Islamist Militancy – the resurgence of the Caliphate

We have seen in the news a disturbing trend at these hotspots: 1) Boko Haram using deception by pretending to be government soldiers to gain security access to and kill government supporters and soldiers.  2) Syrian Sunni hard-line militants seizing and holding territory both in Syria and Iraq, battling moderate Islamist fighting groups, the Assad regime, YPG Kurdish militias, AND Shiite-dominated Iraqi government forces effectively.  3) The Pakistani Taliban attacking government facilities in major cities without a decisive response.  4) Weak Yemeni, Somali and Kenyan government forces under siege by Shiite Houthi, al-Qaeda, and al Shabaab factions.  5) Mali remains precariously on the verge of more violence.  6) Libya embroiled in infighting between Islamist and secular factions.

Did 13+ years of American war against terrorists create any positive outcomes?  Or did the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan unlocked Pandora’s Box and have launched a whole generation of young muslim men and women into a mindset of using harsh religious views and violence to take control of a life that has been hijacked by decades of societal corruption and immobility? 

America could not have caused all these conflicts to spiral out of control.  In these regions more muslims are fighting against and killing other muslims than they are fighting Westerners or Christians.  These wars of ideology over infidelism and warlordism is a matter between the sects of Islam and their world views of modern life, of secular consumerism and populism versus social conservatism and morality.  And yet the use of violence have ruptured the communities and silenced the debate over the proper way to live in the muslim world.  The lack of economic opportunities have now been eclipsed by a total lack of human safety.  The militants and insurgents scream out to fight for human dignity while they detonate indiscriminate bombs and act out punishments according to laws that were created centuries ago before modern human knowledge.  They fight, as they say, against injustice of oppression and mass murder by dictators and regimes, yet their answer is a regime of their own ever so cruel and bloody hands.

The Sunni militants are responding to the rise of their Shiite rivals in Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Houthis in Yemen, and in Iraq.  The only solution is the establishment of a pan-Arab Sunni Caliphate able and willing to challenge this broad alliance of strong heretics.  They see Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, and the Gulf States as too comfortable in their wealth and power to face the affront to their beliefs.  In fact these regimes tolerated the Shiite bloc and thus have lost legitimacy.  But America and the West needs them to have stable energy, which is why these militants hate America and the West.  Western capitalism is holding Sunni power back, and have given their religious enemies strength to challenge their claims to supermacy.  The struggle for power is about the ability to influence life over a billion muslims.  In Pakistan the Taliban is concluding their military conversation with the United States, and soon direct its attention towards both Iran and the Pakistani secular establishment and army. 

The United States has realized that the militants have a new enemy they desperately want to fight, more than Western devils oceans away, they see an existential threat in the rise of Shiite states much more than the meddling of a receding superpower.  The breakaway of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from al-Qaeda’s anti-American message and their quick rise to power, their formidable fighting abilities and organization, shows that the genie is out of the bottle.  But the threat to global security, thus American and European security, is far more potent now than ever.

Should the Islamic Emirate of the Levant be established both in Syria-Iraqi realm, and the return of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan to prominence, Iran will suddenly find itself with Sunni enemies on two of its borders.  Their reaction will be to accelerate their development of nuclear weapons.  The Saudis may next be toppled, for the Caliphate will seek to overthrow them and take control of the holy lands to further extend their own legitimacy as rightful rulers of Sunni muslims. 

Can the Western world endure a massive regional war between the sectarian muslim states and have disruption of their energy supplies?   Military interference have already failed to extract positive results, and the expense in treasure and lives have yielded nothing for the United States.  American global interests in the Middle East are centered now on preventing the Caliphate from being created, as their Saudi and Israeli allies will be under great threat.  But how should America protect its own national interests?

Natural Gas and electric vehicles.  If American oil dependency is quickly weened, our dependency on the Saudis will diminish greatly.  While European and Asian economies will remain at further risk from the failure of the Saudi and Gulf states, America can seize this opportunity to create markets for our alternative energy options, and so can Russia do the same – to be the providers of energy for Europe and Asia. There is an opportunity for a true era of Russo-American global hegemony through this upheaval.

Let the Muslim sects fight it out.  This is a generational and existential conflict that has been long delayed.  The religious carnage and possible sectarian genocide is unavoidable and no longer preventable.  Unless, the moderate secular muslims take a firmer hand in suppressing the militants, but that only will give rise to more strongmen and dictatorships and bloodshed will occur anyway.  Caught up in this is Israel, whose existence will be threatened by a unified and powerful aggressive muslim Caliphate on its border with the military might to do great harm to their population.  Israel would have to fight, perhaps even preemptively against both the Hezbollah and Assad regimes first, but then against the militants that would overthrow the kingdoms whom Israel has peace with and acts now as buffer states.  It would be interesting to see a Saudi-Egyptian-Israeli-Jordanian alliance form against the Caliphate in the next 20 years.  But the Secular States vs Sunni Caliphate vs Shiite bloc would be a destabilizing scenario for global trade, as arms flows and financing would disrupt the peacetime consumption economies and the West and Russia would become arms providers to the warring parties as they already are.  

The tipping point is who we will choose sides with.  The Americans may end up working with the Taliban forces in Afghanistan, like the former enemies of Germany, Japan, Vietnam have become bitter enemies to friends of common foes.  The Taliban, I suspect is attempting to take control of the vast Pakistani military and shift it west against Iran versus against India.  The Pakistanis fear this would alter the power dynamic and give India the opportunity to expand at Pakistan’s expense.  But the Taliban have a larger prize, an ideological global threat of Shiism rather than a realist threat of India.  The Taliban, in my view would rather cede significant territory to India and be able to defeat Iran, than maintain the stalemate with India but lose their global religious dominance to the Shiites.  The war for the heart of the muslim world is at hand, and the players better start choosing sides.

So, can the new Islamic Caliphates/Emirates be allowed to form between the fracturing of post-colonial states of Syria-Iraq, and in Afghanistan-Pakistan?  The West’s long term objectives must be forward thinking, for the intensity and ferocity of this conflict, whether it becomes a limited nuclear war, must be considered before we “get out of the way” and look from the sidelines.  Islamic militancy will always be a double-edged sword.  The majority of muslims are young and of fighting age.  Their economic opportunities are crippled by corruption and poverty.  They have the motivation and desperation to seek purpose through struggle, and while the West concerns itself with a new Cold War in the Ukraine where hundreds of lives are lost, within 20 years, tens of millions of lives may be lost in the outbreak of the “Great Islamic War/Jihad” of the 21st Century.  Imagine fighters from Malaysia, Indonesia, West Africa, Central Asia all sending armies of fighters into this conflagration, and the global impact against non-muslims in the aftermath. 

If the West wish to avoid this dire prediction I have laid out here, and not get caught up any further in the resentment or violence against Western interference in their religious and social affairs, then only helping the secularists in Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, and Israel consolidate and expand their peaceful development is the only way to show these other muslims that their violence is leaving their families in worse shape than necessary.  Establishment of a secular counterweight to the Caliphate, such as a stronger Kurdistan will also minimize the spread of the impending conflict.  Turkey will need Kurdistan as a buffer state, and Kurdistan needs this conflict to redraw the border with Iran so it is in their best interests to become stronger through Turkey and the YPG controlled Syrian territories.  This arrangement will pit the Caliphate against Iran and its allies only, and channel the war and keep the damage from spreading all over the world.  When the dust settles, when enough blood is shed and the killings done, there may be peace in the land for good.  The militants must first have their fill of jihad.  If not there, they will seek out enemies against all over the world.         

The realist argument says: Why not there, rather than here?  If it cannot be stopped, at least let it be managed.         



Why didn’t Russia invade Eastern Ukraine? (Do they even need to invade to win?)

The obvious reason is cost.  Russia will have to engage the Ukrainian Army and Border Forces with artillery, tanks, and aircraft and bomb bases, infrastructure and major towns and cities that provide transit hubs for Ukrainian reinforcements.  Russia would have to kill and injure many Russian-speaking civilians to occupy the territories, which is far different than having boots on the ground and a major navy and air base in Crimea from the start that could quickly seize control.  Russia’s invasion of East Ukraine would be a bloody, messy process, and thousands would die and billions in damage would occur from harsh economic sanctions and physical damage from fighting the Ukrainians and push them out to the west of the country.

So far most of the misery and disruption to daily life is happening in the East.  Western Ukraine is largely spared any sabotage, armed takeovers, or kidnappings by armed groups.  Roadblocks in Donetsk and Luhansk choke off supplies and trade, affecting incomes of many of the working class folks living in the East.  Government services have been broken by militias, pensions not paid, stores looted and properties seized.  When Utilities such as water and power gets disrupted by fighting, the people will feel like the uprising and insurgency has created conditions that western Ukraine would not have.  Will they support the militants then, knowing that Russia will not re-draw the border and that Ukraine will not allow these regions to become independent states?

The Ukrainian military, backed by its fledgling National Guard forces, are trying carefully to isolate and block the militants from expanding their control of key areas they have not already seized.  They do not want to invade and occupy Donetsk City, but fighting at the main airport suggest they do plan to retain aggressive control of strategic military assets.  The test will be at Sloviansk, where it seems the Russian-led militia there are better equipped and organized to deter the Ukrainians from retaking the town.  As Russian insurgents and trained guerrillas cross the border and reinforce those holdings, they will start to try and push the Ukrainians back and link up their forces.  If the Ukrainians can hold them and besiege them and contain their forces, perhaps the stalemate will force Russia to further negotiate with Kiev for a political settlement.

Open War between Russia and Ukraine in the east will be a public relations and economic nightmare for Putin.  He knows it, which is why he is slowly testing the waters of insurgency to keep the Ukrainians off balanced.  But the Ukrainians have shown some competence and capability to hit back and that is giving him some pause.  Especially since NATO advisers and troops are arriving this summer for exercises, and possibly covertly help coordinate the fight to take back the East.  There are as many ethnic Ukrainians as there are Russian-speakers in the East, and local support for Russian incursions will be limited in success.  The same difficulty the Ukrainian national forces face will be faced by Russian occupiers.  Which is why Russia is positioning better experienced and trained soldiers into the fray than allow the ragtag militants to run the campaign.  They relied on criminals and thugs to foment unrest, but now this is a real fight and they cannot have undisciplined men going up against the military.

What would be the Ukrainian Army’s next move?  First they need reinforcements and position their strike forces (heavy armor and attack helicopters) outside of immediate Russian air base range. This limits their mobility to reinforce the border, which is why the insurgents are attacking the border posts to keep their arms and supplies flowing in.  The Ukrainians need to build lines of supply and reinforcement to these posts, but also start to interdict the groups of insurgent militia roaming around attacking their soldiers.  They need to gather better intelligence on where these insurgents are operating and how they resupply, and conduct raids to destroy those meager supplies.  The insurgents are hijacking, kidnapping, and seizing cars and goods from regular people.  That criminality will not sit well with locals if it keeps happening.  The Ukrainian Interior Ministry and SBU needs to launch their own counter-insurgency operations that target insurgent leadership, using drones to monitor, and human assets to find and arrest rebel leaders.  Without leadership, the DPR will weaken dramatically and be a poor replacement for the government.  Russia will either have to step up or step in to govern or lead, which will play into the narrative of the West and Kiev government about the Kremlin’s direct meddling in their neighbor’s internal affairs.

The Ukrainian government needs to also start calling the DPR leadership and its militias “Traitors”.  They need to publicize the criminal backgrounds of these so-called leaders, and begin to counter the Kremlin’s narratives in the East by broadcasting information about the misinformation being fed to them by their pro-Russian leaders.  The Ukrainian government needs to also reach out to the industrial workers in the East, and negotiate pacts that secure their livelihoods while considering the needs of the economy.  Kiev must show it is going to fairly govern and protect the rights of its citizens in the rebel regions.

If Kiev cannot win the East over to its vision of the better future being a closer partner with the West, it will lose them to Russia’s vision of a divided world.  Ukraine’ friendship with the rest of Europe should not be feared, but Ukrainian sovereignty and neutrality between NATO and Russia must be clearly defined to assuage fears by the Russian-speaking population that their culture will not be forcibly erased by European values and greed.  Ukraine must take a position of strength by declaring itself a neutrally aligned nation, like Finland and Sweden, that would not seek to join NATO but serve as a center of trade between the EU and Eurasian Economic Union.  This declaration will ease tensions, but also give Russia little justification to invade.  Ukraine wants to go its own way but not be forced into marriage to anyone.  Ukraine will then be free to reassert its control east with less resistance from Moscow.  

It would probably then be about 10 years before Ukraine can improve the economic health of its country, but the east of the country can benefit if the threat of armed invasion and war is quickly replaced by a political settlement and reintegration of civilian life.  Ukraine can only prove the Russian world view is completely false by improving the lives of its people.  If it has to do it with without its industrial East, it should.  But it is in Ukraine’s national interest and ambitions to also improve those lives of Ukrainians in the east.  If Kiev gives up in the east, it also has given up its right to legitimately represent and rule the Ukrainian people, opening up the opportunity for Russia to be seen as the only viable ruler.  Ukraine has to provide strong leadership and determination to invade the East with jobs, prosperity, and services that improve the lives of regular people, for guns and tanks improve nothing.       


Russia’s Ukraine Endgame – Climate Change Factors

Russia’s Interference in Ukraine is happening for real reasons: 1) Treaties are easily broken and don’t mean its weight in paper i.e. Budapest Memorandum, Nazi-Soviet detente. 2) NATO, the military glue of the EU, expands too far eastwards, breaking promises post-Cold War not to absorb former Warsaw Pact nations – see reason 1.

Russia fears NATO’s well trained but heterogeneously organized small armies that cannot truly fight together in any major war. Too many roosters in the henhouse i.e. British vs American generals in WWII, where NATO would be US/British/French/German/Polish against Russia. But an economically powerful Ukraine could have a standing army of 200,000 men on Russia’s border in a week, with a single command structure and, if provided with modern weaponry and NATO level elite war fighting abilities, can march on Moscow faster than Hitler’s blitzkrieg. The only Russian strategy available to Putin: A) Cripple Ukraine strategically by taking Crimea. B) Cripple Ukraine economically by forcing Eastern Ukraine to break away and create a new buffer/client state.

A farther reason is due to Climate Change. The Arctic Ocean is melting, and new sea lanes and potential offshore gas development is exposing Russia’s northern coastal border to American/Canadian claims, a possible new conflict zone requiring a significant naval and air force commitment. Climate Change also possibly mean milder winters in East Siberia, making future colonization by the energy hungry Chinese a possibility that requires also a significant air and ground force buildup and development of civilian infrastructure east to deter.

Both new threats to Russia’s north and east can only be dealt with by having a secure western and southern border. The Eurasian Economic Union as it stands today creates a buffer zone to Russia’s central Asian and Baltic borders, but the loss of Ukraine exposes the Russian heartland and majority of its population industrial centers to invasion. It also deprives Russia of 40 million consumers to its markets, as Ukraine leans West it would prefer European goods and services over Russian ones. This is a major blow to Russian prosperity that impacts its strategy to economically power the shift north and east.

Would Russia collapse or break up under such pressures? That is Putin’s fear. The Russian east may very easily side with their Asian cousins and seek autonomy to reap advantages of closer Chinese goods and markets. The Mongols may once again sweep west towards Moscow. The Caucasus may break away once again depriving Russia of access to warm water ports and markets in the Middle East for its energy resources when the Saudis finally run dry.

These are all existential threats to Russian national integrity. So it is not so illogical that Russia is fighting very hard covertly to maintain control of Eastern Ukraine and Crimea. They went to their Third Quarter playbook and the playbook told them to take what they needed without triggering a full scale war with the West.

So what can the West do to preserve Ukraine? Joining the EU does not require it to be a NATO member. But the Swiss neutrality example may be the only viable play for European states. If the EU and Russia both agree with Ukraine that strategic neutrality is the only option, then Russia may be appeased for awhile. Ukraine’s claims to Crimea may have to be sacrificed in exchange for Russia backing off on The Donbas. Then Kiev must reform to win the population in the east.

Economic growth for Ukraine can only happen if Russia gas debts are deferred and Ukrainian trade with the rest of Eastern Europe rapidly rises. Ukraine can operate like Switzerland and be a financial clearing house for investment near but not held inside corrupt Russian banking system.

To end the fighting in the Donbas, Ukraine and its allies need to convince Russia that to save everyone face, a ceasefire and disarmament talks between new government and separatist forces be held, with EU, American, and Russian mediation. NATO membership will never be on the table for at least 25 years.

Only such a guarantee will entice Moscow to take its finger off its triggers.


Ukraine Invasion Phase II is underway

Russian infiltration and subversion of control in key Eastern cities is the classic “preparing the battlefield” move. As supposed insurrections and chaos bog down Ukrainian national forces, it puts them out of position to defend against the eventual onslaught of regular Russian Army forces that will punch through the border and secure key crossroads and rail lines.

Ukraine’s forces will not have secondary reserves that can repulse Russian airborne troops and special forces that will hit them in the rear lines and supply trains. Irregular militia are already being prepped and activated by intelligence agents and taking key blocking positions in the east.

Spring is coming, and the fight that we all know Putin wants is here. The blunder is whether Ukraine can marshal the patriotism of its citizens and resources of the West to give Russia a bloody lesson it seeks.

When the tanks roll and the guns boom we will see who is right.


Invasion Ukraine? How likely would Russia really invade?

While Russia in the news is touted as one tough military flush with oil money to modernize and equip for battle, much of their crack troops fought in Chechnya in 2000 and has been more a counterinsurgency since.  Their 5 day action against Georgia in 2008 couldn’t really count as being useful for giving their fighting men combat experience against a determined large armed force.  While Russia has a standing army of about 850,000 men, a large portion serve in the large Russian air and naval forces, and a good chunk are deployed across the massive frontier in the east.  Given those defensive obligations and operations in the Caucasus that could tie up probably 200,000-250,000 ground troops, Russia can possibly invade nations to its west with about 200,000 men. 

Most of those men have not themselves seen actual combat.  So while they are better trained than its immediate neighbors, fighting against their former Soviet or ethnic Slavic cousins in the Ukraine may prove to be more demoralizing for these conscripts than quelling a rebellious region within Russia’s borders, or against an invader of Russian soil.  The Ukrainians, within the next few months of preparation, can field about 30,000-40,000 combat ready troops, which is far more than the Chechens and Georgians can throw at the Russians.  The Ukrainians also have hundreds of fairly modern tanks, fighter planes, ground attack aircraft, and artillery units.  It would not be an easy campaign for Russia to engage in a non-traditional role as a regional aggressor.  And Russian allies in Kazakhstan and Belarus, whom entered into their partnerships with Russia as a protective measure against European encroachment, also may have reservations about joining in an invasion against a neighboring nation that is being conquered rather than joining in mutual defense.  They would act against a NATO invasion, but to kill ethnic kin and seize lands for Russia’s ultimate gain would not play well even in their own repressive regimes.

It may be inevitable that a full Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine would succeed, the act would cost thousands of Russian and Ukrainian lives, cost Russia billions in both property devastation and rebuilding of the conquered regions.  Not to mention fomenting an instant insurgency amongst the Ukrainians living in Russia and the eastern regions of Ukraine.  And since the losses will already be great, an invasion will only yield profit if all of Ukraine is taken.  Putin will have to take Kiev and all if not most of Western Ukraine.  Failure to defeat the western regions of Ukraine will fuel years of war, as it is unlikely the Ukrainians will yield their occupied eastern holdings to Russia and concede its loss as a historical fact.  The Europeans, especially the Eastern states of Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia, will not sit idly by while their new west-leaning neighbor is besieged by an aggressive Russian invasion.  What would happen if Russia is allowed to conquer Ukraine and bring their armies right up to NATO’s border?  Would Russia also not eventually punish the former Warsaw Pact nations and force them to cow to Russian military threat in the next 10-20 years, eroding their participation in NATO?

These factors would result in these Eastern bloc nations lending at least covert military support to the Ukrainians, in hopes to weaken or reverse Russian gains.  A Russian military defeat in Ukraine, would cause an overthrow of the Putin political establishment.  So if Russia launches an invasion of Ukraine, Putin and his allies must be ready to risk the loss of their power that they have spent these past 20 years to build.  Even if the war ends in a stalemate, or Russian victory, NATO and Europe will forever change their relationship with Russia and return to an adversarial footing.  Economic relationships would end, political ties would be broken, and the EU would be more unified and militarized in the East to deter any further Russian moves against NATO allies.  If Ukraine falls, there would be no other non-aligned nations except NATO allies to fight.  Would Europe stand idly by while a conquered Ukraine faces oppression, ethnic cleansing, and economic blackmail?  The answer would be no.

And if by chance NATO and the United States decide to intervene for the Ukrainians, then an invasion of Ukraine will only be the first war of World War III.  Russia may have enough economic wealth for a short conflict, but a prolonged war with nations that provide the trade for that wealth, with Western armies that combined are equal or superior in combat power, that have strategic nuclear weapons that can devastate the Russian heartland, is an inconceivable idea to the traditional rational Russian leader.  If Putin and his inner military circle are rational, and know such risks are unacceptable and damaging to their nation, would not invade Ukraine without cause.

While Putin works to “engineer” cause, creating the appearance of Ukrainian “fascism” that threatens ethnic Russian in Ukraine, that premise would not stand up to the test of world public opinion.  The international community would grudgingly understand that a strongly Russian majority region such as Crimea may be justified to break away and join Russia, and of Russia’s strategic interests in taking over Crimea and seizing major Ukrainian military assets to weaken their defection.  But for Russia to invade and grab vast parts of another country over unsubstantiated threats to Russians in eastern Ukraine would find little legal support in the U.N.  The world watched as bloody sectarian war waged on within Syria as an “internal matter” and Russia denied the Security Council the ability to act against a Russian ally.  Russia denied the UN action when Serbian atrocities killed thousands in Bosnia, until NATO acted unilaterally to halt the fighting.  Russia would also find itself denied in the world body if it invades (and occupies) another member nation.  The United States and its allies would move to actively erode Russian interests on a global scale. 

And while Russia is engaged with most of its military in the Ukraine, other areas become more vulnerable.  Georgia may be encouraged to take back their lost regions.  Chechen rebels may re-emerge to depose the Russian backed strongmen and pull Dagestan along with Ingushetia into open war.  The Chinese may even move to seize lands in the Far East to gain access to strategic oil fields and minerals.  Russia would lack the manpower to resist all these other threats at once, except to use tactical nuclear weapons.  If that happens, the Ukraine war will end in nuclear exchanges that would forever change human history.

Putin was smart to take what he could during the chaos and now only wielding the threat of more force.  But he knows going further would be folly and the risks much higher than just taking the Crimean peninsula.  Russia is a traditionally defensive country, even its role in World War III was defensive in smashing the threat from Nazi Germany for good.  The setting up of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact was defensive against a unified and powerful NATO and Western alliance.  Taking Crimea was a defensive move to secure Russian strategic capabilities.  But invading Ukraine on a trumped up pretext would be stepping out of the Russian comfort zone, against the Russian psyche and long espoused ideals of sovereignty and non-interference. 

So Russia would invade Ukraine if its leadership has finally lost its mind.  The world would tolerate much, but not that.  So far the Bear was able to reach into the Beehive and tasted sweetness.  But if the Bear reaches too far, it will stir up the nest and invite swarms from near and far to attack in common anger.  No single blow can harm Russia, but it can still die by thousands of stings.  Right now it can deal with one perceived/imagined/fabricated enemy, but if invasion creates multiple more real enemies, Russia knows it can go from a sure win to a no-win situation very quickly.  Let’s bet that Putin too clever to put himself and Russia in a position that jeopardizes all these gains. 


Ukraine’s relevance today – contrasting world views.

The world today post-Cold War, is looking again like a new Cold War. On one side is the complacent Western nations: democratic, self-loathing, messy behemoths of consumption and export of leisure and warfare. The rule of law in these nations are burdened by ever increasing numbers of laws, opposing sides that push different agendas, and constant tension between the government and the governed. Western democracies use the addressing of dissent as a measure of performance. Information is readily available but truth is lost in the tide of endless opinions.

On the other side are the new Eastern way of politics: constitutional, authoritarian, single-party, oligarch run, governments now formed to control populations and use their market economies to power their state and serve the agendas of stability over all other considerations. Information is controlled, and wealth is used by the state for coersion, and military force used to intimidate and quell dissenters along with foreign opponents.

Each will naturally see the other system as corrupt, dangerous, and undesirable.

The new Russia, an energy powerhouse. The new China, a manufacturing giant. Each imposes its will in their immediate areas of influence and achieve strategic security. Russia builds upon its abundance in gas and oil, and resurgent military power to acquire a safety blanket of vassal states. It no longer seeks communism, but a Tsarist imperial hegemony with like-minded allies seeking to control their people within their borders. China too seeks hegemony in Asia, and sees Russia as an example to emulate. Unlike Russia, China lacks the energy resources to power a modernization of its side. Instead it seeks to eclipse Japan as the central hub of global manufacturing and commerce. And that puts China somewhere between Russia’s strategic interests and America’s obsession with trading power.

These two new hegemons have seen the weaknesses with Western civilizations, namely its inability to make decisions quickly, and its vulnerability and dependency on intangible resources such as technology, creativity, and money. The high cost of living in the West has made their most powerful military assets too expensive to use and lose in wars. So instead America uses money to buy friends. Yet the adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan has proven that ideological beliefs and simple weaponry can offset advanced armies of limited tolerance for human loss. While China has found no real enemies to test its forces against, Russia has battered and annihilated every opposition that it can safely fight: the Chechens didn’t have the numbers despite their ferocity, and the Georgians didn’t have the right leadership and resources to counter careful Russian planning.

The West do have strengths: during peacetime western culture devotes its energies to improving health and pleasures. Its thirst for, and long memory of prosperity is also what drives the west to defend itself fiercely despite its endless contradictions and flaws. Non-Western cultures, having never fully embraced the chaotic nature of mature democracies, only see the weaknesses that causes ruptures and reconciliation in those societies that jeopardizes their desire for perpetual constant stability.

So while the new hegemons have learned not to provoke the entirety of western nations and give them cause to stand together, they are easily emboldened to target and bully the smaller ones and divide-and-conquer becomes the obvious strategy. Russia has made most NATO European states addicted to its oil and gas. China has made most of the world dependent on their skilled labor and manufacturing capacity. The one thing that prevents Russia and China from alliance that can disrupt, cripple, amd destroy the West as we know it is their own cultural mistrust of each other. Should these two powers align, the world would truly quake.

Russia’s adventure in taking Crimea, is rooted in realist goals. Knowing retaliation, both economic and military would be token or limited and not deter him. President Putin secured quickly the ability to maintain Russian power in the Black Sea and Mediterrenean. He also reminded the Europeans and Americans that while they hunger for new consumer markets and 46 million buyers once they earn better incomes are a big win, Europe now cannot live without Russian energy supplies. Putin recognizes that America is still Russia’s greatest rival, both for influence in Europe and in the new battlegrounds of the Arctic and Central Asia. The American ideal of democracy and free expression still threaten to break Russia up into ethnic enclaves, and no Russian leader would allow that to happen.

The Americans will need to think about revising their view and protect themselves, prepare Canada for the day when Russia may come over the North Pole to teach the Yankees a lesson. American interests will again need to revive the intelligence community to watch Russia carefully, prevent hostilities from spilling over to its shores. Putin has his justifications for rebuilding the Empire of his dreams to defend against imagined threats. But America can show a different path that Russia can open its doors and see a world without the need for walls and buffer states. The age of invasions and conquests, genocide and external oppression is waning. America do not need to take a hostile position to Putin’s near bloodless takeover of Crimea. America should nurture democracy where it is hungered for. Ukraine has spent decades in Moscow’s shadow, robbed secretly and subverted. Now Ukrainians have a chance to taste life like the West, and Russians living there will be able to truly understand whether their fears and paranoia are false or not. When a slavic nation converts, Russians will thirst for more than just security.

Russia will not murder a fellow slavic nation, it only sees Ukraine as a disobedient younger sibling by taking away its best toys. Ukraine will need to grow up and get a job, take responsibility for finding a new identity free of Russian dominance, but also not a beggar nation to Europe either. Together with Poland and Lithuania as friends to guide them through transition, Ukraine can become the example for thawing the ice that Russian winters have made people accustomed to. There is a Spring coming.


Ukraine endgame – Russia’s quest for “Eurasian Union” = Empire.

You cannot be the high-lord nation of an empire without vassal states.  Both Belarus and Kazakhstan, authoritarian states with weak economies and even weaker militaries compared to Russia’s, fell easily under the sway of resurgent Russia’s convincing arguments that states with Russian populations adjoining the Russian motherland will be protected and opportunities guaranteed with the Kremlin’s leadership.  Who else can these land-locked countries trade with without access to Russian markets, energy, and transit access?  They are willing hostages.

And Ukraine would have become just another former Soviet satellite state to obey their eastern overlords.  But instead a good number defied the puppet Yanukovych, who had spent years enriching himself and his allies stealing from the national coffers, and ever weakening their own military so Ukraine would make a poor ally to anyone except powerful Russia.  Ukraine and its large Russian and Russian-speaking population, with residents having relatives and friends in the Red motherland, surely would not break away and embrace the rule of law and democratic ideals of Western Europe!  How shocking to come off the triumph of the Sochi Olympics to be quickly humiliated by the defection of a key state, a rising copy of Putin autho-totalitarianism, to switch allegiance and run one of his allies out of the country in cowardice?

Macho Putin must show he has the brawn to back up his bluster.  And Crimea has always been a key asset Russia cannot afford to lose.  The majority Russians in Crimea are only there because the former majority people, the Tartars were deported and decimated by Stalin.  They can argue over who was there first, and the Turks and Mongols of the Golden Horde can lay a more legitimate claim.  Yet today Russians there have to resort to lies and subterfuge, create a false vote to give legitimacy to the land grab.  All as well since the Russians there do want to join with Russia against Kiev’s protests.

The obstacle now is what to do with Ukrainian state property on Crimea, the military, industrial assets of the country now robbed and looted with no consequences.  Crimea wants to swallow these assets, to humiliate the Ukrainian military into a bloodless surrender.  Russia wants to reunite the Black Sea Fleet by trapping Ukrainian ships in port and forcing their crews to abandon their ships.  The Ukrainians should scuttle those ships and burn their bases down rather than hand them over.

Putin is a shrewed leader, and the overthrow of one of his cronies exacted a price the new leaders in the Ukraine must pay.  Putin wants the Ukraine that breaks away to be a crippled shell of itself.  He wants to punish them for their insolence and rebellion against his authority.  Even if he engineers the breakaway of Donetsk and Kharkiv, the Ukrainians have enough men there to resist and make Russia pay a blood price compared to Crimea. 

Without a full Ukraine in the Eurasian Union, Russia has a hollow empire built on sand.  Russia is desperate to salvage all it can, using the illegitimate claim of a right to protect all Russians everywhere as a foreign policy doctrine that sets dangerous precedents all over the world.  Mexicans can now invade the United States to protect Mexicans, the French can invade Canada to protect French speakers in Quebec, and the Chinese can invade all of Southeast Asia to protect ethnic Chinese in all the countries there.  If this is the way of the new world order, one of ethnocentricity, ethnic-cleansing, and racism, the Russia may set the rest of the world on a course of conflicts and suffering that new World Wars will erupt over.

Russia wants their empire reborn, but not without creating other monstrous consequences in its wake.  Europe is watching with dread, and America is furious.  It is only a matter of time before someone pushes too hard and sets off events on its own that cannot be taken back.