Putin's real long game: Politico

18:30, 02 January 2017
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Vladimir Putin has seized the momentum of the unraveling, exacting critical damage to the underpinnings of the liberal world order in a shockingly short time, Politico reports.


As the Russian president builds a new world order, attempts by the U.S. and its allies to repair the damage have been limited and slow, the report reads.

What both the current and the incoming administrations in Washington fail to realize is that “the West is already at war, whether it wants to be or not."

"It may not be a war we recognize, but it is a war,” the article reads. "This war seeks, at home and abroad, to erode our values, our democracy, and our institutional strength; to dilute our ability to sort fact from fiction, or moral right from wrong; and to convince us to make decisions against our own best interests."

The battle wider than seizing the Crimean peninsula with the use of Russia's "little green men" and occupying eastern Ukraine is more subtle. It is "a war of subversion rather than domination."

The interference in the U.S. elections means that Moscow's shadow tactics have been deployed with surprising effectiveness, and the only way forward for the West is "to embrace the spirit of the age that Putin has created, plow through the chaos, and focus on building what comes next."

Read alsoU.S. senators vow no "Faustian bargain" with Russia - RFE/RLPresident-elect Trump has characteristics that can aid him in defining what comes next. He is, first and foremost, a rule-breaker, not quantifiable by metrics we know. In a time of inconceivable change, that can be an incredible asset. He comes across as a straight talker, and he can be blunt with the American people about the threats we face. He is a man of many narratives, and can find a way to sell these decisions to the American people. He believes in strength, and knows hard power is necessary.

So far, Trump seems far more likely than any of his predecessors to accelerate, rather than resist, the unwinding of the postwar order. And that could be a very bad — or an unexpectedly good — thing. So far, he has chosen to act as if the West no longer matters, seemingly blind to the danger that Putin's Russia presents to American security and American society. The question the publication puts forward is "whether Trump will aid the Kremlin's goals with his anti-globalist, anti-NATO rhetoric– or whether he'll clearly see the end of the old order, grasp the nature of the war we are in, and have the vision and the confrontational spirit to win it."

Read alsoTrump has no talks scheduled with Russian presidentPutin's Russia "does not aspire to be like us, or to make itself stronger than we are. Rather, its leaders want the West—and specifically NATO and America — to become weaker and more fractured until we are as broken as they perceive themselves to be," Politico wrote. "No reset can be successful, regardless the personality driving it, because Putin's Russia requires the United States of America as its enemy."

Read alsoRussia hacks Vermont utility, showing risk to U.S. electrical grid security - WPThe West must accept that Putin has transformed what we see as tremendous weakness into considerable strength. If Russia were a strong economy closely linked to the global system, it would have vulnerabilities to more traditional diplomacy. But in the emerging world order, it is a significant actor – and in the current Russian political landscape, no new sanctions can overcome the defensive, insular war-economy mentality that the Kremlin has built. The main point to understand is that “hard power matters”. Russia maintains the second most powerful military in the world, and spends more than 5% of its weakened GDP on defense.

"As Obama did, Trump has already made the first mistake in negotiating with the Russians: telling them that there is anything to negotiate. Trump likes to discuss Putin's strengths. He should also understand that much of it is smoke and mirrors. A renewed approach to dealing with Putin's Russia should begin by addressing the tactics of Russia's new warfare from the perspective of strength," the article reads.

Read alsoRussia weaker than West but Putin has significant advantages – British journalist"It's hard to understand Ukraine and Syria as two fronts in the same conflict when we never evaluate them together with Moscow in the center of the map, as Russia does," Politico wrote, adding that the U.S. also needs "a new national security concept that adds a new strategic framework." Quicker decision-making is also crucial within NATO.

"We already have one model: the Cold War. Putin and his minions have spent the past 15 years ranting about how the West (specifically NATO) wants a new Cold War. By doing so, they have been conditioning us to deny it, and made us do it so continually that we have convinced ourselves it is true. This is classic reflexive control," Politico wrote.

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