Russian Aggression and What to Expect

Picture of Putin

By: T. Jeffersonian

            A few weeks ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree that enables him to serve another 12 years in office.  Putin is currently finishing out his current term in office which ends in 2024.  He has already served as Russian President for nearly 17 years.  Putin is currently 68 years old.  If he ultimately leaves office in 2036, he will be 83 years old and will have served as the Russian President for 32 years. 

            Putin believes that the breakup of the Soviet Union was the greatest tragedy of the twentieth century. He does not believe this because he loved communism.  He believes this because Russia’s global stature was destroyed.  Today, Putin feels that the United States treats Russia like a banana republic and he wants to remind the United States and our allies that Russia is a nuclear power and that Russia is just as powerful as the United States.  He says that Americans mistakenly believe that we won the Cold War, but he reminds us that we did not win because the war was never fought.  He said that Russia could have fought it, but they did not. 

            After 9-11, the Russians cooperated with the United States in the Global War on Terror.  In 2008, however the Russians invaded and took two parts of Georgia.  This was a punitive Russian military campaign aimed at preventing Georgia from building a competing petroleum pipeline.  George W. Bush had warned his Georgian counterpart to tone it down, but the Georgians refused.  Putin acted.  This brief war began a generalized refreezing of United States – Russia relations.  In 2011, Vladimir Putin disagreed with then President Obama’s decision to intervene in the Libya that resulted in the death of Muammar Qaddafi and the wide spread upheaval and civil war that American intervention unleashed.  Putin warned Obama to wait because the United States did not have a plan for Libya after Qaddafi fell.  Putin could have stopped Obama with U.N. Security Council veto, but Russia abstained.  Putin was then trying to work to work with Obama. 

            In early 2014, Russia forcibly annexed the Crimea.  The Russians justified these actions due to the perceived threat to lives of Crimean civilians, many of whom were of Russian ethnicity, and the danger of takeover of Russian military infrastructure located in the Crimea by extremists.  In reality, the Ukraine, like Georgia, was growing closer and closer to NATO membership.  The Crimea strategically is Russia’s only warm water port.  Had the Ukraine joined NATO, the Crimea would have been lost to Russia forever.  Putin was compelled to act to prevent its loss.  Russia has been severely sanctioned economically ever since.

            In 2015, Russia intervened in the Syrian civil war.  According to Russian and Syrian officials, the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a formal request to Russia for air strikes combating international terrorism, while laying out Syria’s military problems.  According to media reports with reference to anonymous sources, after a series of major setbacks suffered by the Syrian government forces in the first half of 2015, a political agreement was reached between Russia and Syria to intensify the Russian involvement.  In an October 2016 television interview, however, General Leonid Ivashov said that Russia’s engagement in the Syrian conflict would allow it to block proposed pipelines between the Middle East and Europe, and ensure the dominance of Gazprom.  Involvement of Qatar and Turkey with the Syrian opposition to Assad was interpreted as being connected to previous plans to construct a pipeline through Syria in 2012.  The Assad regime explicitly rejected the pipeline to protect Russian interests and ensure that Russia remained Europe’s top supplier of natural gas.  When Assad used chemical weapons on his own people and President Obama threatened retaliation, Putin refused to cooperate given Russia’s stakes in Syria. 

            In 2016 and since, the United States has continually dealt with Russian interference in our national elections and other cyber related activities ranging from information manipulation, industrial theft, and cyber-attacks.  Russian interference and misinformation campaigns, polarized American politics for the entire Donald Trump Presidency.  Trump was labeled a Putin puppet while Democrats routinely targeted both Republicans and even some Democrats such as Tulsi Gabbard as being Russian sympathizers.  During the 2020 Presidential Election, the Democrats accused Donald Trump of knowing about and then doing nothing in response to a Russian bounty program incentivizing the Taliban to kill Americans in Afghanistan.

            In recent interviews, President Joe Biden said that Vladimir Putin was a killer.  Putin responded by saying that It takes one to know one and wished Joe Biden good health.  Shortly after these back-and-forth accusations, Russia overtly moved 80,000 military personnel to the Crimea and to the Russia – Ukrainian border.  Joe Biden affirmed U.S. support to the Ukrainian government and quickly moved some military supplies to the Ukraine.  This week, the Biden Administration targeted Russia with sweeping sanctions and diplomatic expulsions Thursday, punishing Moscow for its interference in the 2020 US election, its SolarWinds cyberattack and its ongoing occupation and severe human rights abuses in Crimea.  Before implementing the sanctions, Biden spoke with Putin by phone.  Biden made no bones about the fact that the United States would be taking actions but he also indicated that he wants to get to a point of stability in the United States – Russia relationship by finding a course ahead that does not lead to a cycle of confrontation.  Biden proposed that he and the Putin hold a summit to discuss all of the issues facing our relationship.  The Russians responded with expelling 10 U.S. diplomats and stating that there would no de-escalation in relations between Russia and the United States.

            Today, the Czech Republic announced that it had informed NATO and European Union (EU) allies about suspected Russian involvement in a 2014 ammunition depot explosion and the matter would be addressed at an EU foreign ministers’ meeting on April 19, 2021.  The Czechs expelled 18 Russian embassy staff over the issue and said investigations had linked Russian intelligence to the explosion, which killed two people.  Moscow has denied involvement in that incident and said that Russians’ response should be proportionate.  The United States and the United Kingdom have both publicly announced said they stand in full solidarity with the Czech Republic in this dispute with Russia.

            What are we going to see from Russia over the next 15 years during a continued Putin regime?  The Ukraine will never stabilize and Russia may in fact invade and forcibly take the Ukraine before the country can grow even closer to NATO.  Eventually, we will see greater involvement by Russia in both Belarus and Serbia.  Belarus may itself be taken either by force or in quiet pro-Russian coup followed up with Russian forces being permanently garrisoned there.  If Bosnia becomes a NATO member as projected, Russia will move to militarily reinforce Serbia.  We will see continued poisoning and imprisonments of Russian dissidents such as Alexei Navalny.  We may very well see these dissidents die while in Russian custody.  We may well see future poisonings of Ukrainian and Belarus leaders as was seen in the 2004 poisoning of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko. 

The Russians will not pull out of Syria and when its suits their interests, we will see close Russian cooperation with China, Iran, and North Korea.  Putin knows that such cooperation gravely concerns the United States and that it distracts us.  We will continue to see more Russian involvement in Armenia and Azerbaijan now that Russian peacekeepers have moved into to prevent war between those two countries.  Russian forces in Syria, the Crimea, Armenia, and Azerbaijan plus Russian cooperation with Iran, provides Russia with considerable leverage over other nations, especially Turkey, in the Black Sea region.  We will see increased Russian activity in the Arctic, leveraging and attempting to solidify its expanded territorial claims against Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and even the United States. 

Russia will not shy away from interfering in international elections.  The United States waved the red flag in front of the Putin bull in 2017 and he will never hesitate to charge. Every time there is a sanction or an expulsion, Putin will respond with either reciprocity or with an announcement that he has signed a deal to sell large quantities of petroleum or advanced military technology to potential United States adversaries or even borderline U.S. allies such as Turkey.  We will endure Russian campaigns to sabotage United States’ advancements. 

We will see a Russia hell bent on perfecting artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, and performance enhancing drugs.  The Russian population is in a twilight period.  Their birth rate is negative and Russia has a very restrictive immigration policy.  The Russian population is in steep decline.  In 20 years, the Russian population will not be able to fill Russia’s current armed forces manpower requirements.  In 2017, Putin said that artificial intelligence is the future not only of Russia but of all of mankind…whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.  Putin intends to perfect artificial intelligence as a means to replace his defensive manpower requirements and he will use genetic engineering and performance enhancing drugs to prolong the serviceability of aging soldiers.