous and frequently has no direct outlet to the sea. It is, therefore, generally poor. The area to its north, Asia Minor, is heavily mountainous. Syria cannot project power to the north except with great difficulty, but powers in Asia Minor can move south. Syria’s eastern flank is buffered by a desert that stretches to the Euphrates.

Therefore, when there is no threat from the north, Syria’s interest — after securing itself internally — is to gain access to the coast. Its primary channel is directly westward, toward the rich cities of the northern Levantine coast, with which it trades heavily. An alternative interest is southwestward, toward the southern Levantine coast controlled by Israel.

THE GOLAN HEIGHTS

As can be seen, Syria can be interested in Israel only selectively. When it is interested, it has a serious battle problem. To attack Israel, it would have to strike between Mount Hermon and the Sea of Galilee, an area about 25 miles wide. The Syrians potentially can attack south of the sea, but only if they are prepared to fight through this region and then attack on extended supply lines. If an attack is mounted along the main route, Syrian forces must descend the Golan Heights and then fight through the hilly Galilee before reaching the coastal plain — sometimes with guerrillas holding out in the Galilean hills. The Galilee is an area that is relatively easy to defend and difficult to attack. Therefore, it is only once Syria takes the Galilee, and can control its lines of supply against guerrilla attack, that its real battle begins.

To reach the coast or move toward Jerusalem, Syria must fight through a plain in front of a line of low hills. This is the decisive battleground where massed Israeli forces, close to lines of supply, can defend against dispersed Syrian forces on extended lines of supply. It is no accident that Megiddo — or Armageddon, as the plain is sometimes referred to — has apocalyptic meaning. This is the point at which any move from Syria would be decided. But a Syrian offensive would have a tough fight to reach Megiddo, and a tougher one as it deploys on the plain.

On the surface, Israel lacks strategic depth, but this is true only on the surface. It faces limited threats from southern neighbors. To its east, it faces only a narrow strip of populated area east of the Jordan. To the north, there is a maritime commercial entity. Syria operating alone, forced through the narrow gap of the Mount Hermon-Galilee line and operating on extended supply lines, can be dealt with readily.

There is a risk of simultaneous attacks from multiple directions. Depending on the forces deployed and the degree of coordination between them, this can pose a problem for Israel. However, even here the Israelis have the tremendous advantage of fighting on interior lines. Egypt and Syria, fighting on external lines (and widely separated fronts), would have enormous difficulty transferring forces from one front to another. Israel, on interior lines (fronts close to each other with good transportation), would be able to move its forces from front to front rapidly, allowing for sequential engagement and thereby the defeat of enemies.

Unless enemies are carefully coordinated and initiate war simultaneously — and deploy substantially superior force on at least one front — Israel can initiate war at a time of its choosing or else move its forces rapidly between fronts, negating much of the advantage of size that the attackers might have.

There is another aspect to the problem of multifront war. Egypt usually has minimal interests along the Levant, having its own coast and an orientation to the south toward the headwaters of the Nile. On the rare occasions when Egypt does move through the Sinai and attacks to the north and northeast, it is in an expansionary mode. By the time it consolidates and exploits the coastal plain, it would be powerful enough to threaten Syria. From Syria’s point of view, the only thing more dangerous than Israel is an Egypt in control of Israel. Therefore, the probability of a coordinated north-south strike at Israel is rare, is rarely coordinated and usually is not designed to be a mortal blow. It is defeated by Israel’s strategic advantage of interior lines.

Israeli Geography and the Convergence Zone

Therefore, it is not surprising that Israel’s first incarnation lasted as long as it did — some five centuries. What is interesting and what must be considered is why Israel (now considered as the northern kingdom) was defeated by the Assyrians and Judea, then defeated by Babylon. To understand this, we need to consider the broader geography of Israel’s location.

Israel is located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, on the Levant. As we have seen, when Israel is intact, it will tend to be the dominant power in the Levant. Therefore, Israeli resources must generally be dedicated for land warfare, leaving little over for naval warfare. In general, although Israel had excellent harbors and access to wood for shipbuilding, it never was a major Mediterranean naval power. It never projected power into the sea. The area to the north of Israel has always been a maritime power, but Israel, the area south of Mount Hermon, was always forced to be a land power.

The Levant in general and Israel in particular has always been a magnet for great powers. No Mediterranean empire could be fully secure unless it controlled the Levant. Whether it was Rome or Carthage, a Mediterranean empire that wanted to control both the northern and southern littorals needed to anchor its eastern flank on the Levant. For one thing, without the Levant, a Mediterranean power would be entirely dependent on sea lanes for controlling the other shore. Moving troops solely by sea creates transport limitations and logistical problems.

It also leaves imperial lines vulnerable to interdiction — sometimes merely from pirates, a problem that plagued Rome’s sea transport. A land bridge, or a land bridge with minimal water crossings that can be easily defended, is a vital supplement to the sea for the movement of large numbers of troops. Once the Hellespont (now known as the Dardanelles) is crossed, the coastal route through southern Turkey, down the Levant and along the Mediterranean’s southern shore, provides such an alternative.

There is an additional consideration. If a Mediterranean empire leaves the Levant unoccupied, it opens the door to the possibility of a great power originating to the east seizing the ports of the Levant and challenging the Mediterranean power for maritime domination. In short, control of the Levant binds a Mediterranean empire together while denying a challenger from the east the opportunity to enter the Mediterranean. Holding the Levant, and controlling Israel, is a necessary preventive measure for a Mediterranean empire.

Israel is also important to any empire originating to the east of Israel, either in the Tigris- Euphrates basin or in Persia. For either, security could be assured only once it had an anchor on the Levant. Macedonian expansion under Alexander demonstrated that a power controlling Levantine and Turkish ports could support aggressive operations far to the east, to the Hindu Kush and beyond. While Turkish ports might have sufficed for offensive operations, simply securing the Bosporus still left the southern flank exposed. Therefore, by holding the Levant, an eastern power protected itself against attacks from Mediterranean powers.

CONVERGENCE ZONE

The Levant was also important to any empire originating to the north or south of Israel. If Egypt decided to move beyond the Nile Basin and North Africa eastward, it would move first through the Sinai and then northward along the coastal plain, securing sea lanes to Egypt. When Asia Minor powers such as the Ottoman Empire developed, there was a natural tendency to move southward to control the eastern Mediterranean. The Levant is the crossroads of continents, and Israel lies in the path of many imperial ambitions.

Israel therefore occupies what might be called the convergence zone of the Eastern Hemisphere. A European power trying to dominate the Mediterranean or expand eastward, an eastern power trying to dominate the space between the Hindu Kush and the Mediterranean, a North African power moving toward the east, or a northern power moving south — all must converge on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean and therefore on Israel. Of these, the European power and the eastern power must be the most concerned with Israel. For either, there is no choice but to secure it as an anchor.

Internal Geopolitics

Israel is geographically divided into three regions, which traditionally have produced three different types of people. Its coastal plain facilitates commerce, serving as the interface between eastern trade routes and the sea. It is the home of merchants and manufacturers, cosmopolitans — not as cosmopolitan as Phoenicia or Lebanon, but cosmopolitan for Israel. The northeast is hill country, closest to the unruliness north of the Litani River and to the Syrian threat. It breeds farmers and warriors. The area south of Jerusalem is hard desert country, more conducive to herdsman and warriors than anything else. Jerusalem is where these three regions are balanced and governed.

Photos: Source: Lehava Taybe via Israeli Pikiwiki project* – Source: Israel Defense Force** – Source: Avishai Teicher via Israeli Pikiwiki project*

[*Images provided under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 license. These images have not been altered in any way other than cropped to fit available space. Terms of the license can be viewed here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/deed.en

**Image provided under the Creative Commons 2.0 Generic license. Terms of the license can be viewed here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/ 2.0/deed.en]

 

There are obviously deep differences built into Israel’s geography and inhabitants, particularly between the herdsmen of the southern deserts and the northern hill dwellers. The coastal dwellers, rich but less warlike than the others, hold the balance or are the prize to be pursued. In the division of the original kingdom between Israel and Judea, we saw the alliance of the coast with the Galilee, while Jerusalem was held by the desert dwellers. The consequence of the division was that Israel in the north ultimately was conquered by Assyrians from the northeast, while Babylon was able to swallow Judea.

Social divisions in Israel obviously do not have to follow geographical lines. However, over time, these divisions must manifest themselves. For example, the coastal plain is inherently more cosmopolitan than the rest of the country. The interests of its inhabitants lie more with trading partners in the Mediterranean and the rest of the world than with their countrymen. Their standard of living is higher, and their commitment to traditions is lower. Therefore, there is an inherent tension between their immediate interests and those of the Galileans, who live more precarious, warlike lives. Countries can be divided over lesser issues — and when Israel is divided, it is vulnerable even to regional threats.

We say “even” because geography dictates that regional threats are less menacing than might be expected. The fact that Israel would be outnumbered demographically should all its neighbors turn on it is less important than the fact that it has adequate buffers in most directions, that the ability of neighbors to coordinate an attack is minimal and that their appetite for such an attack is even less. The single threat that Israel faces from the northeast can readily be managed if the Israelis create a united front there. When Israel was overrun by a Damascus-based power, it was deeply divided internally.

It is important to add one consideration to our discussion of buffers, which is diplomacy. The main neighbors of Israel are Egyptians, Syrians and those who live on the east bank of Jordan. This last group is a negligible force demographically, and the interests of the Syrians and Egyptians are widely divergent. Egypt’s interests are to the south and west of its territory; the Sinai holds no attraction. Syria is always threatened from multiple directions, and alliance with Egypt adds little to its security. Therefore, under the worst of circumstances, Egypt and Syria have difficulty supporting each other. Under the best of circumstances, from Israel’s point of view, it can reach a political accommodation with Egypt, securing its southwestern frontier politically as well as by geography, thus freeing Israel to concentrate on the northern threats and opportunities.

Israel and the Great Powers

The threat to Israel rarely comes from the region, except when the Israelis are divided internally. The conquests of Israel occur when powers not adjacent to it begin forming empires. Babylon, Persia, Macedonia, Rome, Turkey and Britain all controlled Israel politically, sometimes for worse and sometimes for better. Each dominated it militarily, but none was a neighbor of Israel. This is a consistent pattern. Israel can resist its neighbors; danger arises when more distant powers begin playing imperial games. Empires can bring force to bear that Israel cannot resist.

Israel therefore has this problem: It would be secure if it could confine itself to protecting its interests from neighbors, but it cannot confine itself because its geographic location invariably draws larger, more distant powers toward Israel. Therefore, while Israel’s military can focus only on immediate interests, its diplomatic interests must look much further. Israel is constantly entangled with global interests (as the globe is defined at any point), seeking to deflect and align with broader global powers. When it fails in this diplomacy, the consequences can be catastrophic.

Israel exists in three conditions. First, it can be a completely independent state. This condition occurs when there are no major imperial powers external to the region. We might call this the David model.

Second, it can live as part of an imperial system — either as a subordinate ally, as a moderately autonomous entity or as a satrapy. In any case, it maintains its identity but loses room for independent maneuvering in foreign policy and potentially in domestic policy. We might call this the Persian model in its most beneficent form.

Finally, Israel can be completely crushed — with mass deportations and migrations, with a complete loss of autonomy and minimal residual autonomy. We might call this the Babylonian model.

The Davidic model exists primarily when there is no external imperial power needing control of the Levant that is in a position either to send direct force or to support surrogates in the immediate region. The Persian model exists when Israel aligns itself with the foreign policy interests of such an imperial power, to its own benefit. The Babylonian model exists when Israel miscalculates on the broader balance of power and attempts to resist an emerging hegemon. When we look at Israeli behavior over time, the periods when Israel does not confront hegemonic powers outside the region are not rare, but are far less common than when it is confronting them.

Given the period of the first iteration of Israel, it would be too much to say that the Davidic model rarely comes into play, but certainly since that time, variations of the Persian and Babylonian models have dominated. The reason is geographic. Israel is normally of interest to outside powers because of its strategic position. While Israel can deal with local challenges effectively, it cannot deal with broader challenges. It lacks the economic or military weight to resist. Therefore, it is normally in the process of managing broader threats or collapsing because of them.

The Geopolitics of Contemporary Israel

Let us then turn to the contemporary manifestation of Israel. Israel was recreated because of the interaction between a regional great power, the Ottoman Empire, and a global power, Great Britain. During its expansionary phase, the Ottoman Empire sought to dominate the eastern Mediterranean as well as both its northern and southern coasts. One thrust went through the Balkans toward central Europe. The other was toward Egypt. Inevitably, this required that the Ottomans secure the Levant.

For the British, the focus on the eastern Mediterranean was as the primary sea lane to India. As such, Gibraltar and the Suez were crucial. The importance of the Suez was such that the presence of a hostile, major naval force in the eastern Mediterranean represented a direct threat to British interests. It followed that defeating the Ottoman Empire during World War I and breaking its residual naval power was critical. The British, as was shown at Gallipoli, lacked the resources to break the Ottoman Empire by main force. They resorted to a series of alliances with local forces to undermine the Ottomans. One was an alliance with Bedouin tribes in the Arabian Peninsula; others involved covert agreements with anti-Turkish, Arab interests from the Levant to the Persian Gulf. A third, minor thrust was aligning with Jewish interests globally, particularly those interested in the refounding of Israel. Britain had little interest in this goal, but saw such discussions as part of the process of destabilizing the Ottomans.

The strategy worked. Under an agreement with France, the Ottoman province of Syria was divided into two parts on a line roughly running east-west between the sea and Mount Hermon. The northern part was given to France and divided into Lebanon and a rump Syria entity. The southern part was given to Britain and was called Palestine, after the Ottoman administrative district Filistina. Given the complex politics of the Arabian Peninsula, the British had to find a home for a group of Hashemites, which they located on the east bank of the Jordan River and designated, for want of a better name, the Trans-Jordan — the other side of the Jordan. Palestine looked very much like traditional Israel.

The ideological foundations of Zionism are not our concern here, nor are the pre- and post- World War II migrations of Jews, although those are certainly critical. What is important for purposes of this analysis are two things: First, the British emerged economically and militarily crippled from World War II and unable to retain their global empire, Palestine included. Second, the two global powers that emerged after World War II — the United States and the Soviet Union — were engaged in an intense struggle for the eastern Mediterranean after World War II, as can be seen in the Greek and Turkish issues at that time. Neither wanted to see the British Empire survive, each wanted the Levant, and neither was prepared to make a decisive move to take it.

Both the United States and the Soviet Union saw the re-creation of Israel as an opportunity to introduce their power to the Levant. The Soviets thought they might have some influence over Israel due to ideology. The Americans thought they might have some influence given the role of American Jews in the founding. Neither was thinking particularly clearly about the matter, because neither had truly found its balance after World War II. Both knew the Levant was important, but neither saw the Levant as a central battleground at that moment. Israel slipped through the cracks.

Once the question of Jewish unity was settled through ruthless action by David Ben Gurion’s government, Israel faced a simultaneous threat from all of its immediate neighbors. However, as we have seen, the threat in 1948 was more apparent than real. The northern Levant, Lebanon, was fundamentally disunited — far more interested in regional maritime trade and concerned about control from Damascus. It posed no real threat to Israel. Jordan, settling the eastern bank of the Jordan River, was an outside power that had been transplanted into the region and was more concerned about native Arabs — the Palestinians — than about Israel. The Jordanians secretly collaborated with Israel. Egypt did pose a threat, but its ability to maintain lines of supply across the Sinai was severely limited and its genuine interest in engaging and destroying Israel was more rhetorical than real. As usual, the Egyptians could not afford the level of effort needed to move into the Levant. Syria by itself had a very real interest in Israel’s defeat, but by itself was incapable of decisive action.

The exterior lines of Israel’s neighbors prevented effective, concerted action. Israel’s interior lines permitted efficient deployment and redeployment of force. It was not obvious at the time, but in retrospect we can see that once Israel existed, was united and had even limited military force, its survival was guaranteed. That is, so long as no great power was opposed to its existence.

From its founding until the Camp David Accords re-established the Sinai as a buffer with Egypt, Israel’s strategic problem was this: So long as Egypt was in the Sinai, Israel’s national security requirements outstripped its military capabilities. It could not simultaneously field an army, maintain its civilian economy and produce all the weapons and supplies needed for war. Israel had to align itself with great powers who saw an opportunity to pursue other interests by arming Israel.

David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister (Public domain)

Josef Stalin, first Secretary-General of the Soviet Union (Public domain) – Robert Schuman, French prime minister, 1948 (Public domain)

Israel’s first patron was the Soviet Union — through Czechoslovakia — which supplied weapons before and after 1948 in the hopes of using Israel to gain a foothold in the eastern Mediterranean. Israel, aware of the risks of losing autonomy, also moved into a relationship with a declining great power that was fighting to retain its empire: France. Struggling to hold onto Algeria and in constant tension with Arabs, France saw Israel as a natural ally. And apart from the operation against Suez in 1956, Israel saw in France a patron that was not in a position to reduce Israeli autonomy. However, with the end of the Algerian war and the realignment of France in the Arab world, Israel became a liability to France and, after 1967, Israel lost French patronage.

Israel did not become a serious ally of the Americans until after 1967. Such an alliance was in the American interest. The United States had, as a strategic imperative, the goal of keeping the Soviet navy out of the Mediterranean or, at least, blocking its unfettered access. That meant that Turkey, controlling the Bosporus, had to be kept in the American bloc. Syria and Iraq shifted policies in the late 1950s and by the mid-1960s had been armed by the Soviets. This made Turkey’s position precarious: If the Soviets pressed from the north while Syria and Iraq pressed from the south, the outcome would be uncertain, to say the least, and the global balance of power was at stake.

The United States used Iran to divert Iraq’s attention. Israel was equally useful in diverting Syria’s attention. So long as Israel threatened Syria from the south, it could not divert its forces to the north. That helped secure Turkey at a relatively low cost in aid and risk. By aligning itself with the interests of a great power, Israel lost some of its room for maneuver: For example, in 1973, it was limited by the United States in what it could do to Egypt. But those limitations aside, it remained autonomous internally and generally free to pursue its strategic interests.

Celebrating the Camp David Accords, September 1978: Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Egyptian President Anwar El-Sadat (Source: Bill Fitz-Patrick, public domain)

The end of hostilities with Egypt, guaranteed by the Sinai buffer zone, created a new era for Israel. Egypt was restored to its traditional position, Jordan was a marginal power on the east bank, Lebanon was in its normal, unstable mode, and only Syria was a threat. However, it was a threat that Israel could easily deal with. Syria by itself could not threaten the survival of Israel.

Following Camp David (an ironic name), Israel was in its Davidic model, in a somewhat modified sense. Its survival was not at stake. Its problems — the domination of a large, hostile population and managing events in the northern Levant — were subcritical (meaning that, though these were not easy tasks, they did not represent fundamental threats to national survival, so long as Israel retained national unity). When unified, Israel has never been threatened by its neighbors. Geography dictates against it.

Israel’s danger will come only if a great power seeks to dominate the Mediterranean Basin or to occupy the region between Afghanistan and the Mediterranean. In the short period since the fall of the Soviet Union, this has been impossible. There has been no great power with the appetite and the will for such an adventure. But 15 years is not even a generation, and Israel must measure its history in centuries.

It is the nature of the international system to seek balance. The primary reality of the world today is the overwhelming power of the United States. The United States makes few demands on Israel that matter. However, it is the nature of things that the United States threatens the interests of other great powers who, individually weak, will try to form coalitions against it. Inevitably, such coalitions will arise. That will be the next point of danger for Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress in March 2015 — warning of dangers to Israel if Washington reaches an accord with Iran. (Public domain)

In the event of a global rivalry, the United States might place onerous requirements on Israel. Alternatively, great powers might move into the Jordan River valley or ally with Syria, move into Lebanon or ally with Israel. The historical attraction of the eastern shore of the Mediterranean would focus the attention of such a power and lead to attempts to assert control over the Mediterranean or create a secure Middle Eastern empire. In either event, or some of the others discussed, it would create a circumstance in which Israel might face a Babylonian catastrophe or be forced into some variation of Persian or Roman subjugation.

Israel’s danger is not a Palestinian rising. Palestinian agitation is an irritant that Israel can manage so long as it does not undermine Israeli unity. Whether it is managed by domination or by granting the Palestinians a vassal state matters little. Nor can Israel be threatened by its neighbors. Even a unified attack by Syria and Egypt would fail, for the reasons discussed.

Israel’s real threat, as can be seen in history, lies in the event of internal division and/or a great power, coveting Israel’s geographical position, marshaling force that is beyond its capacity to resist. Even that can be managed if Israel has a patron whose interests involve denying the coast to another power.

Israel’s reality is this. It is a small country, yet must manage threats arising far outside of its region. It can survive only if it maneuvers with great powers commanding enormously greater resources. Israel cannot match the resources and, therefore, it must be constantly clever. There are periods when it is relatively safe because of great power alignments, but its normal condition is one of global unease. No nation can be clever forever, and Israel’s history shows that some form of subordination is inevitable. Indeed, it is to a very limited extent subordinate to the United States now.

For Israel, the retention of a Davidic independence is difficult. Israel’s strategy must be to manage its subordination effectively by dealing with its patron cleverly, as it did with Persia. But cleverness is not a geopolitical concept. It is not permanent, and it is not assured. And that is the perpetual crisis of Jerusalem.

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Russia Enters Syria – Is it Geopolitics or Prophecy?

John R. Houk

© September 30, 2015

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The Geopolitics of Israel: Biblical and Modern

 

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Praise the Lord and Pass the Putin


Putin Jester toon

Norma Zager manages to use humor to drive home the point that Vladimir Putin is forcing the world to respect Russia and realize President Barack Hussein has transformed America into a weak doormat being prepared to be trampled upon.

 

I suspect American Baby Boomers will latch on to the humor-analogies quicker because their historical presence during classic TV, Old Movies (but not ancient) and a smattering of knowledge of past current events. Enjoy!

 

JRH 3/19/14

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Praise the Lord and Pass the Putin

Putin, What a Riot!  (The New James Bond)

 

By Norma Zager

Sent: 3/19/2014 10:59 AM

 

There is a rumor that a big Hollywood producer has approached Putin to do his own Reality Show. Why? Because Putin makes good TV.  He is easily the most entertaining Russian leader since Khrushchev, who blustered and beat his shoes on desks. What a kick to watch.

 

So what is it about Putin that makes him so much fun?  After all, the moron in North Korea is an ignoramus and has definitely replaced Tattoo as the short funny guy on that Fantasy Island he inhabits. Yet, he still has the kid in class who thinks he’s cool, and sits and picks his nose and grosses everyone out vibe.

 

But back to Putin. He is the new generation of Russian leader.  He talks to the world leaders and winks into the camera.  We get it.  He rides shirtless on a horse like some wanna be Beckham and the world laughs.

 

There is a definite feeling that even James Bond would have a hellava time getting rid of this Russian.

 

So what is his appeal, if that is really the word to describe a former Russian KGB agent?

 

I suggest the real reason people are amused by Putin is because he is actually a Bond character. A real life Fleming villain minus the pussycat on his lap.  Okay, so he has the horse.

 

In a world where each morning we awaken to a new set of horrifying realities, he is the comic relief.

 

It’s as if he is simply a product of the comedy mind of the Daily Show and not a real guy. Just made up so Stewart can point and use him for the laugh.  And laugh we do.

 

He walks in and takes Crimea without firing a damn shot, and we yuk it up.

 

Why? Because he lies and makes stuff up and John Kerry makes that face that says, “yeah, right what a liar,” and we laugh harder.

 

Why? Because all our politicians lie to us, and we are conditioned to accept the lies and say, “okay so they lie. What do you expect?”

 

And that’s the problem.  We have come to expect our leaders to lie, be dishonest, act ridiculous and do everything to harm us and we just laugh and shrug our shoulders.

 

Something has definitely changed in the last forty years because we were not laughing at Nixon. Nobody found him amusing at all.  Woodward and Bernstein put their lives on the line to bring a president down because he was dishonest.

 

Now when our president lies, the media swear to it and get a tingle down their leg.

 

So whose problem is the lack of accountability with our leaders? Is it the American people, the media or the politicians who like dogs will hump anything in sight if they can; or is it merely the times?  And do we have the ability to reset, and yes I used the term purposely.

 

If Putin is funny and Obama can do no wrong, or is it he can do wrong and it’s just all right, then who is really responsible for the lack of respect for the people running the world?

 

Russia and the United States are still powers without equal. Angela Merkel told Obama Putin doesn’t speak like he’s in this world. Okay, so what world does she suspect he’s in? Is she perhaps alluding to the fact he is an alien? Maybe the one who stole the Malaysian plane and flew it up to Mars with a stopover at the Crimean border?

 

Putin still has the firepower to end the world if he wishes, and we can match and top him for sure.

 

When is it no longer funny and simply tragic to watch?

 

I have heard so many people ask, “Really what’s our business if Putin takes Crimea?”

 

If Europe doesn’t care why should we? And that’s a good point.  Hard to find a comeback for that one, but I will try.

 

In 1994 we signed a paper telling Ukraine we had their back. What has changed? When did the United States stop caring about the bullies on the playground beating up the little guys?

 

When was it okay to walk away?

 

When Syrian children are being murdered?

 

When our ambassadors are murdered?

 

When Iran tweets we are idiots?

 

I’m confused.  No wonder.  Our foreign policy, whatever that may be, changes daily, even hourly. Where the hell is John Wayne when we need him?

 

Oops, someone will accuse me of living with a 1980’s cold war mentality.  What’s so cold about nukes?

 

Putin, the reset, American foreign policy.

 

Oddly we jumped in feet first to oust Mubarak, oust Kaddafi and pitched a fit over Syria then backed down when Putin stepped in and said, “I’ll handle this guy, after all were buds.”

 

Begs the question; who is getting handled here?

 

We just watch as Putin runs into convenience store and grabs a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of scotch and runs out before the owner sees him.

 

He has become that guy who will pull the stunts and the crap no one else has the guts to do, and we just go along for the thrill.

 

If Putin lived in America, he would be governor of Texas, riding bareback across his twenty acre spread, munching on a barbecue rib and guzzling a Bud. 

 

A good old boy.  We are not intimidated by him, because he is so familiar, we know this guy.

 

Hard to tell the good guys from the bad, when each claims they are in the right, and all their friends swear to their lies.

 

Annette Funicello died last year.  If you weren’t paying attention you may not have noticed.

 

Mouseketeers, Putin, what’s the point here?  Just this; an era has ended and we hardly noticed. Our youth is gone and with it decency, civility and right and wrong have left the building.

 

There are new sheriffs in town; ones we don’t know or recognize, scary black presences that are more frightening than Michael Landon dressed as a teenage werewolf.

 

Once the line, “To Serve Man is a cookbook,” scared the hell out of me and sent chills down my spine, now it’s the phrase, Russian Reset.

 

Pass the ribs and crack open a Bud; they’re cooking our goose for dinner.

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Edited by John R. Houk

 

Norma Zager is an award-winning investigative journalist and author.  Her passion for Israel has driven her to dedicate the past decade writing and having a radio show about Israel.

 

This is the latest in the series “Postcards from America – Postcards from Israel,” a collaboration between Zager and Bussel, a foreign correspondent reporting from Israel.

 

Ari Bussel and Norma Zager collaborate both in writing and on the air in a point-counter-point discussion of all things Israel-related.  Together, they have dedicated the past decade to promoting Israel.

 

 

© Israel Monitor, March 2014

 

First Published March 18, 2014

Liberate Ukraine


Ukraine-Russia crisis as of 3-5-14

Justin Smith writes about Ukrainian prospects. The Maidan protesters were influential in getting the corrupt Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych kicked out of Office by the Ukrainian Parliament; however Justin indicates Ukrainian voters may face future choices of corrupt candidates for President in the next election. It seems to me Ukrainian voters may have to find a leader from their grassroots able to sway voters. It reminds me of the difficulty among Conservative Republicans being continuously let down by the Republican Establishment.

 

JRH 3/9/14

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Liberate Ukraine

 

By Justin O. Smith

Sent: 3/8/2014 10:38 PM

 

The protesters in Independence Square have suffered a long train of abuses and usurpations from a succession of presumably democratically elected governments that consistently have sunk into the depths of corruption and arbitrary, illegal and despotic actions, forcing the people to oppose them and unify for the salvation of Ukraine. They did not initially ask for President Viktor Yanukovych’s removal, only that he honor the European Union – Ukraine Association Agreement. But, several hundred wounded and over eighty dead, at Yanukovych’s orders and Putin’s direction changed everything and created a call for new Guards, which is any freedom-loving people’s right.

The ouster of Yanukovych from office by the Ukrainian Parliament was no more a coup than was U.S. President Richard Nixon’s resignation over Watergate. Yanukovych was abandoned by his own Regions Party and accused of embezzling $40 billion over three years and betraying Ukraine. Assertions by Russian media and Putin that this was a “fascist coup” are outright Stalinist propaganda tactics, and pundits, such as Phil Valentine (Cumulus Radio), repeatedly calling this a “coup” are ignorant of the East-West dynamics, the ongoing trade war between the EU and Russia, and parliamentary procedures and “votes of no confidence.”

For months the protesters of Maidan held Berkut anti-riot police at bay, as they were injured and killed. They treated their wounded, prayed over their dead, and they fought for their right to form a new state governed, hopefully, by moral leaders, free from corruption. And now, they have been stunned by a new sense of betrayal, a new group of oligarchs, driving Mercedes and BMWs, form the interim government in the name of Ukraine’s people.

Betrayals came one after another, once Yanukovych appeared in Russia. Putin violated several international treaties by invading Crimea, as the European Union ringed their collective hands over Putin’s threats to raise gas prices from Gazprom, and Obama frantically floundered around the U.S.-Russian “reset button”, giving empty lip-service to sanctions no one will honor; don’t look for Russia’s removal from the G-8 either, since Chancellor Angela Merkel is pursuing angles for Germany during this internationally clustered imbroglio.

Ukrainians have long sought closer ties with the EU and the U.S. and their markedly freer cultures and political systems, not Putin and Russia. Five-hundred thousand dollars have gone towards this goal annually, since 2011, through the U.S. Agency for International Development [USAID], because many influential Ukrainians, such as Vitali Klitshko – member of Ukraine Parliament, feared Yanukovych’s growing subservience to Putin; Putin’s $15 billion bribe was intended to coax Ukraine into his Eurasian Union, and, in appealing to Yanukovych’s corrupt nature, it effectively sabotaged the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement: So, an East-West confrontation emerged, which is based on Putin’s desire to keep Russian hegemony in the region and enhance his own power.

The new interim President of Ukraine, Oleksandr Tuchynov, is a Baptist pastor and the one time head of the SBU (Ukraine’s secret service), which was essentially an extension of the KGB during the old USSR days. He is also Yulia Tymoshenko’s right hand man, and while she holds no official post in the new government, she is directing government affairs through him.

Elections are scheduled for May throughout Ukraine, and should Tymoshenko get elected, it will signal the continued reign of oligarchs and communists, along the lines of Leonid Kuchma, Ukrainian president (1994-2005), who ordered the murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze in 2000. Many of Tymoshenko’s countrymen refer to her, as “Putin in a skirt.”

A separate referendum is being called for in Crimea in order to decide if Crimea stays with Ukraine or joins Russia. Even though Putin stated he would ensure Ukraine’s territorial integrity last month, he has exacerbated the situation, and he is using this as leverage against the interim government in Kiev, because he can. And, he can because Obama has failed to offer global leadership and clarity of vision, offering in its stead meaningless warnings and weak statements that invited this aggression.

Currently, even if some older ethnic Russian pensioners, the old communist apparatchiks, want to return Crimea to the Russian state, the majority of the Russian-speaking easterners __ Russo-sympathetic __ are not so indoctrinated by Russian propaganda that they would accept slavery in Putin’s totalitarian state over membership in NATO or the EU. At different times during recent history, Crimea has voted to be independent of the Soviet Union (December 1991) and Ukraine (May 1992-rescinded then reconsidered 1994), so Crimea will do what it will. But, all the signatories of the 1975 (non-intervention) Helsinki Final Act and the Budapest Memorandum, which includes the U.S. and the Soviet Union (Russia affirmed 1994) assured Ukraine’s security and territorial integrity.

To imagine Germany today occupying western Poland under a pretext of protecting ethnic Germans living there conveys a strong analogy of the historical offense Putin committed against Ukraine, and it explains the fear that many other nations with Russian minorities and dire memories of Moscow are now experiencing.

George W. Bush attempted to gain NATO membership for both Georgia and Ukraine in 2008, but Europe refused their membership out of fear of Russia’s reaction, and four months later Putin entered Ossetia, claiming then, as now, that he was protecting ethnic Russians. This precise sort of weakness and policy must be rejected by both Europe and future U.S. administrations, not in favor of war but in the name of peace.

If Europe and the U.S. do not help Ukraine resist Russia successfully, who is next? Belarus? Poland?

On March 1, 2014, Jim DeMint, former U.S. Senator from South Carolina, said, “The Ukrainians who rose to demand freedom need to be comforted by our words and intentions, and the thugs in the Kremlin need to fear them” (Heritage Foundation).

Obama will likely not negotiate this crisis well, and this will be a severe geopolitical blow to the U.S., in many respects, and those patriotic activists in Maidan and across Ukraine, who understand that democratic Ukraine is on the frontline of the struggle against authoritarianism. Let us resolve, despite Obama, to see Ukraine enter the EU and NATO under the next administration, if that is truly their desire. Let us immediately erect a tactical nuclear shield, across the European fault lines and aimed directly at Moscow, as was planned for by Ronald Reagan, and only then worry with making Putin pay an economic price. Let us move forward unwilling to permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed and more determined than ever to not tempt our adversaries with weakness, as we prevent one tyranny, once removed, from being replaced by a far more iron tyranny.

 

By Justin O. Smith

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Edited by John R. Houk

© Justin O. Smith

Sorry Ukraine, America voted the wrong way in 2012


Reset The President red button

The Ukraine has been invaded by Russia ostensibly to preserve peace which probably means to protect the Russian speaking and Pro-Russia Ukrainians of the Crimea part Ukraine. At any rate Allen West has written a brief but explosive little essay about how the voters have elected an impotent weak President unable to confront Russia’s goal of becoming a big player at the cost of Liberty.

 

JRH 3/2/14

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Sorry Ukraine, America voted the wrong way in 2012

By Allen West

March 1, 2014

Allen West – Steadfast and Loyal

 

During his first term, Obama told then-Russian President Medvedev to “tell Vladimir I will have more flexibility after reelection.”

 

Last week, Obama demonstrated some of that flexibility, which in that case meant decimating our military capability.

 

Yesterday, Obama demonstrated more flexibility, which meant more empty words and meaningless threats. There will be costs for any military intervention into Ukraine and Crimea? Just sounds like any red line blather from the community organizer prom king.

 

Vladimir Putin is a steely-eyed former KGB agent. He knows America under Obama has no options and no guts. It has taken Obama almost two weeks to address the Ukraine issue. Obama already cancelled the missile defense shield for Eastern Europe.

 

Americans and our allies don’t trust Obama to lead anything bigger than a Gay Pride parade. Hillary Clinton offered Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a toy reset button. Putin reset it to USSR.

 

Elections have consequences and the result is an absence of courageous American leadership. I humbly apologize to the liberty-loving people of Ukraine. The beacon of liberty and freedom that was American no longer shines brightly. Putin, you lucky rascal, your timing could not have been any better. America has no leader.

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Copyright @2013. AllenBWest.com, in association with Liberty Alliance. All rights reserved.

 

Meet Allen West

 

Allen West was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia in the same neighborhood where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once preached. He is the third of four generations of military servicemen in his family.

 

During his 22 year career in the United States Army, Lieutenant Colonel West served in several combat zones: in Operation Desert Storm, in Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he was a Battalion Commander in the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, and later in Afghanistan. He received many honors including a Bronze Star, three Meritorious Service Medals, three Army Commendation Medals and a Valorous Unit Award. In 1993 he was named the US Army ROTC Instructor of the Year.

 

After his retirement from the Army in 2004, Allen taught high school for a year before returning to Afghanistan as a civilian military adviser to the Afghan army, an assignment he finished in November 2007.

 

In November of 2010, Allen was honored to continue his oath of service to his country when he was elected to the United States Congress, representing Florida’s 22nd District. As a member of the 112th Congress, he READ THE REST