Tuesday, August 26, 2008

(Why, and How to) Rollback Russian Expansionism

Rollback Russian Expansionism

J.R. Dunn in his post in the American Thinker, has outlined the historical basis of the Russian perspective, and his prescription for success in resolving the path of aggression that the current Russian dictator has embarked upon. The most amazing element of his piece is the reference to a February 1946 telegram sent by George Kennan - the Charge in the Soviet Union, to Dean Acheson, then Secretary of State, analyzing the Soviet Union's plans and expected behavior. Not only was it prescient then, George Kennan's analysis seems near perfect today. I suggest that you read through the 62 year old paper, and I guaranty that you will be astounded at his almost perfect insight. See the Long Telegram here.

Here's the prescription part of J.R. Dunn's post. To read the entire piece, navigate here.

The invasion of Georgia was simply the public formalization of all these efforts. As during the early years of the Cold War, hostilities have in fact been in progress for quite some

The Cold War and its aftermath present us with three methods of responding (overlooking Carter's policy of appeasement, which will find no supporters apart from the political fringes): containment, rollback, and drift. The policy of drift which marked the Bush 41 and Clinton administrations has been abandoned today under pressure of events, leaving us with a neat choice of two: containment and rollback.

The record reveals containment to be a clear failure. It was both expensive and complex. It locked the West into a rigid pattern of behavior easily manipulated by the USSR and its clients. It required a high degree of commitment over the long term, a commitment that not even its chief adherents were able to be maintain. Its sole advantage was that it relatively risk-free in the short term, although this benefit vanished after the Soviets learned to play the angles.

Rollback, on the other hand, was an astonishing success, so unexpected and unprecedented that many have still not come to terms with it. By the 1980s, it was accepted throughout the West, in political, academic, diplomatic, and business circles, that the USSR was a permanent fact of history, and would remain so into the foreseeable future. Only Reagan and a small circle of advisors believed otherwise. Reagan's immense success is a clear refutation of any thesis of impersonal "historical forces". Rollback appears to be the sole workable method of dealing with a belligerent autocracy of the type represented by Russia.

How can it be adapted to the present situation? By taking the Reagan effort as a blueprint. Reagan applied relentless pressure -- military, financial, and political -- on Soviet weak points. No attempt was made to challenge the Soviets directly. At the same time, accepted means of support for the Soviet regime -- agricultural credits, industrial exchanges, technological and scientific collaboration -- were curtailed. There was no easing of pressure in the short term, nor were any negotiations offered. At the same time the Soviets were allowed a clear path of retreat. Rollback was a rational strategy, punishing bad behavior and rewarding rational decisions -- but only after these had been demonstrated in concrete.

Consideration must be made of Russian fears, and each of those fears made a reality. If Russia fears encirclement, she should be encircled. If Russia fears military inferiority, that inferiority should be clearly established. If Russia fears American technology, that technology should be unleashed.

A serious defensive league of former Soviet states, including Central Europe, the Baltics, Ukraine, and the Caucasian and Central Asian states, should be formed under the quiet sponsorship of the U.S. The mutually defensive purpose of this pact should be emphasized, with the threat remaining unnamed. Low-key exercises and consultations between militaries should be carried out, with select officers sent to the U.S. for further training.

The fact that many of these countries are political and territorial rivals is scarcely relevant at this point. Such questions must be set aside in light of national survival. American diplomats should take the lead here.

Revocation of easements and allowances given the Russians -- such as the use of the Sebastopol navy base -- should be brought to the table. The Ukraine has already placed limitations on the use of the base (and been answered with Russian threats). This is a good start that needs to be taken further. Sebastopol is not a Guantanamo or Gibraltar situation, a base in a remote area easily isolated from contact with the host nation. Sebastopol is a major Ukrainian city. Methods of making life unpleasant for the Russians are myriad, and include strikes, shutting down utilities for "repair" or "maintenance", and other forms of harassment. Sebastopol is a Russian weak point, and they need to be made aware of this quickly and repeatedly. (A friendly visit by U.S. 6th Fleet units to our Ukrainian friends should also be put on the calendar, perhaps combined with Black Sea exercises with Ukrainian naval forces. Such a visit has already occurred in Georgia.)

Russian "peacekeepers" are illegal occupiers in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and life ought to be made hot for them. There is technically no difference between the invasion and occupation of portions of Georgia and the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Particular attention should be paid to the Ossetian and Abkhazian "irregulars" who followed Russian troops into Georgia. It was they who carried out the majority of executions, rapes, and looting. Georgia was treated with almost the same level of brutality as Nazi Germany during the Soviet advance of 1945. The Russian "irregulars" are war criminals, and ought to be dealt with as such.

The final factor in Reagan's winning strategy, the Strategic Defense Initiative, has its equivalent in the National Missile Defense system now being extended to cover Europe. This system, which is a lineal descendant of SDI, drives the Russians to distraction for the simple reason that they can't duplicate it. The proposed placement of missiles in Poland is a evidently a major source of Russian belligerence. (The Poles, who had been dawdling over negotiations, signed an agreement immediately upon the invasion of Georgia. So much for Putin's strategic "brilliance".) Much can be done with this system. The Ukrainians have offered use of two radar sites. They should be taken up on it, and discussions concerning the potential support roles of other post-Soviet states should be opened.

The Russians truly believe that American technology is a magic box that when tapped, pours forth all sorts of miracles. Playing on this fear paid dividends during the 80s. There is no reason why it won't work again. (One element that should not be overlooked is the fact that the Navy's Aegis system has been upgraded to fill the anti-ballistic missile role. Perhaps those ships visiting Sebastopol could be Aegis destroyers?)

That's what rollback would look like in the 21st century. No aggression, no revanchism, simply unending and consistent pressure intended to modify Russian behavior to match international norms. The more Russia misbehaves, the more trouble she will see.

Russia is nowhere near as powerful as the Soviet Union. It's reported that Putin had to transfer an entire army from Central Russia to do the job in Georgia -- the forces in the Caucasus simply weren't up to it. Similarly, post-invasion bluster about the Russian navy acquiring a half-dozen aircraft carriers is completely empty. Such a naval program would challenge even the U.S., with all its resources. And it happens that the sole shipyard capable of such a project is located... in the Ukraine.

This is the reason -- and the only reason -- why the Russians are rattling nuclear weapons (and at Poland, no less). Their hand is weak, and they know it. The current Russian elite is comprised not of ideologues but hustlers, who very much want to live to enjoy power and riches. Actual use of nuclear weapons is the last thing on their minds.

Nor is Russia is anywhere near as economically robust as it seems. Recent reports indicate that the country's oil wealth is based on redrilling already exploited sites. Little in the way of new exploration has been carried out and is not likely to happen without outside investment. Russia's oil bubble may be ready to burst. (This brings up a related aspect of the rollback strategy: yet another reason for the U.S. to begin offshore drilling and building nuclear plants. Russia is flexing its muscles thanks in large part to funding gained from recent oil hikes. Cut the income, and we'll at the same time cut the impulse to shake up the international system.)

The long-term goal of any rollback strategy would be the same as that of the original Reagan effort: to bring about the establishment of a free and democratic Russia. The collapse of Russia into renewed autocracy would be a tragedy of historical dimensions, particularly when so much was possible. We were told to avoid triumphalism, not to encourage a legal cleansing of the former Soviet state, to allow party members and KGB officers to go about their business. So there was no lustration, no exposure of the regime's crimes as in the central European states. We -- and the people of Georgia -- are paying the price for that now. Like 18th-century Prussia, "an army with a state", Russia today has become a secret police with a state.

The KGB must be considered a criminal organization and targeted as such. We can start by identifying its officers and agents worldwide, along with their activities, contacts, and so on.
The KGB is as much a terror group as Al-Queda, and deserve no better treatment.

The rollback strategy worked in the 1980s. There is no reason why it can't work today. Ignorance of history may guarantee repetition, but how much worse when we overlook what we know?

And oh, no more looking into people's souls. That just causes trouble.

J.R. Dunn is conulting editor of American Thinker.


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