Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Power Vertical

Beyond Containment

Containing Russia means more than bolstering Europe's defenses.
Containing Russia means more than bolstering Europe's defenses.
By Brian Whitmore

You've gotta love it when a Kremlin official gets caught telling the truth.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova this week called a NATO plan to station air, naval, and ground forces in six Eastern European countries -- Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania -- part of a strategy to "contain" Russia.

Well, yeah. That's exactly what it is. And it wouldn't be happening if Russia hadn't annexed Crimea, started a war in the Donbas, and persistently menaced the Baltic states.

In addition to the NATO plan, the United States has quadrupled its budget for European defense to $3.4 billion and plans to send a brigade-sized force of 3,000 soldiers to the continent, including to the Baltic states.

Additionally, Great Britain will deploy five warships to the North Atlantic, the North Sea, the Baltics, and the Mediterranean.

"This is not a thunderstorm that's going to blow over," Reuters quoted an unidentified senior NATO official as saying about the West's standoff with Russia. "This is climate change, and we have to prepare for the long haul."

The planned deployments represent a big step toward addressing vulnerabilities on the alliance's Eastern flank, like the threat of Moscow sending "little green men" to the Baltics to start a hybrid war.

The commander of the U.S. Army Europe, Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, has also highlighted the exposure of the Suwalki Gap, a roughly 100-kilometer stretch of the Polish-Lithuanian border wedged between Belarus and Russia's Kaliningrad region.

"Capture by hostile forces of Suwalki or bordering Lithuanian territory would cut off the three Baltic states from other NATO countries," Agina Grigas, a fellow at the Atlantic Council and author of the book Beyond Crimes: The New Russian Empire, wrote recently. "Analysts have likened Suwalki to the Cold War era's Fulda Gap in Germany where NATO planned and prepared for hypothetical Soviet attacks."

Weaponizing Globalization

But while NATO's moves this week should create a credible deterrent to a kinetic threat from Russia -- a military attack, hybrid or otherwise -- on one of its members, Moscow's broader challenge to the West is nonkinetic. 

It's essentially a civilizational challenge to the Western liberal order.

"Russia is not an ‘existential enemy,’ but it is an antagonist, and its self-declared interests in Europe diverge from those of the vast majority of European states," veteran Kremlin-watcher James Sherr of Chatham House wrote in a recent report.

Sherr noted that "two normative systems" have emerged on the Eurasian land mass, "the first based on rights and rules, the second on connections, clientelism, and the subordination of law to power."

Vladimir Putin's regime, he added, "is applying its tools of influence to circumvent the European normative system and undermine it."

And toward this end, the Kremlin has taken advantage of Russia's integration into the global economy to undermine the West's institutions. 

In effect, it has weaponized globalization. 

The Kremlin has weaponized international finance and business to establish a pro-Moscow lobby abroad.

Likewise, Moscow has weaponized corruption to capture Western elites and make them dependent on Moscow.

By utilizing the "corrupt transnational schemes that flowed seamlessly from Russia into the rest of the former Soviet space -- and oozed beyond it" -- Vladimir Putin's regime has extended its "shadow influence beyond Russia’s borders and developed a natural, ‘captured’ constituency," James Greene wrote in a 2012 report for Chatham House.

The Kremlin has weaponized organized crime to carry out unsavory tasks with plausible deniability for the Kremlin and to provide funds for black ops.

Putin's Russia is "not so much a mafia state as a nationalized mafia," Russian organized crime expert Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University and co-host of The Power Vertical Podcast, said in a recent lecture at the Hudson Institute.

Moscow has weaponized the Internet by unleashing an army of trolls to poison discourse in Western media and with a series of brazen cyberattacks on Western targets.

In an effort to undermine unity in the European Union, it has weaponized electoral politics by supporting and financing extremist parties like Marine Le Pen's National Front in France.

And most famously, it has weaponized information in an effort to confuse, distract, and sow doubt among Western news consumers.

It is a comprehensive threat that requires a comprehensive response -- not just from NATO but from Western governments and civil societies as a whole.

"The EU must shoulder as much responsibility for European security as NATO. The defenses needed against potential ‘hybrid’ threats are societal, economic, and administrative, as well as military," Sherr wrote.

"Unless nondefense arms of government (judicial, financial, regulatory) understand the defense and security implications of their responsibilities, they will not be fit for purpose. A free media should not be defenseless in the face of trolling, state-sponsored manipulation and cyberattack. The corporate and financial sectors need reminding that commercial interests are not always the same as national interests."

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Mamuka
February 11, 2016 19:49
This article should be read along with the other article which discussed how the EU is already suffering from "Sanctions Fatigue" and wants to ease up on the sanctions regime. One man's containment is another man's appeasement.

by: Yoshua
February 11, 2016 21:12
Hybrid war is as old as mankind. Western hybrid war is very sophisticated compered to Russian hybrid war.

Western propaganda is called Public Diplomacy.
Russian propaganda is called Information War.
In Response

by: PermReader
February 14, 2016 21:19
comentators use the Jewish names for propaganda purposes

by: Karpatok Z
February 12, 2016 02:49
This article is really full of shitty attitude, lies and bias. Get your facts straight. The US instigated the color revolution in the Ukraine NOT Russia. The US wanted the port of Sevastopol in Crimea for itself. Russia took Crimea back after a referendum by its people to join Russia. You are the same propaganda organ as always, full of distortions and lies. Go to Hell! I will never try reading you again!
In Response

by: Lasse from: Norway
February 12, 2016 07:48
Trolls are here again...
In Response

by: elmer
February 12, 2016 15:25
Lasse, you are right.

The Kremlinoid trolls are here again. The CIA wanted Sevastopol, and Moozer Rasha is "under attack".

As I recall, the attack - er, the "non-attack" with "not little green men who were not there" - on Crimea took place before any referendum.

Then, a "referendum" took place - at the points of guns and bayonets.

Of course, the world according to Kremlinoid trolls is "different."
In Response

by: O.O.Howard from: eastern USA
February 12, 2016 17:45
LOL. No, no one other than Russian imperialists wants possession of the port of Sevastopol. What Americans would most like to see is what every sensible human being wants, which is demilitarization of the Black Sea. And that requires an autonomous, decolonized, Crimea which is federated with its neighbors.

I've searched and asked for good reasons why Russia needs a fleet in the Black Sea. No one has been able to give me one. Nor has anyone been able to refute what seems to me the obvious answer: the existence of a Russian Black Sea fleet justfies desiring and subsidizing a large ethnic Russian colony on Crimea, and the large ethnic Russian colony on Crimea created to support this fleet is inherently hostile to its neighbors- so that it requires a lot of Russian military protection, e.g. a fleet.

It is tautological reasoning, of course. And that means the obvious founding premise of the situation- Russian imperialism- on which the Russian colonization of Crimea is based is the persisting and manifested distortion of reality which explains why Crimea is and remains object of dispute.

America is the great anti-empire, anti-imperialist project in world history. Barbarians worldwide hate it because- while it is slow and sidetracks and contradicts itself and is indecisive and looks subvertible and unworthy much of the time- it is persistent in shrinking the dominions of serfdom, slavery, piracy, and murder upon the Earth.

by: Iz werg
February 12, 2016 12:44
"You've gotta love it when a Kremlin official gets caught telling the truth."
The truth ?! You'll die before! If translate it from russian logic, the point of Zakharova is: We are not drunk! We are not crazy! Indeed, yourselves you are drunk and insane ! You don't need to contain us, we are sane. Got it ?
In Response

by: Frank from: Africa
February 13, 2016 14:39
Izwerg,Rob,Nick,Dale and Shelley
How did you get the job? I mean trolling for Putin? Did you follow up on one of those ads: "My sister in laws cousin made 20000 $ last month just sitting a couple of hours a day in front of a computer." ?

by: Rob from: UK
February 12, 2016 13:43
Looks to me like the USA is looking to start a war with Russia, boy the war machine must be rubbing the hands in anticipation of the profits that could be made with that scale of war.

They are goading Russia and China sitting on their borders with nuclear missiles. Trying to goad Turkey into starting a war with Russia. Now sending Saudi and Turkish army into Syria supposedly 'to fight' ISIS, when we know it's actually to support ISIS against the official Syrian govt. And maybe create a false flag attack to start war with Russia. US war machine needs to go home!
In Response

by: Jack from: USA
February 14, 2016 22:37
Why do all of the Kremlin trolls eventually drag China into this mythical fight between the US and Russia? The Chinese offer a different set of issues for the world that have nothing to do with Russia. The Chinese are also in the middle of an economic meltdown and may soon have to stop playing this Game of Thrones

by: Nick N from: USA
February 12, 2016 14:02
Let's remember how it all began - 9/11. We still remember the world before this disgusting planned attack (inside job!) that took the lives of three thousand people and thousands of others who died from breathing the asbestos dust from these buildings!!
We know they, with this act stole the freedoms, created the illusion of world terrorism, started illegal wars that never end!! The rabbit hole is deep and we are close to the end i believe!! Be patient and confident that the light of truth one day will prevail and that these criminal government that create all this misery will fall!! Best wishes!!

by: Dale from: Washington
February 12, 2016 14:13
It doesn't require any conspiracy theorizing to see what's happening here in the US. Indeed, it takes extreme naiveté, or willful blindness, not to see it.

That willful ignorance is a phenomenon that has been growing year by year and has reached a level where it is a serious threat to our national well being and that of the world at large.

These beliefs and attitudes revolve around an apparent inability to deal with reality so people make up stories about the terrorists, the Russian threat, other external enemies, etc, in order to make themselves feel better. To be clear, these stories are often driven by ideology rather than truth.

by: Shelley
February 13, 2016 09:29
The USA is in the process of renigging on the Social Security payments that workers have paid into their whole working lives. It is already factual that they will receive at least 25% less$ than they paid in; adfitionally, hidden in the small print, to get budget passed, the $ amount in payment reductions was tempted while we are in an election yr, with Zcongress wanting it to be a non-issue of elections, which, on fairness to US citizens, it should be one of, if not YHE main issue of debate; instead, in that fine print, major cuts will take place-and written into bill that passed, MUST be done by/in 2017.
Yet, the Is, as stated in this article increased foreign fund by 4 X the previous & amount to over 3 (three) BILLION dollars; all on the backs of the Ederle, disabled & the ill. Shame on you Congress. Before any more cuts to the "least of us", Zcongress should give up THEIR Federally funded retirements AND be forced to serve their terms with NO expense accounts AND be forced to do their job earning ONLY minimum wage. Federally funded medical insurance should be taken from BOTH Congress AND POTUS ( who also should be forced to work for minimum wage. All "perks" deleted. Absolutely not enabled to touch a single cent of "family money" not accept anything, not even a meal from anyone, ESPECIALLY lobbiests/Special interest groups. They, who control the purse strings, should ALWYS be forced to endure first budgetary cuts & all perks. Then, and ONLY THEN should any federally elected/appointed officials be able to enforce cuts on the rest. Whatever happened to leading by example???

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About This Blog

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or