In Putin's Russia, strategy drives you!
- By James StavridisJames Stavridis is a retired four-star U.S. Navy admiral and NATO supreme allied commander who serves today as the dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
FROM: Russian Strategic Planner
TO: President Vladimir Putin
SUBJECT: Request for Guidance
1. Mr. President, we are doing very well in executing your strategic direction. After humiliating the West in 2008 by seizing two valuable regions of annoying and tiny Georgia (Abkhazia and South Ossetia), we have consolidated our diplomatic triumph by achieving recognition of them as independent nations by four other countries around the world. True, they are costing us a great deal of hard cash to prop them up, but they are happily independent and will no doubt vote consistently with us in the U.N. General Assembly if they are ever granted membership (perhaps in late 2080).
2. I am even happier with our work in regaining Crimea for Russia! Despite the imposition of some trivial sanctions, our actions were approved by a total of 10 stalwart friends and allies in the U.N. General Assembly (Belarus, Cuba, Nicaragua, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and several others). A fine group of partners. The remaining countries that either condemned us or abstained will no doubt over time see the wisdom in our actions.
3. Clearly our campaign to subvert Ukraine is working well. The Little Green Men of Russia are having enormous impact and will mount a lethal campaign that will at the least create real havoc in Ukraine. NATO slumbers and we move out. What could be better?
4. My request for guidance hinges on the simple question of "what next?"
a) Europe and the West. Though we are essentially a European nation, our rightful annexation of Crimea (along with possible continuing moves to destabilize Ukraine) has turned all of Europe against us (excepting loyal Belarus, of course). So we have not much leverage to the West. Even the French seem inclined to cancel our order of two large warships. When the French will not work with us, it is clear we have trouble in Europe.
b) Looking south to Central Asia. To the south, we have some support from the CSTO nations (some of the "Stans" as they are called in the West), but, frankly, they have little to offer us beyond exporting large numbers of violent extremists and huge quantities of opium. (With over 2 million heroin addicts here in Russia already, this does constitute a slight problem for us.) Not much to attract us there.
c) China. While we continue to court our Chinese colleagues, they seem wary of us these days. They are totally consumed with events in East Asia anyway and do not seem to regard us as particularly important one way or another. So while we will probably not see open hostility, there is not a great deal of support either. And, over time, I am a bit concerned that our tiny population east of the Ural Mountains and the vast empty, hydrocarbon-rich Russian territory there might be tempting to them. Better keep an eye on it and not count on much from China.
d) India. Despite some traditional friendship from the glorious days of the Cold War and lingering military-to-military cooperation (mostly sales), the long-term trend looks west — language, democracy, economics, and cultural heritage all seem to favor other partners over Russia.
e) Arctic. With four of the five nations on the "front porch" of the high north being NATO members, I doubt we are going to see much up that way that is promising. Also, it is cold.
f) Africa and Latin America. A long, long way away.
5. All of which brings me to my request for guidance. Having burned our bridges to the West with Europe (well done, of course, and the prizes of Crimea, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia are clearly worth it), where shall we focus ourselves as we create the New Russia of the 21st century? We have a strong base to build on with Belarus, Cuba, Nicaragua, North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela, of course, but, frankly, most of them are unfortunately international pariahs and offer little in the way of trade and growth. So where should we be focused?
6. I know that Karl Marx said that history always repeats itself, "first as tragedy, then as farce." I am sorry to say that some in the West seem to think that our new geopolitical moves to control nations like South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Crimea, Moldova/Transnistria, and parts of Ukraine are hardly the Warsaw Pact of old; but they are a brave group of satellites that cannot be dismissed as a farce.
7. Hopefully the price of oil will stay high, your PSA will stay low, and we will continue to dominate the news cycle!
8. We anxiously await your guidance!