Analysis by Reporting San Diego.
March 31, 2017 (San Diego) Why would Russia interfere in Western elections? It is not just the United States. This is a particular question that has gotten very little attention in the press. Why is Russia doing what it is doing? We think it is relevant to spend some time on it. The first thing to understand is how Russia sees itself. This is a critical point. Not only it is the largest country by land mass in the world, with 11 time zones, it sees itself as the successor to Rome.
The term Tsar gives it away. It means Caesar in Russian. The Romanov dynasty saw itself as the successor and preserver of the Roman Empire, with the Orthodox Church s the preserver of Roman civilization. While the Romanovs are long gone, the ideology of empire is not.
The zenith of Russian power was after World War Two. It had a seat and in the security council, permanent seat, and had a critical role in world politics. It had an empire that went well beyond the borders of mother Russia. It also was the center of research and challenged the United States as the other superpower.
Much of this is self-image, and a lot of this came crashing down with Perestroika and the end of the Soviet Union. While Russia maintains that permanent seat in the United Nations, it hardly has the influence it once had. Not only that, under the leadership of Vladimir Putin it has become increasingly paranoid that the outside world wants to diminish it. It also had a brief foray with democratic forms under Alexander Yeltsin, and that was a period of diminishing fortunes and the rise of an oligarchy that still controls the fate of the state.
The European Union had this to say in 2014:
They emphasize the country’s status as one of the leading world powers whose sovereignty must be respected and whose foreign policy is independent. The idea that Russia should be recognized as a great power is a key parameter that has driven Moscow’s posture on the world stage for several centuries. Moscow has constantly claimed a role in all major international strategic issues and has never accepted a limitation of its authority to regional matters. This is due to a number of factors including Russia’s Orthodox identity, position between Europe and Asia and the immensity of its territory7 . This positioning also reflects the nostalgia of the Cold war era, when Moscow stood as one of the two superpowers. This nostalgia is illustrated, among other things, by Russian officials’ frequent references to the ‘special responsibility’ that their country, as one of the major nuclear powers, shares with the United States in world security affairs. Russia, the new Security strategy says, has become a great power again. Determined to ‘increase its role in the emerging polycentric world’, it is increasingly involved in the resolution of major international problems and military conflicts, in ensuring strategic stability (Security strategy)… Russia has become a ‘centre of influence in today’s world’ (Foreign policy concept).
So we need to look at some background as to what happened after the fall of the Soviet Union.
During the Yeltsin years not only were state enterprises privatized, to the benefit of the few. Poverty went through the roof, with not just some food insecurity, but starvation for some. Also, many states that were part of the Soviet Socialist Republics left. This was the case with the Stand in Asia, but also Ukraine. Poland and the Baltic states not only turned away from Russia but in fact looked at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for alliance and protection.
It is not that poverty was unknown in Soviet times. Like the modern day the United States, the state blamed the individual for poverty, since poverty is driven by state policies only happened in Capitalist countries. This is from the findings from the World Bank, which got involved in creating a series of rescue packages:
Between the 1960s and the 1980s, the standard of living of Soviet citizens had steadily improved, and the remaining serious poverty remained hidden in prisons, labor camps, long-term care hospitals, and residential institutions for children, the elderly, and the disabled. During the 1980s, however, inflation, unemployment (particularly in Central Asia), continuing consumer shortages, and increased rationing of items such as sugar and butter forced Soviet citizens to rely more heavily on extensive informal networks and the shadow economy to obtain necessary goods and services. Nevertheless, the state continued to convey the strong ideological message that poverty reflected individual rather than societal failure Poverty as a social phenomenon was depicted as a feature of capitalist rather than socialist societies
When the economic collapse occurred, however, it spared no social group, with the exception of the top political and economic elite, who were able to convert power over resource allocation into ownership of important assets. Although the newly poor came from all walks of life, they had in common the fact that they (or at least the overwhelming majority) had been employed, housed, and socially integrated into their communities before the collapse They also shared many ideological convictions: that the state should provide full employment, free education and health care, and a wide array of social supports, and that it should prevent the emergence of huge economic inequalities.
The collapse was a surprise, but it also led to an opening for western institutions to come in with rescue packages which also was a hit to the psyche of a proud people. It also led to the Yeltsin years. Those were years of diminishing influence around the world. They also saw increasing levels of corruption and a less efficient government. Democracy failed to take root. The shock programs imposed by western institutions and the United States caused deep pain.
When Putin took over at the beginning of the new century he replaced a much weakened Yeltsin. He promised to turn the country around. He also promised to return the honor of the nation and its rightful place in the world order. He did not come in as a committed democrat, rather as a strongman. This meant that Putin was not here to build on institutions started in the 1990s. He was in place to remake the state. His goal was to also remake the empire. This is a matter of national pride and destiny.
There are several objectives to this. The first is to remake the buffer states that protect the motherland from outsiders. It is in this vein that the attack on the South Ossetia in the Republic of Georgia has to be seen. It was also the first test to the outside world. Internally it has been engaged in a war against terror This has become central for Moscow’s increased role in the global arena. This is clearly seen in the focus that Moscow has on terrorism as part of its foreign policy. This includes hosting conferences on the subject.
This was the tool for Putin to harden his hold on power, as his first action was not in Syria, but in the Chechen region. His government has been at war with Chechen guerrillas since he took over. Like George W Bush, declaring war on a tactic has produced a war with no end, which can be used to change society. In the case of Putin to ensure his role as head of state.
The Gerasimov Doctrine and the New Ways of War
First off, some of this doctrine could be at play in the US Military. There is an overt reliance of special forces elements, as well as acting in the shadows. Still, the US is not as expansive in the idea that war and peace are separated by 100 shades of gray.
The Russians do believe that the space where offensive operations takes places is not necessary an active battlefield. Some of it takes places in your computer and my computer. It also takes place in influence campaigns and propaganda. This is an expansion of the policies of maskirovka This word means deception, and it is an art form that goes back to at least the Great Patriotic War, what we know as World War II.
In the soviet era this was defined as follows:
But Soviet doctrine accounted for the many enabling conditions of warfare: psychological operations, manipulation of media and the population through propaganda, electronic warfare, counterintelligence operations, use of unconventional warfare through partisans and Special Operations Forces (SOF), and many forms of physical deception. The intent was to win not only the physical fight but the fight of the mind:
These days it has expanded into other sphere. Influence operations include things like Russia Today and Sputnik News. They also include using internal sources of discord, such as Breitbart News, and Alex Jones, the latter is more than just willing. They also include the use of advanced cyber technical units. In other words, the lines between war and peace have blurred to the point that using hackers is part of a continuum. This is a constant state of war.
Where did we see this doctrine? And why has Russia become increasingly brazen? The first place we saw it was in South Ossetia as mentioned above. That short war in the Georgian Republic is part of an old conflict between Georgia and Russia that goes back centuries. However, the West did not react. This was a sign that the expansion of Russia into its ancestral lands would come with no opposition.
Then came Crimea. This region of the world has seen a war between the great powers in the past. The charge of the Light Brigade happened in this area of the world.
Crimea is essential for access to the Black Sea, and it’s deep water ports can serve as a forward deployment bases for naval forces. Russia has considered the Crimea Russian territory for centuries. How it went about taking Crimea was the Gerasimov doctrine. It did not involve the use of open military forces. It did not involve a confrontation that would have led to a hearing before the United Nations. What Putin used were an influence campaign over media, and little green men, who later were identified as Spetnzatz. In other words, special forces augmented local forces that later on became peacekeepers. This time around the West did react, and it did react with the kind of punishing sanctions that have Russia would love to see lifted.
They have tried the same kind of tactics in eastern Ukraine after they saw the employment of the colored revolutions. Why eastern Ukraine? It is a heavily industrial area that once served the Soviet Union in the manufacturing of advanced weapons systems. It also has a large Russian population. There is one more reason. In the modern self-view of the Third Rome, it is Kiev where Russia began in the middle ages. It is Kiev where the resistance to the forces that want to destroy the third Rome has to start. It is Kiev that has aligned itself with the West, even if it is not a NATO member. It is Kiev that had guarantees to defense when it surrendered nuclear weapons to Russia. This is known as the Budapest Memorandum.
The Ukrainian missiles were either transported to Russia or destroyed. As compensation, the regime in Kyiv received financial assistance from the United States, cheap energy supplies from Russia, and security guarantees that were enshrined in the Budapest Memorandum.
Admittedly, these guarantees were only a formality, since no sanctions mechanisms had been established at the time.
“Nowhere does it say that if a country violates this memorandum, that the others will attack militarily,” said Gerhard Simon, Eastern Europe expert at the University of Cologne.
German journalist and Ukraine expert Winfried Schneider-Deters agrees, telling DW, “The agreement is not worth the paper on which it was written.”
To say that the West and the US in particular have failed to defend Kiev is an understatement. They were not obligated, but we now face a more aggressive Russia.
Why is Russia so desperate to remake the borders of the Soviet Union? This is not just about remaking empire, or a place in the world. They also want to have a buffer. One that will protect the motherland from attack. Russia has a long history of foreign invasions.
So we go back to the United States, and Western Europe Putin has reasons to interfere in our elections. He believes democracy. the enlightenment and liberalism are a poison. The heart of the system is free and fair elections. Ideologically these are critical. Moreover, they have a weakness in them. Our institutions allow for the opening of influence operations under the guise of the First Amendment. To clarify we do the same thing in other countries, as far as influence operations are concerned. We just use Voice of America, some might argue CNN.
Putin wants the sanctions gone. He also wants free rein in the expansion of his borders into something akin to the Romanov Empire. Mostly, he wants respect. This is why he is also expanding operations in places like Syria where his first goal, to assure the continuation of Bashar Al Assad as head of government is pretty much a fait accompli. The new Donald Trump administration has signaled they will not insist on the removal of Assad from the Syrian government.
Putin also wants to explore the arctic for oil. Why? This is the heart of the economy, Russia does not export much in advanced goods. Their economy depends on minerals and oil.
The top exports of Russia are Crude Petroleum ($90.1B), Refined Petroleum ($57.5B), Petroleum Gas ($25.4B), Coal Briquettes($10.4B) and Raw Aluminium ($7.02B), using the 1992 revision of the HS (Harmonized System) classification. Its top imports are Cars ($7.73B), Packaged Medicaments ($7.01B), Vehicle Parts($5.05B), Computers ($4.05B) and Planes, Helicopters, and/or Spacecraft ($3.45B).
The size of the Russian economy is about the size of Italy’s
This makes it harder for Russia to be taken seriously, and its manufacturing base is not what it once was. Given its dependence on oil for its economic activity and to finance government services, cheap oil is not in their interest. They need oil to go up in price, and this is one reason for opening the Arctic. This brings us to Rosnef and who bought it? As Reuters reported:
More than a month after Russia announced one of its biggest privatizations since the 1990s, selling a 19.5 percent stake in its giant oil company Rosneft, it still isn’t possible to determine from public records the full identities of those who bought it.
The stake was sold for 10.2 billion euros to a Singapore investment vehicle that Rosneft said was a 50/50 joint venture between Qatar and the Swiss oil trading firm Glencore.
Unveiling the deal at a televised meeting with Rosneft’s boss Igor Sechin on Dec. 7, President Vladimir Putin called it a sign of international faith in Russia, despite U.S. and EU financial sanctions on Russian firms including Rosneft.
Then there is the mystery of the Steele Dossier, which also mentions Rosneff. This according to Business Insider:
“Sechin’s associate said that the Rosneft president was so keen to lift personal and corporate western sanctions imposed on the company, that he offered Page and his associates the brokerage of up to a 19 per cent (privatised) stake in Rosneft,” the dossier said. “In return, Page had expressed interest and confirmed that were Trump elected US president, then sanctions on Russia would be lifted.”
While a lot of this is circumstantial, it does fit strategic goals for Russia It also mentions many of the people who have been in the Trump orbit who also have a lot of business in Russia, such as Carter Page/ Was this an exercise of soft power by Russia? We know US intelligence agencies believe such.
The doubts we are seeing from a coterie ranging from the far right to the unorganized left in the United States is part of that operation. So are publications such as Breitbart and Alex Jones. These collective doubts in both the government and institutions are within the strategic goals of Maskirovka and specifically the Gerasimov Doctrine.
To be very specific, nation states do this, in order to weaken real and perceived enemies. What the Russians have been doing though is a decade-long exercise in weakening Western institutions, We are in the midst of a new cold war.