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Playing Chess, Not Checkers: Russian Responses to U.S. Hegemony in Kind

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Few would argue that Russia’s recent display of military assertiveness, in both its hybrid confrontation in Ukraine and recent intervention in Syria, is antithetical to its proposed self-image as a regional power. This is largely the basis of Emil Aslan Souleimanov’s article explaining how Russia is using the threat of the Islamic State to attempt to reinstate political-military hegemony throughout the former Soviet states. But Souleimanov missed the broader aspect of Vladimir Putin’s true motivations in the Middle East and throughout the Caucasus: countering perceived U.S. and NATO hegemony in the region and beyond.

The 2008 skirmish in Georgia marked the first use of Russian military power to engage an independent Post-Soviet state since the fall of the USSR. The weak reaction by the United States only highlighted the efficacy of the strategy, which came to be known as the Medvedev Doctrine, where the Russian president proclaimed that “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.” (Friedman, 2008) This ambitious military strategy rested on the reality that Russia was suffering from an economic downturn due to low oil prices and the political threat of NATO expansion to its borders. It is not a coincidence that Russia’s involvement in Georgia and Ukraine symbolically coincided with each country’s stated intent to join the NATO Membership Action Plan.

Souleimanov gets into Russia’s consistent effort to link the United States to any political or military objective it deems worthy of pursuing: besides the obvious connections to NATO, the Russian media (heavily controlled by the government as to message) assumes that “the Islamic State is a U.S. project to redraw the political map of the Middle East, or that it is used by Washington to either boost America’s supremacy in this part of the world or destabilize Russia’s Muslim-dominated areas in the North Caucasus, as well as Russia’s sphere of influence in Central Asia.” (Souleimanov, 2015) Paradoxically, this link also requires that Putin necessarily downplays the immediate threat that the Islamic State poses to Russia, which Souleimanov correctly points out. Instead, Putin speculates that North Caucasian fighters participating in the Syrian war will return to their homeland and continue the fight on native Russian soil against Russians. This is one of his primary reasons for military intervention in Syria.

Members of Russia’s political and intellectual elite are now arguing that the Islamic State could in fact pose an immediate threat to Russia’s political and military interests in the Central Asian region. This narrative helps to justify Russia’s strong military presence in the region, itself a response to a substantial U.S. military deployment in Afghanistan. Russian analysts point to “Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan as the region’s most vulnerable states in the event of a concentrated attack perpetrated by ISIS or its local allies.” (Souleimanov, 2015) Although Souleimanov correctly identifies that this is actually an unlikely threat, he does not do enough to explain this conclusion. All of these states are at least semi-authoritarian and while they do not have large militaries, they do rely on Soviet-style military agreements. They also have substantial police forces that are trained to identify and respond to any insurgent or terrorist crises, while regularly employing torture and extra-legal tactics to silence opposition. (Human Rights Watch, 2016) In other words, this region is fundamentally hostile to an influx of Islamic State members. Unlike in war-torn Yemen or Syria, the states in this region have absolute control over their respective populations and therefore represent a significant barrier for most jihadist groups. This at least partly explains why home-grown Islamist groups have been fairly weak throughout Central Asia for the past generation.

Souleimanov also suggests that Russia may be complicit in allowing its citizens to travel to Syria to fight alongside jihadists. There is little reason for Russian police to prevent these individuals from leaving. In addition to Souleimanov’s explanation that Russian authorities are counting on many of these individuals being killed in combat while in Syria, they also serve to further destabilize—and therefore undermine—U.S. intentions in Syria itself. It was also these same individuals that gave Russia the initial justification to enter into Syria, keeping in line with its doctrine to “protect its citizens.” Partnering with Assad was merely another strategic maneuver to display Russia’s independence from U.S. goals in the region, despite both the U.S. and Russia having a similar objective of defeating the Islamic State. As Russia withdraws from Syria it will remain focused on tracking the Russian-born jihadists that are intent on returning to their homeland to continue their fight once the Syrian battlefield has grown stale.

Russia’s declining political and economic influence throughout the region has forced its hand in its attempt to establish itself as a regional power comparable to China or India. Unfortunately, as Souleimanov points out, the “Central Asian elites have grown increasingly suspicious of Moscow’s expansionism, its hybrid warfare in eastern Ukraine, and its rhetoric of protecting Russians abroad.” (2015) This presents a problem for Russia, which has few potential solid partners beyond its former Soviet states. Embarrassingly, the only parties that officially recognized Russia’s claim to Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008 were Hamas and Nicaragua—not even the Central Asian states were willing to ally with Russia on such an openly anti-NATO maneuver. (Matthews, 2008) The most palpable example of Russia’s focus on military strategy is its use to maintain its influence in the Arctic region, an area that is bound to see vastly increased economic activity as the region begins to melt and reveals access points to vast reserves of hydrocarbons. (Mitchell, 2014) This level of military quasi-aggressiveness on the international stage is unique to Russia. Even China’s military posture to preserve its influence in the South China Sea is not nearly as robust. (Rizzo, Lendon, Levine, & Ullah, 2016)

Without the economic clout of China or the political standing of India, Moscow is forced to rely on modernizing and utilizing its military as a means to counter Western influence. With Syria as a showcase, Russia has taken its first step in establishing itself as a dominant military force once more that is capable of defending the region from Western—or as the Russian populace understands it, Islamic State—influence. But Russia must establish a foreign policy that does more than attempt to undermine U.S. and NATO activity in the region if it hopes to truthfully achieve the level of regional influence that China and India enjoy. After all, it is China’s trade with the United States and India’s strong political ties with Washington that have allowed them to grow. Russia must embrace a similar strategy if it wishes to compete in a similar fashion on the international stage. It may have a legitimate strategic reason for all of its military posturing, but ultimately its biggest global successes and most powerful regional influence will be in showing how well it is able to partner with others as opposed to going it alone.

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Russia–Africa Economic Forum and Summit Organizing Committee Holds Meeting in Moscow

Kester Kenn Klomegah

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The Organizing Committee in charge of preparing for and holding the Russia-Africa Economic Forum and Summit in the Russian Federation in 2019 has held a meeting in Moscow. The meeting was chaired by Russian Presidential Aide Yury Ushakov and attended by Advisor to the Russian President Anton Kobyakov, Roscongress Foundation CEO Alexander Stuglev, Russian Deputy Minister of Finance Sergey Storchak, and Special Representative of the Russian President for the Middle East and Africa and Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mikhail Bogdanov. The meeting was also attended by representatives of ministries and departments that are involved in preparing for the events.

The meeting participants discussed organizational issues concerning preparations for business and protocol events as well as their specific details. Ushakov reiterated just how monumental and important the upcoming events in the Russia-Africa format are. “The organization of the Forum is a serious first step towards our economic and political return to Africa. To date, 50 African heads of state have already confirmed they will be attending the Forum, which is a great success,” he said.

“Preparations for the most important events in the history of Russian-African relations have reached the finish line. A quarter of the world’s heads of state will come to Russia to discuss initiatives and strengthen Russian-African relations. I am certain that the participants in the Russia-Africa Economic Forum and the Summit will demonstrate a readiness to cooperate and develop joint projects in the Eurasian and African spaces, as evidenced not only by their active cooperation during the preparatory stage, but also by the number of them who have confirmed,” said Kobyakov, who serves as the Executive Secretary of the Organizing Committee.

“It is essential that Russia-Africa Summit and Forum produce an economic effect, among other things. We have carried out a lot of work to provide the African side with information. We have prepared a large package of Russian expertise and products in 12 areas. Presentations will be given for heads of state and delegates by the leaders of such companies as Rosatom, Russian Railways, Rosgeo, VTB, and others. They will present the opportunities that can be offered to African countries and so having such a large number of leaders take part in the events is a unique opportunity us to realize economic potential,” Russian Minister of Economic Development Maxim Oreshkin said.

The main event of the Russia-Africa Forum will be the plenary session ‘Russia– Africa: Uncovering the Potential for Cooperation’ during which the presidents of Russia and Egypt are expected to speak. A final declaration of the Summit titled ‘For Peace, Security, and Development’ has been drafted and includes items on the global and regional agendas that are important to Russia as well as proposals on ways to develop the full scope of Russian-African relations.

“At least 23 intergovernmental and interagency agreements and other agreements between African and Russian companies are expected to be signed on the sidelines of the Forum. The Forum will be held under the slogan ‘For Peace, Security, and Development’, which can serve as the foundation of the Summit’s final declaration and was drawn up in cooperation with the participating countries,” Bogdanov said.

The Roscongress Foundation is the organizer of the events, and the Russian Export Center and Afreximbank are the co-organizers.

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Weimar 2.0 and Russia

Alexander Kramarenko

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Power is always a sophisticated and ambiguous exercise in its own disappearance.-Les Strategies Fatales, Jean Baudrillard

For a number of years already in the West, and in Europe in particular, they talk of Weimar or Weimar syndrome alluding to the rise of the protest “populism”, collapse of political centre and the outcomes of direct democracy (meaning not only the referendum in Britain on Brexit, but the Trump phenomenon as well, i.e. his doing away with all intermediaries, be it party machine, traditional media or donors, in communicating with his electorate). That refers us to the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the Nazis coming to power in Germany. In our case it is already about the fruits, by which they judge the tree. This Weimar tree is neoliberal economics, represented by reaganomics/thatcherism and the Lisbon Agenda of the EU, which has been destroying Western societies for the past 30 years. So, one ought to have started talking of Weimar at least in 2008 when struck the Global Financial Crisis being doused since then with printing money (so-called “quantitative easying”). They realized that there was a problem only when the crisis made itself felt in politics which became averaged, alternative-free and, thus, lost any sense or relevance for the electorate. People lost their trust in traditional media, and social nets restored to the “silent majority” their say in public affairs and provided them with a means of self-organization beyond the elites’ control.

Liberal capitalism which reproduces and aggravates inequality brought about the Great Depression and led to WWII. But prior to that the contradictions within a society eradicating illiteracy fast, and the globalization, at the time imperialist, resulted in WWI. In our time all things tend to accelerate and, thus, we witness two parallel and intertwined processes, i.e. those of neoliberal economics and globalization both driven by the interests of the investment classes. While marching back to the future, should we be surprised by the outcomes? Now that war has run its course as a form of collective consumption, it has been replaced with the social state, which, however, has largely come under suspicion at the suggestion of the Anglo-Saxon nations. That turned the crisis into a protracted and irresolvable (French sans issu is closer to the Russian original) affair, all the more so that the elites espousing neoliberalism wouldn’t admit to its contemporary Weimar origins.

The US and Britain bet on further tightening neo-liberal screws, which includes cutting taxes and taxes on business among others. This is how Brexit makes sense as a mobilization project of the elites. After all, liberal capitalism is their creature, as well as, by the way, globalization which is being closed down for being obsolete and for its “mixed results”, particularly the rise of China and the rest. Given the size of their government budgets in relation to the GDP, the EU cannot afford those cuts: if it ever engages in competition on those terms, the social state would crumble and peace in Europe gone with it. Thus, the past bipolarity resurfaces in the Western community, with the poles exchanging the values they stood for if compared to the two world wars. The EU/Germany are now on the side of democracy and social justice, and the Anglo-Americans willing to throw themselves and all the rest into the dark Hobbesian world of the period between two wars with respective consequences not only for society but also for international relations.

Unlike in the past century, there is no need to invent a bicycle and pay with blood for the experience. We’ve got, simply, to find ways to preserve the social state under the new circumstances, while reaching the same goal of making market economy compatible with representative democracy of universal suffrage. The talk of fascist threat is not groundless though not all the “populists” come under the definition. Their further evolution is difficult to predict, but the lessons of history remain valid – neither culture nor civilization couldn’t prevent our continent’s descent into barbarism in the past. All the more so that after the Cold War end the universal meaning of George Orwell’s dystopias dawned upon us.

No doubt, the US and Britain, historically attached to hard socio-economic policies, will continue along that path. Brexit is inevitable due both to the democratic mandate of the referendum and the special nature of the British constitutional system with the executive power fully vested in the government, while traditions are also on the side of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. But the departure of the British might serve a powerful mobilizing push for European elites, stuck in their obsession with the status quo. It would wake them up to the reality and the need to take measures to save the integration project, its future depending to a great extent on the Germans. The Germans will have to pay for preservation of the Euro-zone for its collapse and return of the Mark would bring about economic disaster of Germany making her defenseless in the face of the Anglo-Saxon onslaught. The fact that they succeeded in “stopping” M.Salvini, having avoided holding general elections in Italy, is a poor consolation and cannot be a sound substitute for further systemic strengthening of the European integration which plainly cannot remain stuck in the present limbo for long.

How should Russia position herself in this context? We need Europe in peace with itself. We are in a position to shape such a Europe, which we have been doing over the past three centuries, including at critical moments of its history. There were errors as well, for example, when the Comintern underestimated the danger of Nazism and drew lessons from that at its VII Congress, which was late for all. We cannot afford to make that error again, even if we will have to wait for the European political mainstream to understand that one has to change for things to stay as they are. Conventional wars are out of date in the West, being replaced by trade and currency wars. And here Russia must be on the side of the united Europe providing the EU with a strategic depth by way of intensified trade, economic and investment cooperation, as well as a Eurasian entry to East Asia and South-East Asia. It is in our national interest to have an alternative to the dollar in the global monetary and financial system: here, like in other matters, complexity/diversity amounts to freedom (according to Dmitry Bykov).

Together with us, it will be easier for Europe to stand her ground in the face of Washington’s demands that it supports American Military-Industrial Complex with her taxpayers’ money. Thus, the ghost of war would finally be driven out of European politics. The cause of peace is hugely helped by the fact that, judging by recent events, the American weapons developed in the absence of competitive environment in the area of hard force politics, say F-35s and Patriots, in reality turn out to be badly wanting, sort of Baudrillard’s signs of weapons, not real ones fit for real war.

Fortunately, we have been spared the fate of living under direct oligarchic rule (Berezovsky, Khodorkovsky, etc), which makes it so easy to administer Ukraine from outside. Like early in the XXth Century, the Russian authorities preserve their freedom of Bonapartist maneuver, i.e. the ability to stay above the propertied interests. Russia did march towards fascism on the eve of the 1917 Revolution, which made of our country the chief tool of victory over those countries where fascism prevailed in the final count. Ways of History are unfathomable! The Russian proto-fascist figures who emigrated abroad took part in the Nazi project of the West. We have got to remember that and treat with caution the ideological legacy of our emigration (the People’s Labour Union, used by both the Germans and the Americans has not disappeared), as well as the efforts of those trying to pass fascism for a “Russian idea.” History has shown that fascism is not “our cup of tea.” All the progressive ideas of our time, be it existentialism, communicative action or postmodernism in its various shades, are rooted in Dostoevsky’s philosophy and fiction. What other ideas do we want?

After 1989 and 1991, we dived into the wrong type of capitalism, not socialism/capitalism with a human face (Swedish, German, etc) that we had dreamed of. Some liked it, but far from everybody. That is why we have many problems in common with Europe, those that generate states of inequality and despair, other forms of alienation. They are easier to solve together. We can draw lessons from each other’s mistakes. If we take the pensions reform in France, something could be prompted by the experience of the similar reform in Russia. It has led to a substantial rise in the over-all uncertainty in the country, which might continue well into the 2024 elections, unless a broad maneuver is undertaken at the level of socio-economic policies to improve standards of living and, accordingly, increase the stagnating consumer demand.

These are the reasons why the normalization of the political relationship with the EU is, unreservedly, an imperative for both sides, especially so against the background of the normalization underway between Washington and Minsk. The road lies through settlement of the Ukrainian crisis, which the Presidents of Russia and France are closely working for. Liberalism is no obstacle if it is an idea amongst others, not a dogma. Quite obviously, the words “liberal” and “order” are utterly at odds. No government in Europe is interested in a situation where it equals itself, contrary to Baudrillard’s warning. We had it between two wars in Europe, what other Weimar do we need to get us understand that?

From our partner RIAC

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Russia and China: New Silent War against US deception

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In the doctrine of world politics, US scholars and Political leaders are truly believe, after the entire world, especially Western society, would experience the devastations of world wars, nuclear weapons, and the “balance of terror” during the Cold War; deal with some international issues, or at least push the other powers to make concessions diplomatically and cooperatively . Economic and cultural conflicts have emerged, and soft power has become one of the most sophisticated weapons of many post-Soviet states.

Over past decade or so, new types of warfare and strategies include the “Silent War”, which takes place in the interfaces between peace and war, and in a geo-strategically arena between hidden defensive action and offensive force. It is a war on multiple zone strategies than one and specific tactical arena at the same time. Their speed and effective power are often terrifying.

Yet, As Jim Sciutto, A national security expert and CNN’s chief correspondent, pointed out on his new entitled book “The Shadow War: Inside the Secret Russian and Chinese Operations to Defeat America.” It shows the measures of the secret war to undermined US foreign policy and lessening America’s status and credibility led by Russia and China against the United States, which ended up in very significant outcomes.

Cryptic vision

Those who tend to believe in “Silent War” doesn’t exist or recognized among big power politics, this cryptically war reveals that the United States is in a state of virtual war waged by Russia without recognition, taking aggressive move against Washington and its allies, from cyberspace to outer space, and around the world. US military policymakers, national security officials and political analysts convincingly understand Moscow as a clear adversary of their homeland security.

However, opinion takes a census to indicate that the American public does not fully understand what’s going on behind this scene, especially since President “Donald Trump” did not act in front of the Americans according to that fact, and did not acknowledge that Russia’s actions pose a threat to the US soil.

To certain extent, The international relations scholars acknowledge that this skepticism is an essential move of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plan, as the American confusion is the outcome and the main goal of a new kind of silent war by Moscow, a campaign systematically targeting American politics and society which is  divided American political ideologies and interrupt American Democratic Community. Therefore, its economy, media environment, and voting systems depend on weak electronic state propagandas technologies.

Additionally, that the goal of this campaign is to attack American interests and undermine US’s foreign policy at the international stage, which means that in the current situation Washington does not prompt to make a military response, and then over time Russia is working to extend this silent strategy even further. As Valery Gerasimov (Chief of Staff of the Russian Armed Forces) clarified the aim of the “Silent War” which is to build up a “permanent front across the territory of the enemy state”.

The Silent War Strategies of the Russian perspective

This is quite superficial with regards to the paper published in 2013 entitled “The value of science in reading the future,” by Gerasimov highlighted that Russian government today is applying new strategies and highly effective mechanism in reversing US public opinion, especially through the social media. During the Cold War, Moscow had inadequate tools to manipulate American public opinion or interfere in American political campaigns. But the emergence of high tech and media platform created vast opportunities for them, and unsafe email systems became also benefit for hackers to take apart with governments in campaigns.

Due to this, some overseas political analysts mentioned that during January 2017, Russia fully intervened in the 2016 US presidential election in order “to discredit and disqualify Hillary Clinton, with a clear preference for President-elect Donald Trump.” The analysts add that Russia tried hard to interfere in the November 2018 congressional elections, and all the evidence suggests that Russia eagerly will do the same in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.

At the same time, Russian military preparations continue, with Moscow deploying in outer space weapons designed to destroy American satellites, which have become the foundations of American military and economic supremacy globally. Below the oceans, two new categories of attack submarines and ballistic missiles have been deployed. It is, therefore, better able to expand the nuclear threat to US shores.

On land, Russia invaded and occupied territory in sovereign states, including Ukraine and Georgia, and attempted a coup in Montenegro, threatening treaties and the rule of law that helped maintain peace in Europe for decades.

As noted, the Russian have annexed Crimea in 2014 in clear violation of its peace agreement with Ukraine, the United States, and Europe. Months later, it occupied and seized large lands of eastern Ukraine. In both cases, Moscow sent special forces, pretending not to be regular soldiers in the Russian army, and appeared in non-uniform, and their argument was just to help citizens of Russian origin there who fear for their safety and sustain their protections.

Actually, in last year (2018) an article published by author Gerasimov was severely describing the precise and effectiveness of strategies and tactics that Russian would soon use, pointing out that: “The open use of forces to sustain peace is often under the hands of UN Peacekeeping mission and crisis management are used only at a certain stage, as a final stage in achieving success in any armed conflict or unstable circumstances. “

Chinese rise strategy

With a new strategy concept turned in world order, “It is no coincidence that China is pursuing a strategy that is almost identical to that of Russia, with similar objectives, from expanding in world trade and government bilateral cooperations to the United States to seizing areas of the disputed South China Sea to its sovereignty, and even to its militarization, to the deployment of high effective missiles.

Surely enough, according to the author, American big companies, even though they are fully aware of Chinese trade abduction and marketing diversion, sometimes those large trading firms are refuse to seek US government for help, or identify Internet violations, for fear of isolating their Chinese partners or losing full access to the Chinese market altogether. therefore “China’s rise strategy propagates and plans to enlarge sows of fear on US deception towards her,” Jim Sciutto points out.

In return for Chinese efforts, the Barack Obama administration did not respond appropriately to Beijing, nor did it properly handle Chinese militarization efforts in the South China Sea. The former US president merely took personal promises from Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Ways of contest

So far, The United States is adjusting its political strategy and foreign policy measures abroad to address these new threats and intimidations especial from big powers. Jim Sciutto confirms that he met several Americans aboard submarines and surveillance aircraft, in NSA operations centers, and in various air overseas bases, all of whom acknowledge silent war is going to take place in this era and also they are becoming aware of the dimensions of Russian-Chinese hostility, and their war against Washington. American people, military leaders, and legislators all agree that an effective and urgent response requires to come from US leadership.

Despite the failures of some of the overseas policies and decision-making plans of the administrations of “Barack Obama” and “George W. Bush”; a many of decision-makers argue that they faced at least Russia directly during its most serious acts of aggression. Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, noted in the Washington Post on August 2018, on the tenth anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Georgia, that the Bush administration had returned Georgian troops from Iraq to help protect Tbilisi. It said it had personally warned Russian Foreign Minister “Sergei Lavrov” of the removal of “Mikheil Saakashvili,” Georgia’s democratically elected president.

Additionally, Some high ranking officials say that “Obama” has advised “Putin” personally twice from interfering in the American elections; the first was in a face-to-face conversation at the G20 summit in China on September 2016, and the second one was eight days before the presidential election in a phone call talks in order to help to prevent world nuclear confrontations.

In contrary, President Trump has shown much fewer concerns to confront Russian and has frequently wondered whether Russia is really an enemy. According to some sayings from within his current administration, his unwillingness to encounter the Russian threat is partly motivated by the perception that recognition of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election will discredit his nomination of being the new president.

Despite the ignorance and inexperience of “Trump” of the encounter of collusion with big powers particularly Russia, but his continued unwillingness to identify and face the Russian threat greatly hurt US overseas interests, and makes American foreign policy unable to handle its homeland security silent war of the Russian side.

To the end, Jim Sciutto comes up with suggestions on how to deal with Russian and Chinese intimidations more effectively. The author as political analysts does not argue that win Silent war will be easy at all but needs new investments and developments in next-generation weapons systems, such as supersonic weapons. He added that investing in conventional weapons, like warships and aircraft carriers, is not enough to maintain US standing and domination of the international system.

Let’s see how the Trump leadership in this Silent War reacts to the threat of their big power and to what extent American foreign policymakers could absorb American public opinion towards Trump’s failed overseas policies.

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