Monday, August 17, 2015

We Have Met the Enemy, And He is Us

While we struggle to contain (and reverse?) Russia's conquests in Ukraine (Crimea and parts of the Donbas region in the east), we confront the problem that we don't want to make Russian paranoia worse by acting against them too openly. So no arms go to Ukraine. Yet Russian paranoia is so deep that anything we do can be neatly fitted into the vast American conspiracy to destroy Holy Mother Russia that so many Russians see:

By whipping up hatred of America for supposedly opposing Russian policy, they completely blinded Russians to the fact that we’ve actually been guiding Russian policy. Moreover, our agents of influence hit upon a brilliant stratagem to silence those Russians who refused to fall for this ruse. They have ensured that most Russians currently mistake knee-jerk great-power chauvinism for patriotism, while genuine Russian patriots, who strive for justice and a better life for their countrymen, are reviled as traitors. The Russian masses are scrambling like lemmings toward the cliff’s edge, while a few of their saddened, embittered compatriots pack their bags and quietly leave the country. At the rate things are going, I daresay that in a few more years our work will be complete, and we can wind up the Committee and head off to a well-deserved retirement.

Really, if we were plotting against Russia, how could we improve on what Putin is doing to Russia?

Russia discovered that a quick act of aggression would not rouse the West when they captured portions of Georgia in August 2008.

In late February 2014, Russia repeated this with the launch of their near-bloodless seizure of Crimea from Ukraine.

But the effort to do the same in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine failed. Yet as Russia geared up for another try, Ukraine recovered from the overthrow of the pro-Moscow government and demonstrated the ability to deny Russia a quick win even if Ukraine could not defeat Russia.

I figured that Russia should not throw away the image of renewed superpower status that the well executed takeover of Crimea demonstrated by expanding the conflict to eastern Ukraine and risking that image in a new conflict that was quite likely beyond their capacity to win cleanly.

It has been amazing really. We like to say that armies learn how to refight the last war, and Russia digested the lessons of Crimea so quickly that they thought they could repeat Crimea in the Donbas.

Instead, the Russians have a partial victory in the east that has given them a burden to control while rallying Ukraine to the West and embarrassing the West into reacting against Russian aggression.

Russia should have bit the bullet and sent in tens of thousands of troops to eastern Ukraine while they were seizing Crimea and gotten it over with.

When you start to take Vienna, don't dick around--take Vienna. Russia dicked around.

And now the price of taking Vienna will make it a Pyrrhic Victory for Russia if it is ever achieved.

How long before the conspiracy theory fits Putin himself into the plot as our agent of malign influence?

With a hat tip to Pogo for the title, if not as the author intended.