Reinvigorated Russia and US Strategic Choices

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by AndyPipkin, Sep 3, 2008.

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  1. It seems the invasion of Iraq really was a strategic error of huge proportions. Free email by Stratfor:

    The Medvedev Doctrine and American Strategy
    September 2, 2008

    By George Friedman

    The United States has been fighting a war in the Islamic world since 2001. Its main theaters of operation are in Afghanistan and Iraq, but its politico-military focus spreads throughout the Islamic world, from Mindanao to Morocco. The situation on Aug. 7, 2008, was as follows:

    The war in Iraq was moving toward an acceptable but not optimal solution. The government in Baghdad was not pro-American, but neither was it an Iranian puppet, and that was the best that could be hoped for. The United States anticipated pulling out troops, but not in a disorderly fashion.
    The war in Afghanistan was deteriorating for the United States and NATO forces. The Taliban was increasingly effective, and large areas of the country were falling to its control. Force in Afghanistan was insufficient, and any troops withdrawn from Iraq would have to be deployed to Afghanistan to stabilize the situation. Political conditions in neighboring Pakistan were deteriorating, and that deterioration inevitably affected Afghanistan.
    The United States had been locked in a confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program, demanding that Tehran halt enrichment of uranium or face U.S. action. The United States had assembled a group of six countries (the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) that agreed with the U.S. goal, was engaged in negotiations with Iran, and had agreed at some point to impose sanctions on Iran if Tehran failed to comply. The United States was also leaking stories about impending air attacks on Iran by Israel or the United States if Tehran didn’t abandon its enrichment program. The United States had the implicit agreement of the group of six not to sell arms to Tehran, creating a real sense of isolation in Iran.
    Related Special Topic Page
    The Russian Resurgence
    In short, the United States remained heavily committed to a region stretching from Iraq to Pakistan, with main force committed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and the possibility of commitments to Pakistan (and above all to Iran) on the table. U.S. ground forces were stretched to the limit, and U.S. airpower, naval and land-based forces had to stand by for the possibility of an air campaign in Iran — regardless of whether the U.S. planned an attack, since the credibility of a bluff depended on the availability of force.

    The situation in this region actually was improving, but the United States had to remain committed there. It was therefore no accident that the Russians invaded Georgia on Aug. 8 following a Georgian attack on South Ossetia. Forgetting the details of who did what to whom, the United States had created a massive window of opportunity for the Russians: For the foreseeable future, the United States had no significant forces to spare to deploy elsewhere in the world, nor the ability to sustain them in extended combat. Moreover, the United States was relying on Russian cooperation both against Iran and potentially in Afghanistan, where Moscow’s influence with some factions remains substantial. The United States needed the Russians and couldn’t block the Russians. Therefore, the Russians inevitably chose this moment to strike.

    On Sunday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev in effect ran up the Jolly Roger. Whatever the United States thought it was dealing with in Russia, Medvedev made the Russian position very clear. He stated Russian foreign policy in five succinct points, which we can think of as the Medvedev Doctrine (and which we see fit to quote here):

    First, Russia recognizes the primacy of the fundamental principles of international law, which define the relations between civilized peoples. We will build our relations with other countries within the framework of these principles and this concept of international law.
    Second, the world should be multipolar. A single-pole world is unacceptable. Domination is something we cannot allow. We cannot accept a world order in which one country makes all the decisions, even as serious and influential a country as the United States of America. Such a world is unstable and threatened by conflict.
    Third, Russia does not want confrontation with any other country. Russia has no intention of isolating itself. We will develop friendly relations with Europe, the United States, and other countries, as much as is possible.
    Fourth, protecting the lives and dignity of our citizens, wherever they may be, is an unquestionable priority for our country. Our foreign policy decisions will be based on this need. We will also protect the interests of our business community abroad. It should be clear to all that we will respond to any aggressive acts committed against us.
    Finally, fifth, as is the case of other countries, there are regions in which Russia has privileged interests. These regions are home to countries with which we share special historical relations and are bound together as friends and good neighbors. We will pay particular attention to our work in these regions and build friendly ties with these countries, our close neighbors.
    Medvedev concluded, “These are the principles I will follow in carrying out our foreign policy. As for the future, it depends not only on us but also on our friends and partners in the international community. They have a choice.”

    The second point in this doctrine states that Russia does not accept the primacy of the United States in the international system. According to the third point, while Russia wants good relations with the United States and Europe, this depends on their behavior toward Russia and not just on Russia’s behavior. The fourth point states that Russia will protect the interests of Russians wherever they are — even if they live in the Baltic states or in Georgia, for example. This provides a doctrinal basis for intervention in such countries if Russia finds it necessary.

    The fifth point is the critical one: “As is the case of other countries, there are regions in which Russia has privileged interests.” In other words, the Russians have special interests in the former Soviet Union and in friendly relations with these states. Intrusions by others into these regions that undermine pro-Russian regimes will be regarded as a threat to Russia’s “special interests.”

    Thus, the Georgian conflict was not an isolated event — rather, Medvedev is saying that Russia is engaged in a general redefinition of the regional and global system. Locally, it would not be correct to say that Russia is trying to resurrect the Soviet Union or the Russian empire. It would be correct to say that Russia is creating a new structure of relations in the geography of its predecessors, with a new institutional structure with Moscow at its center. Globally, the Russians want to use this new regional power — and substantial Russian nuclear assets — to be part of a global system in which the United States loses its primacy.

    These are ambitious goals, to say the least. But the Russians believe that the United States is off balance in the Islamic world and that there is an opportunity here, if they move quickly, to create a new reality before the United States is ready to respond. Europe has neither the military weight nor the will to actively resist Russia. Moreover, the Europeans are heavily dependent on Russian natural gas supplies over the coming years, and Russia can survive without selling it to them far better than the Europeans can survive without buying it. The Europeans are not a substantial factor in the equation, nor are they likely to become substantial.

    This leaves the United States in an extremely difficult strategic position. The United States opposed the Soviet Union after 1945 not only for ideological reasons but also for geopolitical ones. If the Soviet Union had broken out of its encirclement and dominated all of Europe, the total economic power at its disposal, coupled with its population, would have allowed the Soviets to construct a navy that could challenge U.S. maritime hegemony and put the continental United States in jeopardy. It was U.S. policy during World Wars I and II and the Cold War to act militarily to prevent any power from dominating the Eurasian landmass. For the United States, this was the most important task throughout the 20th century.

    The U.S.-jihadist war was waged in a strategic framework that assumed that the question of hegemony over Eurasia was closed. Germany’s defeat in World War II and the Soviet Union’s defeat in the Cold War meant that there was no claimant to Eurasia, and the United States was free to focus on what appeared to be the current priority — the defeat of radical Islamism. It appeared that the main threat to this strategy was the patience of the American public, not an attempt to resurrect a major Eurasian power.

    The United States now faces a massive strategic dilemma, and it has limited military options against the Russians. It could choose a naval option, in which it would block the four Russian maritime outlets, the Sea of Japan and the Black, Baltic and Barents seas. The United States has ample military force with which to do this and could potentially do so without allied cooperation, which it would lack. It is extremely unlikely that the NATO council would unanimously support a blockade of Russia, which would be an act of war.

    But while a blockade like this would certainly hurt the Russians, Russia is ultimately a land power. It is also capable of shipping and importing through third parties, meaning it could potentially acquire and ship key goods through European or Turkish ports (or Iranian ports, for that matter). The blockade option is thus more attractive on first glance than on deeper analysis.

    More important, any overt U.S. action against Russia would result in counteractions. During the Cold War, the Soviets attacked American global interest not by sending Soviet troops, but by supporting regimes and factions with weapons and economic aid. Vietnam was the classic example: The Russians tied down 500,000 U.S. troops without placing major Russian forces at risk. Throughout the world, the Soviets implemented programs of subversion and aid to friendly regimes, forcing the United States either to accept pro-Soviet regimes, as with Cuba, or fight them at disproportionate cost.

    In the present situation, the Russian response would strike at the heart of American strategy in the Islamic world. In the long run, the Russians have little interest in strengthening the Islamic world — but for the moment, they have substantial interest in maintaining American imbalance and sapping U.S. forces. The Russians have a long history of supporting Middle Eastern regimes with weapons shipments, and it is no accident that the first world leader they met with after invading Georgia was Syrian President Bashar al Assad. This was a clear signal that if the U.S. responded aggressively to Russia’s actions in Georgia, Moscow would ship a range of weapons to Syria — and far worse, to Iran. Indeed, Russia could conceivably send weapons to factions in Iraq that do not support the current regime, as well as to groups like Hezbollah. Moscow also could encourage the Iranians to withdraw their support for the Iraqi government and plunge Iraq back into conflict. Finally, Russia could ship weapons to the Taliban and work to further destabilize Pakistan.

    At the moment, the United States faces the strategic problem that the Russians have options while the United States does not. Not only does the U.S. commitment of ground forces in the Islamic world leave the United States without strategic reserve, but the political arrangements under which these troops operate make them highly vulnerable to Russian manipulation — with few satisfactory U.S. counters.

    The U.S. government is trying to think through how it can maintain its commitment in the Islamic world and resist the Russian reassertion of hegemony in the former Soviet Union. If the United States could very rapidly win its wars in the region, this would be possible. But the Russians are in a position to prolong these wars, and even without such agitation, the American ability to close off the conflicts is severely limited. The United States could massively increase the size of its army and make deployments into the Baltics, Ukraine and Central Asia to thwart Russian plans, but it would take years to build up these forces and the active cooperation of Europe to deploy them. Logistically, European support would be essential — but the Europeans in general, and the Germans in particular, have no appetite for this war. Expanding the U.S. Army is necessary, but it does not affect the current strategic reality.

    This logistical issue might be manageable, but the real heart of this problem is not merely the deployment of U.S. forces in the Islamic world — it is the Russians’ ability to use weapons sales and covert means to deteriorate conditions dramatically. With active Russian hostility added to the current reality, the strategic situation in the Islamic world could rapidly spin out of control.

    The United States is therefore trapped by its commitment to the Islamic world. It does not have sufficient forces to block Russian hegemony in the former Soviet Union, and if it tries to block the Russians with naval or air forces, it faces a dangerous riposte from the Russians in the Islamic world. If it does nothing, it creates a strategic threat that potentially towers over the threat in the Islamic world.

    The United States now has to make a fundamental strategic decision. If it remains committed to its current strategy, it cannot respond to the Russians. If it does not respond to the Russians for five or 10 years, the world will look very much like it did from 1945 to 1992. There will be another Cold War at the very least, with a peer power much poorer than the United States but prepared to devote huge amounts of money to national defense.

    There are four broad U.S. options:

    Attempt to make a settlement with Iran that would guarantee the neutral stability of Iraq and permit the rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces there. Iran is the key here. The Iranians might also mistrust a re-emergent Russia, and while Tehran might be tempted to work with the Russians against the Americans, Iran might consider an arrangement with the United States — particularly if the United States refocuses its attentions elsewhere. On the upside, this would free the U.S. from Iraq. On the downside, the Iranians might not want —or honor — such a deal.
    Enter into negotiations with the Russians, granting them the sphere of influence they want in the former Soviet Union in return for guarantees not to project Russian power into Europe proper. The Russians will be busy consolidating their position for years, giving the U.S. time to re-energize NATO. On the upside, this would free the United States to continue its war in the Islamic world. On the downside, it would create a framework for the re-emergence of a powerful Russian empire that would be as difficult to contain as the Soviet Union.
    Refuse to engage the Russians and leave the problem to the Europeans. On the upside, this would allow the United States to continue war in the Islamic world and force the Europeans to act. On the downside, the Europeans are too divided, dependent on Russia and dispirited to resist the Russians. This strategy could speed up Russia’s re-emergence.
    Rapidly disengage from Iraq, leaving a residual force there and in Afghanistan. The upside is that this creates a reserve force to reinforce the Baltics and Ukraine that might restrain Russia in the former Soviet Union. The downside is that it would create chaos in the Islamic world, threatening regimes that have sided with the United States and potentially reviving effective intercontinental terrorism. The trade-off is between a hegemonic threat from Eurasia and instability and a terror threat from the Islamic world.
    We are pointing to very stark strategic choices. Continuing the war in the Islamic world has a much higher cost now than it did when it began, and Russia potentially poses a far greater threat to the United States than the Islamic world does. What might have been a rational policy in 2001 or 2003 has now turned into a very dangerous enterprise, because a hostile major power now has the option of making the U.S. position in the Middle East enormously more difficult.

    If a U.S. settlement with Iran is impossible, and a diplomatic solution with the Russians that would keep them from taking a hegemonic position in the former Soviet Union cannot be reached, then the United States must consider rapidly abandoning its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and redeploying its forces to block Russian expansion. The threat posed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War was far graver than the threat posed now by the fragmented Islamic world. In the end, the nations there will cancel each other out, and militant organizations will be something the United States simply has to deal with. This is not an ideal solution by any means, but the clock appears to have run out on the American war in the Islamic world.

    We do not expect the United States to take this option. It is difficult to abandon a conflict that has gone on this long when it is not yet crystal clear that the Russians will actually be a threat later. (It is far easier for an analyst to make such suggestions than it is for a president to act on them.) Instead, the United States will attempt to bridge the Russian situation with gestures and half measures.

    Nevertheless, American national strategy is in crisis. The United States has insufficient power to cope with two threats and must choose between the two. Continuing the current strategy means choosing to deal with the Islamic threat rather than the Russian one, and that is reasonable only if the Islamic threat represents a greater danger to American interests than the Russian threat does. It is difficult to see how the chaos of the Islamic world will cohere to form a global threat. But it is not difficult to imagine a Russia guided by the Medvedev Doctrine rapidly becoming a global threat and a direct danger to American interests.

    We expect no immediate change in American strategic deployments — and we expect this to be regretted later. However, given U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s trip to the Caucasus region, now would be the time to see some movement in U.S. foreign policy. If Cheney isn’t going to be talking to the Russians, he needs to be talking to the Iranians. Otherwise, he will be writing checks in the region that the U.S. is in no position to cash.
  2. Only just realised? :?

    Nice helmet BTW. :)
  3. Of direct interest to us I fear. One of the main nails in the coffin of the USSR's occupation of Afghanistan was the supply of Stingers by our Pakistani proxies. Should the opposition in AFG get hold of a goodly number of SA-18 or similar via some deniable route then can we credibly continue ?
  4. I feel a need to paraphrase that particular Russian monologue:

    In Russia, all Law is like a telegraph pole. You can't get over it, but you can certainly get round it. It matters not whether it is natural law, common law, international law, religious law, law of conquest, whatever... all laws tend to be met in Russia with the same common attitude. One way of looking at it is in the approach to law enforcement. When stopped by the Police you may well be asked, would you like a big fine or a small fine?

    In other words the framework of principles are universal and all binding, but as always it will be up to Russia how the Russians elect to interpret the applicability of the letter of the law against what it views as it's intended spirit (weighed of course against getting caught out). That will always count the most.

    To expect anything more is perhaps not fully recognising the limitations that Russians repeatedly set upon themselves in being capable of reaching the bar. Even the most lawless among them remain full members of the 'family', not simply tolerated as black sheep as they would almost everywhere else.

    This is a common theme of central Russian doctrine, and popular now in folk history. The issue that the world should be "multipolar" is more voiced and more important to the average Russian psyche than acknowledging the simple honest fact that the world is actually so multifaceted that to merely describe it as "multipolar" does it a disservice. To be a champion of the "need on pain of sufferance to have forceful Multipolarity" (or just plain more anti-americanism) is to set yourself and your nation up in complete antipathy and antithesis. No wonder Russian many clumsy acts in this, drive it quite sorrowfully towards the cold end of the sphere of internationalism.

    In actuality, most Russians would see multipolar reduced to bipolar and secretly dream of singularity in Mother Russias favour. To call it simple ambition or national fervour again does such sentiments a disservice. It is way more than a tinge of nationalist-paranoia that truly longs after Russian supremacy they feel they should by rights have (owing to the sake of their land mass); but simply they can't fulfil it (owing to a decreasing population, which is only 3 times larger than the UK after all and utterly dwarfed by others).

    The Bear will Roar!! And good on it for doing so, but it remains uncomfortably on an "endangered list", and this is something the Russian psyche from time to time readily accepts as they commonly prepare for the worst but hope for the best.

    Russia has just confronted another country. Russia has spent many years in isolation, and even now still finds itself willing to just crawl back into hibernation periodically. That hand that extends in friendship is often genuine, but even it grudgingly recognises the limitations of other countries willingness to stomach everything they are told.

    This is simply a constitutional issue. But it illustrates that foreign policy will be executed will military intervention if sufficient levels of threat are achieved. This is a common binding principle of many nations, including examples of past exercises conducted by the UK & USA in face of aggression. But it is worth noting what is not said, that Russia is not above it's old practice using these enclaves, where ever they may be, as agent provocateurs that it can and will lead fully into conflict and "defence" of it's national interests.

    You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. That's the body of real politik, so nothing new there. What's not seen here is the Russian penchant for tragedy. There is simply something about Russia that will see it sell to the hangman the very rope with which he will then himself hang. Sell the same things to all sides, and all neighbours, and spread the wealth of nuclear knowledge fairly and cheaply among all those who are obviously qualified and prepared to receive it...

    Truly though, Russians love Russians most, their sense of togetherness is almost second to none (it comes with living, travelling and working in close confines). But every single one of their neighbours are completely viewed with disgust and distrust, but as long as they will keep buying from their market and choose to fight among themselves, they meet their purpose.

    Medvedev is the Good Cop, to Putins Bad Cop routine. Medvedev has 'demanded' that the Kremlin should not make it so difficult to do business in Russia.

    But that doesn't mean Russia is above stabbing it's partners in the back and turning up the heat on formerly beneficial international relations if it later changes it's mind. It took umbrage with it's international partners for no reason at all, those in business who essentially turned an isolated and neglected island into one of Russia's main oil & gas producing regions, pulling Russia belt and braces into the 21st century. As a reward for such loyal services and provision of technology and support, Russia drummed up any old law it could (including environmental) to harass, chase away and essentially steal without even a reasonable levels of compensation, that which it's partners brought with them.

    Russia isn't stupid, it's just occasionally lawless, and willing to betray its friends from the highest to the smallest levels and play downright dirty and mean. It is a land fraught with more contradictions than others, and it truly views itself as the Judge, Jury & Executioner. It attempts to remain what it sees as balanced and fair, overseeing between the East & West with it's two headed imperial eagle, but it all too commonly fails to recognise that nobody is really paying it much attention.

    Interesting times it seeks to create, with the creation of a cartel fully within it's control big enough to challenge OPEC - Thing is nobody really wanted to do business with it's particular brand of ethics or dreams of complete market control; so Mother Russia might find to it's cost to have come out shooting with all guns blazing a little too early after all...
  5. RP578

    RP578 LE Book Reviewer

    I thought that too. If Russia had bode its time for the next ten years it could have had Europe in its economic palm. but instead has scared off their potential best customers sent its neighbours scurrying toward the NATO umbrella. A case of national chauvinism overruling economic strategy?

    Edward Lucas (author of the The New Cold War: How the Kremlin Menaces Both Russia and the West) describes Russia as "an oil-fuelled fascist kleptocracy ruled by secret police goons and their cronies", but I think things are just more complex than that. Still his article in today's Guardian is worth a read.

  6. Let's try to formulate American 5 principles of foreign policy.

    1. The USA has right to ignore international law at will.

    2. The World is unipolar. Washington is the only decision centre.

    3. The USA is ready to confront any country that disobeys its orders including wars and occupations.

    4. Protection of lives of American citizens in any corner of the World is paramount.

    5. The whole Globe is a zone of special American interests.
  7. To this armchair observer it does seem that the Russians have done an excellent job of ensuring that no oil major will ever do business in partnership in Russia again, and given the current laws that seem to demand that large developments must be done in partnership with russian firms, they can't go it alone; smart money is likely to find other places to go. Antarctic mineral rights are news at the moment, so for the sake of newsworthiness I will plump for there as the next klondyke. You heard it here first! :D
  8. Sergey has neatly summed up how most Russians think, this explains why they act as they do and why Putin and Medvedev are popular in a way GWB and our own Dear Leader can only dream of. (Not in some of the provinces maybe but the opinions of those without power or influence are irrelevant.)

    What he has not pointed out (not a criticism aimed at him BTW) is that Russia has been allowed to because America will not or cannot back up its demands in Europe. Their overstretch in the ME and refusal to fund more troops have left them unable to influence matters short of flinging nukes. The 101st Fighting Keyboard Chickenhawks may post all the airpower and carrier porn they like, but once you do a critical appraisal of logistics, time, distance, ground, correlation of forces and so on things look a lot shakier. Add in the ability of Russia to help or hinder ops in Iraq and AFG - and future actions towards Iran, and things look even worse.

    Europe ... well, we want the heating on this winter, we want the lights to stay on and maybe we even remember the days when Russia was a valued ally (not Germany obviously). If asked to choose between a US seemingly hell bent om wrecking everything in sight and a Russia we can do business with and who can keep the lights on - well, Washington might not like the result. I'm waiting for the first mainstream UK political party to jump on the anti-American bandwagon for political gain.

    Finally, an awful of the rhetoric aimed at the Russians is I think jealousy. I've heard many in the US military complain about RoE and the like and how it could speed things up as they enter their sixth year in Iraq - yet here we have the Russian Army given a blank cheque and wrapping things up in three days. Then they get to thoroughly and completely disarm the opposition, no left behind munition IEDs for them.
  9. Now let's translate Medvedev's principles form political Russian to good old English

    1. Russia respects the international law (in cases then it is in Russia's interests).

    2. The World is multipolar. Russia is one of the poles.

    3. Russia avoids to confront with other countries but doesn't exclude this possiblity.

    4. Protection of lives of Russian citizens abroad is a priority.

    5. Russia has zones of special interests.
  10. America didn't use military force in the recent war and even didn't make threats to use it.

    Suppose, that there are no American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. What would be American reaction? Exactrly the same.
  11. RP578

    RP578 LE Book Reviewer

    That's just it though mate, Russia has proved a very difficult place to do business with, google BP's woes trading there. The Russians will reply that it's all the fault of UK businesses not playing by their (ever shifting) rules, the British will counter that their treatment equates outright harassment. Either way, it hasn't proven a very successful enterprise.

    More the pity for the Russians as I truly believe they could have pulled Europe, including the UK, away from the US sphere and more aligned with their own. As I've written above, all they seem to have gained now is the suspicion and enmity of most of Europe who should have been eating out of their hands.
  12. So to summarise, America ignores laws, are the only people in the world, makes War against those who agree and disagree, consider themselves as mythical beings, and they own the whole planet.

    My experience is somewhat opposite to that and draws on the principles of more observable reality. Sure Americans can be crass, and as a young nation are given to the occasional bouts and moods, and sure many of them don't even own passports, or comprehend facts like Scotland actually has electricity or can pin point it on a map; but on the whole they tend to keep pretty much to themselves as a nation until someone either bombs their ships, fly planes into their skyscrapers, take out their embassies or elects to set about someone who they may even consider as a cooperative.

    America just needs looking after, Russia should really know better...
  13. RP578

    RP578 LE Book Reviewer

    Absolutely. Just as the US didn't intervene in Hungary in 1956 even though it wasn't tied up elsewhere had divisions of troops nearby in southern Germany. Georgia is not a member of NATO and has no defence pact with the US.

  14. 1. So it doesn't respect international law

    2. :rofl:

    3. As long as you do what Russia says, you'll be fine.

    4. Russia reserves the right to go crashing into any country it wishes.

    5. The states within a thousand miles of Russia must do as it says or risk the consequences.
  15. In-Limbo, so what is your variant of 5 American principles? Would you like to formulate them plainly?