If you have been reading these posts you know that I just submitted my manuscript for Creating Chaos, to be published next year. Among other things research for the book immersed me in Russian politics and in particular Vladimir Putin’s views – which surveys show actually now represent a large segment of the Russian public, largely because of some 9 years of constant and very effective media control and news management. Putin himself has become very pointed and very definitive in describing Russian issues and policy towards the U.S. – and exactly how Russia is dealing with it. That response includes both classic “active measures” programs and deniable media warfare. He has publicly admitted to both…unfortunately President Trump and the current administration really does not want to hear Putin’s message, but then to some extent none of the recent administrations has, for reasons I detail in the book.
To cut to the chase, anyone following contemporary events should be aware of the following:
Since around 2002 and increasingly up to 2014 Russia had viewed both the EU and the U.S. to be conducting political warfare against both Russia and what it views as a territorial region of traditional Russian hegemony – a territory defined both by the Tsarist Empire and Soviet Union. That includes not only the former satellite states in Eastern Europe but areas of the middle east such as Syria and former Soviet economic partners including Iran, Iraq and nations in North Africa such as Libya and Egypt.
Putin views the United States as an active regime change agent – as evidenced by events in Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Georgia. In contrast Russia officially and culturally is now maintaining a foreign policy opposing regime change – as in Syria.
Putin views the American government and certain EU agencies as engaged in covert political action and propaganda programs including political intervention not only in Russia but in nations Russia officially claims as within its own area of economic and political sovereignty.
Based on this, Putin has openly stated, including personal remarks to President Obama and to European leaders, that since the United States and the EU are guilty of media warfare and efforts to fragment Russian sovereignty, it is only reasonable that Russia respond accordingly. Putin has even observed that such a response is not a policy of the Russian government but is a matter for voluntary efforts (which means carried out deniably), by Russian citizens acting at their own patriotic initiative – a long established Russian government practice, illustrated by both the activities of the Cominterm and Cominform. Translation: As long as individuals do it at their own volition, even if they are government officers or associated with the government, such activities are a private matter and a matter of their own rights of free speech and political practice.
Bottom line, the West is viewed as engaged in active political warfare against Russia, under the cover of the so called “democracy” initiative begun decades ago and still actively funded by the government and by voluntary donors and foundations. The Russian response is to divert that initiative politically, to fragment the American government and public in general and literally to turn American and EU attention back to its own internal problems in order to prevent further meddling with areas of Russian sovereignty.
Very simple, very straight forward, very obvious by this point in time since the actual Russian campaigns began in Europe circa 2012 and were expanded to the U.S. in 2014. This is simply the Russian foreign policy reality. The problem is that a refusal to officially or practically recognize it has allowed it to be amazingly successful so far – much more than similar CIA campaigns during the Cold War. Part of the result can be seen in the following article. Like it or not, admit it or not, this is the reality of political warfare in the 21st Century.
Sources, citations and details on the above – actually my usually annoying level of detail – will be in Creating Chaos, however current events being what they are, it’s time to get past politics and wake up to reality.
The news keeps running ahead of me but today’s published national security strategy suggests that the NSC and the intelligence advisory side of the administration certainly does have a clear view of the Russian reality – per this excerpt from the statement:
“Russia is “using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies…The American public and private sectors must recognize the threat and work together to defend our way of life,” according to the strategy document. The document also describes Russian aggression against its neighbors: “With its invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, Russia demonstrated its willingness to violate the sovereignty of states in the region.”
The document goes on to link Russia’s “information operations” to a broader campaign to influence public opinion across the globe. Its influence campaigns blend covert intelligence operations and false online personas with state-funded media, third-party intermediaries and paid social media users, or “trolls.” This, of course, is similar to the US intelligence community’s conclusions that Russia meddled in the 2016 American presidential election.”
However the article notes that the President himself still seems to be totally isolated from the concerns in the actual, published national security strategy. That sort of disconnect is clearly a problem.