USA vs Russia: Words and Deeds

There are two ways to liquidate Russia:

1. Conquer, occupy, and dismember it – a hot war.

2. Strangle it via a combination of economic, political, informational, value, military (periphery wars), etc. pressure – hybrid war.

For well-known reasons (known to the whole world, by the way), the first option is considered unpromising and has not been seriously considered by anyone for a long time. Just as the cold war is not seen as part of hybrid war – the west is not in a position to allow itself to play for a long time again. So now a stake is placed on a short period of time without any hints of diplomatic games, strategic planning, and the notorious competition of systems — all this rubbish has long been thrown aside.

Time passed, some people left, others replaced them, tools changed, some were discarded, others were adopted, technologies developed, spheres of influence expanded. In general, the system developed continuously, as required by dialectics, which does not tolerate stagnation.

In the 1990s, the feeling came: everything is done, it remains to divide the spoils correctly and forget about the main enemy as a terrible dream. Serious charismatic personalities, capable of single-handedly cutting complex political knots and setting the tone and direction of analytical work, have been replaced by institutions with large HQs and budgets issuing multi-volume reports. The names of the heads of these institutions today will tell few people anything, except for specialists.

And this is where the main problem emerged: it turned out that neither numerous HQs, nor large budgets, nor greatly increased technological capabilities can replace one outstanding person, sometimes representing an entire era.

It would seem that a person is mortal and it is natural for them to achieve victories during their life, but not in the distant bright future, where there will be other names. However, it turned out to be exactly the opposite: big personalities worked for the future, not really caring about recognition in life, institutions started to work for the present, not really caring about the future.

However, do not underestimate the painstaking continuous work of thousands of faceless employees, especially since in recent years this work has sharply intensified and has actually turned into step-by-step instructions for all branches of the American government.

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Here is a relatively recent example.

Reference: RAND Corporation is one of the oldest key analytical institutions, with hundreds of employees and working in the interests of the US government. Its Chief Executive (CEO) is Michael D. Rich. A little over a year ago, RAND published a 300-page report under the frank title “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia: Assessing the Impact of Cost-Imposing Options”.

Let’s highlight some of the key theses of the report, without referring to the existing domestic analytics and at the same time see how they relate to the practical actions of the United States against Russia.

Such vulnerabilities [of Russia – SZ] are coupled with deep-seated (if exaggerated) anxieties about the possibility of Western-inspired regime change, loss of great power status, and even military attack.

The thesis is quite adequate, which does credit to the Corporation. However, there is no need to be a genius to assume that Russia, which has experienced many destructive wars, including two world wars, would like to protect itself from another military invasion. As for the potential possibility of regime change at the initiative of the west, I think that no non-western country would want such interference in its internal affairs.

So, thank you to RAND for recognizing Russia’s status as a great power:

Despite these vulnerabilities and anxieties, Russia remains a powerful country that still manages to be a U.S. peer competitor in a few key domains.

Based on this, RAND states:

Recognising that some level of competition with Russia is inevitable, RAND researchers conducted a qualitative assessment of “cost-imposing options” that could unbalance and overextend Russia.

Therefore, counteraction requires so-called “non-violent” steps that:

…could place new burdens on Russia, ideally heavier burdens than would be imposed on the United States for pursuing those options.

Steps in economic policy:

By adopting policies that expand world supply and depress global prices, the United States can limit Russian revenue.

“Imposing deeper trade and financial sanctions would also likely degrade the Russian economy, especially if such sanctions are comprehensive and multilateral. Thus, their effectiveness will depend on the willingness of other countries to join in such a process.”

“Increasing Europe’s ability to import gas from suppliers other than Russia could economically extend Russia and buffer Europe against Russian energy coercion.”

“Encouraging the emigration from Russia of skilled labor and well-educated youth has few costs or risks and could help the United States and other receiving countries and hurt Russia, but any effects—both positive for receiving countries and negative for Russia—would be difficult to notice except over a very long period.”

Stop. Here, perhaps, is the key difference between modern American analytics and thinkers of the past: a clear separation of long-term steps, with delayed effect and with not very predictable results, from steps that are dictated by the current situation and the here and now effect.

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Perhaps we can stop here and state that all the subsequent events in the oil market, in the sanctions policy, in attempts to disrupt the completion of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and to force European countries to build terminals for receiving American LNG are the practical implementation of the RAND Corporation’s “step-by-step instructions” aimed exclusively at quick effects.

The same clear instructions are offered in the ideological and informational spheres. Yes, Yes, it is ideological, contrary to the popular opinion that, firstly, there are allegedly no ideological differences between Russia and the US, and secondly, there is no ideology in Russia. However, RAND has no illusions here, emphasising the difference between the internal essence of the Russian and American (western) systems, focusing on the peripheral regions where Russia’s ideological influence is strong and opposition is too expensive for the US.

There are regions such as Syria, Ukraine, and the Caucasus (primarily Georgia) where the report notes the extreme difficulty for the US to expand its influence in the event of increased Russian actions.

Finally, the topic that has not left the pages of the world’s media for two weeks is Belarus.

Written more than a year ago:

Promoting liberalization in Belarus likely would not succeed and could provoke a strong Russian response, one that would result in a general deterioration of the security environment in Europe and a setback for U.S. policy.

In other words, RAND actually warns the American authorities that it is not necessary to openly interfere in the internal affairs of Belarus, which, in fact, we are now seeing, noting the cardinal difference in the involvement of the west in the events in Ukraine and in Belarus.

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However, against this background, it is proposed to continuously increase the military threat by constantly bringing military contingents closer to Russia’s western borders, forcing it to increase defence spending:

“A general increase in NATO ground force capabilities in Europe—including closing European NATO member readiness gaps and increasing the number of U.S. forces stationed in traditional locations in Western Europe—would have limited risks. But large-scale deployments on Russia’s borders would increase the risk of conflict with Russia, particularly if perceived as challenging Russia’s position in eastern Ukraine, Belarus, or the Caucasus <…> Increasing the size and frequency of NATO exercises in Europe may help to enhance readiness and deterrence, but it is unlikely to prompt a costly Russian response unless the exercises also send risky signals.”

It seems that the extensive RAND Corporation public report is really a serious analytical document, which is carefully listened to in the White House, comparing their steps with regard to Russia. This all the more encourages the Russian authorities to develop their own steps to counteract and weaken the US in all the areas outlined in the report. Moreover, quite regardless of who is sitting in the Oval Office today, what they think and say, what they intend to do, and with what smile they shake hands.

In my opinion, and judging by the way events are developing, this is what is happening. Especially against the background of Covid-19, which brought down the US economy sharply and caused unprecedented in history unrest, which was not predicted by RAND and for which the Russian system was much more prepared.

This is the price of rushing and betting on measures that are seemingly effective here and now, without careful consideration of the long-term consequences.

Aleksandr Dubrovsky

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