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The Daily Vertical: Head Games And Sanctions (Transcript)

  • Brian Whitmore

Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Ivanov said this weekend that Western sanctions are actually helping the Russian economy and that he hoped that they would remain in place as long as possible.

Now Ivanov, of course, doesn't really believe that. He's not that delusional.

What he is doing is playing an old Soviet head game.

The game is called "reflexive control," a doctrine developed by Soviet military strategists back in the 1960s that aims to compel adversaries to behave in a manner advantageous to Moscow.

WATCH -- The Daily Vertical: Head Games And Sanctions

It does this by preemptively shaping the environment through disinformation campaigns, psyops, business ties, political meddling, establishing military facts on the ground -- or any combination thereof.

It's a game that anybody who has ever dealt with a manipulative teenager -- or adult for that matter -- will recognize.

And it's a game that Putin's Kremlin has been playing with the West in ways big and small for years.

And it appears some Western leaders are falling for it again.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz both said this weekend the European Union should begin phasing out sanctions against Russia.

Steinmeier said this despite the fact that his boss, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, says they should remain in place until Russia fulfills its obligations under the Minsk cease-fire.

The German foreign minister also called NATO's recent exercises in Eastern Europe "warmongering," echoing the Kremlin's own rhetoric.

It is still unclear whether Steinmeier and Kurz's remarks are signals or just noise.

When the EU decides next week, we'll know whether the Kremlin's little head games are working.

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