Tactical Extractions Security Paper Paper
March 11, 2014
PUTIN: THE BEAR THAT WALKS BACKWARDS
In light of the current crisis within Ukraine, there remains an inherent policy within the United States to overlook the presence of strong nationalistic ties within certain countries that appears rather foreign to America’s diversified population. That is, with little or no homologous attitudes within the U.S., few Americans can understand the strong desire of one community to associate with another like-language community existing within a foreign sovereignty. The closest example, perhaps, being Spanish- speaking immigrants forming a filial bond with Mexico and other Latin American populations. Nevertheless, these people do not seek reunification with his or her ancestral country nor do they seek to turn America into that particular political system. Other communities, however, do seek to retain such heritage. Protestants in Northern Ireland seek to remain British subjects. Arabs living in Israel seek to morph into either their own Arab state or join one of Israel’s Arabic neighbors. Russians represent a similar people, seeking to adhere to Moscow rather than any number of ex-Soviet nations they now find themselves living within. This represents the crux of the current crisis pitting Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin against West-leaning Kiev.
Moscow in a Nutshell
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in ~1991, Moscow has been seeking to restore Russia’s respect upon the world stage, teetering between emergence as a bona fide democracy and retreat into Soviet-style cronyism and market isolation. Neither result appears likely, with the most probable outcome representing a regional power cordoned off from the rest of the world by a security blanket of puppet regimes controlled by the Kremlin. Despite Moscow’s best hopes, however, Russia will never recover its status as a global superpower. In fact, its current political machinations suggest a radical defense posture designed to shield that Russia bears a troubled existence. Prior to examining the political implications of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, we must place into context the Kremlin’s cards employed within this game of territorial poker.
The Russian economy, presently, floats on a literal sea of oil, whose global price must exceed $110 per barrel for Moscow to balance its budget.1 Much of this oil, along with natural gas and other hydrocarbons, is sold throughout Europe and, in particular, former Soviet client states such as Ukraine. This arrangement serves as the Kremlin’s trump card that influences political thought throughout the West as several disruptions to date in the flow of natural gas into the Ukraine have forced Kiev to accept Moscow’s bidding. The second Russian power card remains select special forces units, particular its airborne Vozdushno-Desantnye Voyska (VDV) contingents. Instrumental in the modern evolution of the VDV remains one Vladimir Shamanov, a Lieutenant General whose personal brutality survived solely due to a very symbiotic relationship with Vladimir Putin. Shamanov’s value for Putin began to strengthen in the general’s management of the Second Chechen War (1999-2000) during “which the Chechen opposition was crushed much more quickly and brutally than in the first conflict.”2 With an under-motivated conscript army, Russia’s special units serve as the sword of Putin’s aggressive (and defensive) posture. VDV units were instrumental in the prelude to – and subsequent invasion of – Afghanistan by the Soviet Union employing such units as covert tools in foreign interventions.
The third card employed by Moscow rests with Western apathy towards Russian aggression towards its former satellites. Some academics go as far as to suggest that America has a “psychological problem” of a post-Cold War superiority complex, writing, “Russia is not a defeated power and has greatly contributed to the end of the Cold War.”3 Such statements ignore the strategies incorporated by U. S. President Ronald Reagan, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II that, combined, shattered the economical and political stability of the Soviet Union. The significant decline then – as would be the case today – of oil prices decimated the Soviet economy leading to territorial divesture and political reconsideration, especially in the light of concurrent American military expansion.
These three “cards” enacted by Vladimir Putin serve to safeguard hydrocarbon prices and permit Moscow to intervene within its neighbor’s political aspirations with little or