In this series of posts I’ve been discussing the backstory to   the upcoming Trump/Putin summit meeting.  That meeting was first suggested by Putin and now Trump’s own national security advisor John Bolton (who himself is historically not a fan of Putin) is off to Moscow to follow up on Putin’s proposal.

Given the state of chaos in American politics at present, it’s hard to understand why Trump would pursue a meeting which would appear to have the bad “optics” so hated by contemporary politicians. On the other hand, it is hard to overestimate the personal connection that exists between the two men and Trump’s admiration for Putin, who exemplifies the type of tough leadership Trump strives to practice.

Beyond that personal equation, there is also a fundamental agreement in both men’s views on tactics – and tactics are incredibly important to the two, especially since Putin has demonstrated his ability to actually turn around his own popularity and re-establish himself as the single dominant political force in Russia, all within an amazingly brief span of time.

No more than a decade ago, Putin and his supporters reached the conclusion that Russia was under direct political attack by the west, carried out through the actions of various non-government agencies (NGO’s) who had inserted themselves into elections in nations throughout the former Soviet domains and who were increasingly involved inside Russia itself. The history of those democracy initiatives goes back decades, with a resurgence during the post 9/11 Bush Administration.

It involves both federally funded American organizations and privately funded open democracy activist groups. Beginning in 2004, it became increasingly clear that their activities, and those of similar groups from the European Union, were successfully destabilizing elections and established regimes across Eastern Europe. By 2008 Putin and his associates were openly stating that they would either reassert control during the upcoming Russian elections or literally lose the soul of the nation to foreign influence.

Of course, without being too conspiratorial, it’s simply true that open elections and multi-party governments are inherently destabilizing, somewhat chaotic and much less “efficient” than single party regimes. Governments led by long time Soviet era figures would hardly be expected to have welcomed the chaos of fully open democracy and contentious elections under any circumstance. Not surprisingly the Putin establishment responded to political change in Georgia, the Ukraine, and within the Russian Federation itself as foreign “meddling” and increasingly sought to oppose what they considered foreign intervention.

Open democracy does fragment national politics and can become the bane of central control, efforts to spread it can be a seen threat. Throughout the Cold War, America repeatedly intervened to support pro-American regimes that were facing populist, open democracy movements. Stu Wexler and I tell that story in Shadow Warfare and I go much further in exploring it in Creating Chaos. In the 21st Century Putin has responded to the decade of political chaos in Eastern Europe and the Baltic from 2004-2014 in much the same fashion, and arguably, much more efficiently.

Beginning in 2008 Putin began a series of initiatives to oppose the influence of open democracy initiatives inside Russia by rebuilding  a centralized power structure, with a great deal of focus on attacking and deconstructing what had become a relatively open media following the collapse of the Soviet Union. He coined the term “fake news”, he began encouraging his oligarchic supporters to buy into control of various media groups and himself reasserting centralized government media control over state owned radio and television networks.

By 2014 that initiative had proved increasingly successful, as had been a complimentary effort to emphasize and differentiate Russian culture, Russian heritage and Russian values from the West. Putin was quite open about his agenda and his views, asserting in speeches that the West – especially America – did not understand the fact that Russia was inherently different and needed to be treated accordingly.

Putin repeatedly and publicly made it clear that Russia deserved the sort of international status and dominion that it had held for centuries under first the Russian empire and later the Soviet Union.  The west needed to look back within itself, worry about its own problems and cease interference in the territories that Russia had controlled over the centuries.

In pursuit of that worldview Putin moved to weaponize the type of political chaos that he felt had been directed towards Russia from the West, directing it back towards them. In doing so he encouraged both domestic and foreign activities which have not only fully restored his own power inside Russia but which have created a level of political chaos on his borders, within the NATO nations and inside the United States which could hardly have been imagined only a decade ago.

While those actions have provoked strong response in Europe, the American reaction has been much more mixed. A series of sanctions have created difficulties for certain Russian oligarchs and companies, yet at a less visible level, Russian government activities within the United States and with certain American political figures remain unaffected – and largely unpublicized.

In summary, as the move to a July summit between Trump and Putin proceeds, Putin has placed himself in a position of strategic influence which is actually not justified by either his economy, his military or his alliances. In a classic sense he has gained that position by playing not on his strengths but his opponent’s weaknesses.

All of which leads us to the question of what his agenda in the upcoming summit meeting will be, and how that could be translated to match that of Trump’s own needs. I’ll speculate a bit on that in my final post on contemporary Russian/American relations.


6 responses »

  1. Anthony M says:

    Could I ask if there is a common denominator in the interests of the Senators looking to visit Russia? They all seem to have some funding from the Koch network, although that is very common for Republicans and so not immediately obvious to me what the agenda would be.
    Ps nearing the end of Unidentified…rare to find a really new insight into that time period but you have done so both in terms of the use of indications analysis and in taking the reader much more completely into the mindset of intelligence officers of the time period than other works I’ve read have achieved. Well done.

    • larryjoe2 says:

      The common denominator, at least superficially, is that these people area all strong Trump supporters and have long time connections to his pro-Russian business advisors. The initiative had been in play since during his election campaign:

      As to the agenda, as with Trump himself it appears rather generic, these folks admire Putin and want stronger business, security and scientific cooperation with Russia. I’d love to have more detail about their individual districts to see how this plays with their local politics or whether its more a reflection of their financial donors. There certainly is money to be made in doing business with Russia and Putin would love to do business as long as the West backs off from pressing him as he restores a level of political hegemony over territory he considers historically Russian.

      I also have no idea as to whether are simply naive about the way Russia conducts political warfare or have agendas which are outside such issues.

      Thanks for the kind words on Unidentified, there is still some solid analysis that can be done on the subject of UFOs and I’m involved with a small team that is doing a comprehensive study intended to profile high quality, close range observations of objects over several decades with the intent of establishing technology signatures. More to come on that at some time, its a grueling effort with much data slogging.

      • Anthony M says:

        Off topic I know but that work on technological signatures is very interesting. I’ve been considering something along those lines in and amongst the day job (i.e. slowly). For what it’s worth there seem to be several patterns in the behaviour of the most reliable reports that might be indicative.
        a) rotation of one or more objects around another. Examples include Kodiak Island, Paul Hill’s 1952 report, the Tremonton film and Toms River.
        b) An approach to an aircraft, interaction with the aircraft, and departure. Examples include Fukuoka (1948), Kodiak Island (1950), the 1959 B52 North Montana / Saskatchewan case and the 1964 USS Gyatt case (one with exceptionally good data) to name but a few.
        c) Evidence of pulsed or alternating EM fields such as Levelland 1957. The apparent heating effects on soil associated with Trans-en-Provence (1981) might be connected here. The Florida Scoutmastee case wouldn’t normally make the list but the soil sample data fits very well.

        The tricky parts are locking down a ‘clean’ dataset (very few cases have enough primary sources of data to rule out all possible misidentifications) and secondly how to determine if behaviour is non-random or possibly linked to naturally occurring plasmas in anything other than a qualitative sense.

        Best wishes

      • larryjoe2 says:

        I’ll move back into a couple of posts on UFO’s and Unidentified shortly but the potential consequences of the upcoming Putin/Trump summit meeting are so significant that I need to get my speculation on record so we can check it out vs. what really happens. Depending on what happens there we could see the groundwork for a new world geopolitical structure emerge with Russia being essentially ceded a good bit of its former hegemony in SW Asia and North Africa.

        But to your point, the criteria we are using for our initial UFO incident data pulls are pretty rigorous. First the object must be within 5,000 feet of the observer and present a distinct three dimensional shape. We will accept a longer range observation only if optical aids like a theodolite, telescope or binoculars are in use. Daylight observations are preferred, night time incidents either need to be much closer (Exeter), or have some special lighting aspect which allows a distinct silhouette to be viewed. Beyond that the incident has to offer not only shape distinction but some sort of observation on surface features and if at all possible secondary elements like maneuvering, formation flight, acceleration, deceleration, measured speed (via radar or as compared to an adjacent aircraft with known speed).

        All those elements will be entered as “signatures” as well any secondary effects that are documented – ionization, soil heating effects (scout master), radiation, etc.

        Several of the incidents you mention will be included – actually the Gyatt incident will also be in the next edition of Unidentified, as will the most recent Flir-1 and Gimbal intercepts.

  2. Anthony M says:

    Yes, very interested in your take on the geopolitical situation. I had begun to think my early concerns may have been overstated but we have recently begun to see an increased number of moves that fit that early rhetoric. Russia could stand to gain a lot out of this if the US really wants to split them away from Iran but that is just part of what I think you may be correct in describing as an attempt to create a new world order…and a very unpleasant one at that from the point of view of almost everyone on the planet apart from a handful of billionaires.
    One of the aspects of all this that is so striking, not just in terms of the US but also here in the U.K. with Brexit and elsewhere is how so many people can be manipulated into voting for something so directly against their own interests by appealing to some very dark instincts and attitudes. I could go on, but won’f (Sigh of relief all round!)
    Looking forward to your take on it.

    • larryjoe2 says:

      Perhaps one of the most fundamental changes in the new world order that will possibly emerge is that the United States may simply withdraw from championing democracy initiatives and human rights around the globe – focusing internally instead and moving to a foreign policy of political accommodation in pursuit of economic security. A policy of not challenging a return to Russian hegemony in SW Asia and North Africa and of not challenging China on its silk road initiative (but diverting attention from that much more seminal economic warfare by sabre rattling in the South China Sea) will make Trump’s meetings with Russia and China more comfortable and superficially successful.

      Having said that, America’s record of overseas political action during the Cold War was largely been one of overt talk about human rights and covert action intended to support any regime declaring itself to be anti-Communist and pro-American. Given the hundreds of thousands (more likely millions) who died under those regimes, its hard to argue that anything will actually be lost. Repressive regimes like Saudi who want to do business with the US will be supported while regimes who speak badly of America will be publicly poked and prodded…with little practical result other than actually creating leverage for Russia and China.

      If anyone doubts that last point, take a look at what current US threats on sanctions against Iran are doing to the price of oil – which is in turn literally saving Russian and Saudi economies which only months ago were under increasing capital stress.

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