Russia's Strategic Influence

May 21, 2016

I was rather amused by the September interview of Professor Robert Levgold, a world leading expert on Soviet foreign policy. He indicated that Russian behavior today is without strategy. He further stated, “Critics of the Obama administration see the US, NATO, and Germany as being outmaneuvered at a tactical level. I think this is wrong, I don’t think the tactical response is taking Russia far in a useful way.” It is good to know that Putin has no global strategic or tactical initiative under his belt. When Putin was kicked out of the G8, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said, “Being kicked out of the G8 will be no big deal.” That in itself provided Putin with the strategic environment to establish broader goals to advance his organization and organize resources to meet the economic survival objective of Russia.

The real perspective of international law is to punish Putin and the Western perspective that his economic world will eventually crumble. Kicking a leader out of the group strengthens Putin’s determination to not return to the group in order to shake hands and have a glass of wine just to be part of the big boys club. The big boys club wants to determine the social economic order of the world. It wasn’t the fact that Putin was paranoid of the big boys club, for he only needed China’s legitimacy to strengthen his resolve in the world order that offers an alternative to other countries.

Putin developed a strategy to consolidate his view on Russian citizens that economic sanctions will play a significant role in the downturn of the Russian economy. However, Putin’s strategy also aimed to establish a coherent nature that the Russian people will survive regardless. The tactical error was made by Obama when he told the Russian people they have nothing but oil and gas while Obama and American have the IPhone. This comment alone penetrated into the psychology of changing their industry and technology to meet the standards of the global economy even with the restraint of Western countries refusing to deal with Putin.

It was Lavrov that attached a semblance of order by stating, “Russia was not attached to the format and we don’t see a great misfortune if it will not gather. Maybe for a year or two it will be an experiment for us to see how we live without it.” It was the adaptability of Putin’s strategy coinciding with Xi Jinping’s economic ambition. Putin did not have the inconsolable perspective generated by Western economic intellectual elites that Russia will fail economically.

Russia’s economic and foreign policy is intertwined, it offers a coherent transformation that it could act and launch military assaults against terrorism in Syria. Putin is attaching a degree of international order despite America’s and Germany’s dominance. Putin also established a state-identity that shapes decisions for countries to articulate an objective-will that meets a different criteria in how the world order should be established. One can see slightly different behavioral movements from Saudi Arabia, Japan, Italy, and France. King Salman did phone Putin and Putin was sure to tell the media that it was he that initiated the call.

The West can not integrate Russia or China under its own image. Integration is not desirable nor will their institutions allow it. How can Russia and China not pursue the same economic expansion similar to the United States? What rightful will does the West have in determining that virtue to Russia and China? Russia’s engagement with the West rested on stability, not on instability that involved Libya, Iraq, and Syria who contributed to Russia’s uneasiness with America’s international dominant position. Europe and the US felt like they could use whatever levers of influence they got their hands on to subvert Russia into a minor role in the global sphere in defining the future development of the international order.

Putin had no choice but to get involved with Syria to show China that Russia has the strength to legitimize economic ties with China. Putin had to prove to Xi that he could integrate the Eurasian Economic Union with China’s Economic Silk Road Belt project to reach a new level of partnership. It is a question of achieving an equal common economic space in the universality of the continent. Why would China partner with an economic weakling?

Russia’s exclusion in the position of the world order was developed by Germany and the US. What they could not predict was Putin’s intellectual prowess in understanding the tenants of the geopolitical world. Putin’s vision of foreign policy was an expansion to repel America’s influence towards the Asia-Pacific region. Islamic terrorists only solidify Russia’s involvement and strength in establishing an alternative hegemony not governed by the US and Germany.

On September 28, 2015, Ukraine confirmed its intention to purchase 2 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia. Rosneft indicated it is capable of meeting all Japanese natural gas demands. Shinzo Abe indicated that this attaches great importance in stepping up the partnership with Russia due to the changing strategic environment in the Asia-Pacific region. Levgold suggested that Russia should curb their military spending because of the current dreadful state of their economy. However, why would Russia even begin to think of doing that? Russian state-owned ROSATOM indicated by the end of the year, the 10-year foreign orders portfolio reached a record US $101.4 billion, up 39% on the year. Additionally, Russia has a devalued Ruble and their military weaponry is in high demand due to its competitive pricing.

Russia is changing their economy stealthily without fanfare. They are still dominated by resources but the climatic change is shifting towards technology. If Levgold believes that China is not making its economic commitments to Russia then he must reassess his thinking. It was a Russian oil company that stated it was ready to compete with Saudi Arabia head-on in regards to oil and natural gas. They are simply legitimizing their claim to supply energy in the Asia-Pacific region.

As theocracy, democracy, and capitalistic kleptocracy play out in the Middle East, the most reliable energy supplier will become unreliable. It was a strategy and sequence that Russia imbued to the world that Saudi Arabia and OPEC have become an ineffective instrument in the price of oil. Putin came close to identifying that it may have been Obama and Saudi Arabia lowering worldwide oil prices. However, his pride would not let him do it. Russia has a consolidated strategy of playing chess. That’s why the nation harbors the best mathematicians in the world.

Darwin knows the behavior of primates and the fact that when you kick out a dominant male from the group he will use strategy and tactics to claw his way back into power. Levgold was right; paranoia does stretch to all primates especially in democracy, communism, and kleptocracy. After all, it was the defense minister Ash Carter that recently said the biggest threat is China and Russia. You need to conquer your paranoia to achieve your strategy and leadership.



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