Whenever I write about the Kremlin’s military adventurism, in the Ukraine or elsewhere, I invariably receive comments in response extolling the brilliance of Russian President Vladimir Putin vs. Western leaders (“Putin’s is brilliant,” or “our leaders are weak and corrupt”, “it’s useless, forget about it. Putin has us over a barrel,” etc., etc., etc.).
I believe these comments are half-right in that the leaders of the Western world have not exactly covered themselves with glory in their recent dealings with the Kremlin, whether it be President Barack Obama, Chancellor Angela Merkel, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy (who OK’d the deal to sell Mistral amphibious assault ships to Russia), or other feckless Euroweenie politicians. In addition, there are the corrupt German businessmen in bed with the Kremlin, and the useful idiots among the American isolationist movement (like Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul). It is also true that Vladimir Putin has been effective in putting into practice the tactics developed by Hitler in the 1930’s for playing Western democracies like a fiddle. In spite of all this, it nevertheless is true that whatever brilliance Putin possesses, it is only of a short-term tactical variety. Strategically, he is a dunce.
Why do I say that?
Consider this, until about 2008, the most secure borders the Russian Federation had were all in Eastern Europe. At that point in time, peace reigned in Eastern Europe. While there were some discordant notes, they were all created by the Kremlin, with every Eastern European country sincerely desiring peaceful relations and mutually beneficial trade with Russia. (They still do, they just know they aren’t going to get it.)
In contrast, Russia’s relations with Muslims, who live in the Russian Caucuses and control a number of countries that border Russia to the south, are very tense, if not hostile. This is partly because Russia has prosecuted a brutal war of occupation in Chechnya. Until the mid-90’s, Chechnya was led by Dzhokhar Dudayev, a western leaning, thoroughly secular, former Russian Air Force general. Unfortunately, in 1996, the Russians (using technology that may have been supplied by the Clinton administration) killed Dudayev, when he was talking on a cell phone. As a result of this decapitation strike and the wholesale brutalities inflicted on the Chechen people by the Russian military, the Chechen opposition has metastasized into the brutal Islamofascist terrorist movement that doesn’t think anything of massacring schoolchildren or taking over the Ost-Nord Opera House in Moscow. While a graveyard peace is currently in effect in Chechnya, one gets the sense that at the first opportunity, Putin’s corrupt stooge there will be overthrown and replaced by an ISIS-type hydra. The anti-American left always talks about ‘blow-back’ - well this is what real blowback looks like.
Another threatening border is the one with China. Eastern Siberia, a sparsely inhabited treasure-house of oil, gas and minerals, is under direct demographic threat from illegal Chinese immigrants pouring across the Russian border to out-compete the local Russians (where alcoholism is a chronic problem) for jobs. It is clear the Chicoms are biding their time until Eastern Siberia reaches a demographic tipping point.
So, what does Vladimir Putin do about this situation? He has systematically created provocation and fermented war in Eastern Europe, while providing aid and comfort to Russia’s real enemies in the Muslim world and with China.
With regard to the Muslim front, Russia is busy supplying nuclear technology and advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Iran. So, what will the mullahs in Teheran do with their nuclear missiles and no-return-address A-bombs to a country famous for brutalizing Muslims? I don’t know, but I am sure we will find out if the Ayatollah’s finally get the bomb that the Kremlin is helping them build.
With regard to the Chinese threat, Putin supplies them with advanced weapons (like the SU-27 fighter - the best Russia has got), and signs sweetheart oil and gas deals with them.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Russia also has a northern border: the arctic. What has Putin done there? He is currently fermenting friction and discord with Canada over who owns the Arctic sea (and all the oil, minerals and gas that is to be found there).
With all this misplaced aggression on his part, the one thing I am sure of - no matter what happens to the peaceful, freedom-loving republics of Eastern Europe - the consequences of this large a quantity of strategic blunder won’t be good for Russia, or for the career (and longevity) of Vladimir Putin.