The Road to World War One and Current Russian Foreign Policy

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Dec 9, 2016 (San Diego) President Barak Obama ordered a review of the 2016 elections. The question for the Feds is whether the Russians did interfere in the election, and how deeply? Americans tend to discount this, partly because intelligence agencies have told a few major fibs over the course of the years. Whether that is the Gulf of Tonkin, or more recently showing evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction to the United Nations Security Council in the lead to the second Iraq war. There is also a sense of American exceptionalism that claims that we are immune to this.

While I understand the resistance from many Americans, and also know the politics behind the Russians are coming. There is something here. It is important. Russia as a nation state has goals and ambitions just like any other nation state does. Too put it simply,. Vladimir Putin is looking at creating a new Russian Empire, in the vein of Peter and Catherine the Great. Like the United States, they see this as manifest destiny. This is evident in speeches given by President Putin, to the Duma, the Russian Parliament.

A good example of this almost spiritual manifest destiny is in the speech of March 18, 2014. In that speech, Putin said the following:

 Everything in Crimea speaks of our shared history and pride. This is the location of ancient Khersones, where Prince Vladimir was baptized. His spiritual feat of adopting Orthodoxy predetermined the overall basis of the culture, civilization and human values that unite the peoples of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. The graves of Russian soldiers whose bravery brought Crimea into the Russian empire are also in Crimea. This is also Sevastopol – a legendary city with an outstanding history, a fortress that serves as the birthplace of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Crimea is Balaklava and Kerch, Malakhov Kurgan and Sapun Ridge. Each one of these places is dear to our hearts, symbolizing Russian military glory and outstanding valor.

Anybody familiar in passing with Russian history can hear the echoes of Greater Russia in there. This is a philosophy that started under the Romanovs. It is a vision of a Russian Empire that will guide people to the light, of the Orthodox Church.

Putin has been carrying this policy of Greater Novorossiya since trouble was encouraged by the Russians in the Republic of Georgia, with the creation of the semi-independent region of South Ossetia. This happened in 2008, and the reaction from the West, and the United States, in particular was a big yawn. Realize, South Ossetia and claims to this being Russian land go to the times of the Tsars, The reaction in the United States was particularly poignant. With the exception of U.S. Senator John McCain who declared on national television that we were all Georgians today, there was paralysis in Washington. This was a test, and we failed horribly. This only further encouraged Putin.

Admittedly the administration of George W Bush was taken by surprise. The main problem was how do you react when those behind this are not just permanent members of the UN Security Council, but a nuclear power? The US responded by starting a series of economic sanctions that have continued under the Obama administration, and have deepened since Russian aggression has increased. The Russian economy is in a deep recession as a result of these sanctions. Incidentally, they include things like not buying stage one engines for the Atlas rocket the United States Air Force still uses and tensions regarding taking U.S. Astronauts to the International Space Station.

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So this brings us back to the hacking and the road to World War One. How is any of this related to the summer of 1914? It is not quite the summer of 1914, but starting in 1910 the games played by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, as well as the Ottoman Empire, and add to that a dash of the Russia under the Romanovs, and interlocking alliances. In that case, the place where all sides started to test each other was the Balkans. Though the Ossetia region of Georgia also saw some tests.

There were a series of proxy wars fought in the Balkans, especially in Serbia-Montenegro. These were seen by contemporaries as nothing more than brush wars, best case border skirmishes. These days the situation in Ukraine is seen as something more serious, than just a border war. But the West so far has been unable to do much more than just put economic pressure on Russia.

So Russia is feeling increasingly constrained. Interfering in our elections, and as we said in the beginning, this also has an internal logic to the United States, is not that far fetched. First off, the United States has a long history of doing this in our sphere of influence. Second off, the Russians have been trying to massage elections in the West to get friendlier governments in power. The Cyber Front was opened by the United States some time back, with the deployment of the Stuxnet Worm in Iran (seen at times as a Russian client state) so the Russians engaging in Cyber Operations is not that far fetched. By the way, Donald Trump was their preferred outcome. So whether they interfered in the election or not, they got what they wanted.

The next flashpoint through in this Russian policy of expansion are probably the Baltic states. Historically the baltic countries have been either client states, or within the Russian domain. So having Russia try to expand to the Baltic using the same game plan they used in eastern Ukraine is not crazy. Here is where similarities to the road to World War One come in.

The death of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo led to the mass mobilization of Austro-Hungarian armies. This resulted in the mobilization of Russian forces, and the triggering of interlocking alliances. Once the mobilizations started, they were soon followed by the Ottoman Empire on one side, and France and England on the other. It was just a matter of time before armies marched across Europe. So what happens when Russia tries to take over what they see as historical Russian territory? The Warsaw Pact is gone, but the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is not. The Baltic States are NATO members, and they could rightfully invoke Article Five.
It has been involved in the past. From the NATO website we read:

* Collective defense means that an attack against one Ally is considered as an attack against all Allies.
* The principle of collective defense is enshrined in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.
* NATO invoked Article 5 for the first time in its history after the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States.
* NATO has taken collective defense measures on several occasions, for instance in response to the situation in Syria and in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
* NATO has standing forces on active duty that contribute to the Alliance’s collective defense efforts on a permanent basis.
(Editor’s note, we Americanized the British English)

We know that in the recent past the alliance has had military exercises, including moving American troops east. This is not a trivial exercise either. It looks as if NATO is drilling for the day, perhaps soon, when they have to move troops east to fight Russian forces. There is more, some of these units are engineering battalions, which are great during disasters, but their main job is to shore up defenses.

San Diego is a military town. Even though we have seen quite the cut back in military bases and have moved our economy away from that being the central feature of the economy, if even rumors of war come, we might see more troops than we have ever seen. Or at least, to be fair, that we have seen since world war two.

So this is the context of why the Russians hacked our elections matters. Whether you believe the government is lying, and there are good reasons to question anything coming from the Intel agencies these days, or not. The fact is that we cannot ignore Russian manifest destiny. It is as toxic as ours, and for the Russians, this would be the fourth Empire. The first was built during the medieval period and only stopped by the Mongol invasion, that changed Russia forever. The second was that of Peter and Catherine the Great that of Tsarist Russia the third was built last century. It was the Soviet Union. Putin is trying hard to recreate the glories of the Tsars, not necessarily that of Joseph Stalin. HIs speeches are increasingly peppered with the language of the Church. There is a reason for that. Also, external enemies keep him in power.

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