Time for the US to modernize its approach to Russia, by James Durso

The world has been changing, but US foreign policy remains locked in the 1950s. From James Durso at thehill.com:

The Cold War was never won or lost; it just ended one day. Who even remembers where they were on December 3, 1989?

As the Cold War ended, the U.S. forswore a demand for unconditional surrender, thanked God it was over, and thought about how to spend the peace dividend. The message Russia took away was: We didn’t lose.

And so, after the chaos of the Yeltsin years and “shock therapy,” Vladimir Putin ascended to the Russian presidency. Buoyed by high oil prices and the network of siloviki, he resumed the task of every Russian ruler since Peter the Great: securing the periphery.

Putin’s secure periphery won’t necessarily involve physical occupation of neighboring states. Russia’s goals can also be achieved by political subversion and using information warfare as a political warfare tool to create unsettled conflicts. As to what the Russians want to secure, it’s no secret – just look at a map.

The East European Plain covers the Baltics, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, and European Russia and is the traditional invasion route to Russia used by the Golden Horde, the Swedish Empire, the  Grande Armée, and the Third Reich. Russia is practically landlocked, has no ready access to the oceans, and its population centers, agricultural belt, transportation system, and industrial assets are concentrated West of the Urals – on the East European Plain.

Russia’s fear of invasion from the West probably originated in the 1200s and is captured in the lamentation, “for our sins, unknown tribes [Mongols] came” in The Chronicle of Novgorod. Russia will act to extend its borders, but the use of political warfare means it can stay below NATO’s Article 5 threshold and, when accused of hacking and stealing emails or whatnot, can direct the court’s attention to Exhibit A: Edward Snowden.

Whatever Putin’s motivation – patriotism, paranoia and insecurity, or all the money he allegedly has – his message about protecting Christianity and Russia’s unique culture against a homogenized, relativistic Europe resonates with many more Europeans than Communism ever did. Russia’s project is also aided and abetted by Germany’s feckless welcome of over one million Middle Eastern immigrants, many of whom will never be economically productive and thus be unlikely to assimilate.

So yes, Russia is challenging the U.S., but hyping Russia as a greater threat than the Islamic State, per Sen John McCain (R-Ariz.), is, as they say in Washington, “unhelpful.” It is, however, clever marketing to prepare the taxpayers for Cold War 2.0.

To continue reading: Time for the US to modernize its approach to Russia

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