malignant, ISIS is no more than a group of barbarians, and it could be
dealt with by local players like Iran and Arab countries. Russia is
posing a real threat to stability of the world, and it is alarming
that the civilized world is not bracing itself for the coming WW3.
Like Germany before WW1, Russia is unhappy with world dominance of the
British empire, now led by the US. Putin and his close circle want to
restore the glory of Russia as another "pole" in the world, and they
are willing to go into an all out war and decades of economic turmoil
for this goal.
One big mistake the West is making is the assumption that sanctions
could reduce popularity of Kremlin regime, and thus change its course.
Putin is indeed a very careful politician, and he seemingly cares
about public opinion in Russia. It is a mistake however to think he
will be truly deterred. First, Kremlin has an outstanding propaganda
machine of Russian TV and other media. Second, he has a huge secret
police apparatus, capable of resisting and suppressing even massive
uprisings among the people. Third, Russians are a nation that for
seventy years lived with a much more repressive regime, and tolerated
it just fine, thank you very much.
Putin's approach seems to be that of getting things by paying the
lowest possible price. His slow escalation in Ukraine is not
indecisiveness, it is bargaining. Only recently a massive, even if
covert invasion of Russian regular army began, after it was clear that
the goals could not be achieved by a smaller invasion and arming of
separatists. If the goals are not achieved this way, a new escalation
will come, most likely an overt and even more massive invasion.
Same principle Putin applies to internal Russian policies. His regime
does not rush to become the new North Korea. It is only as oppressive
as needed to achieve the goals. The West is up for an unpleasant
surprise, when even if people in Russia are angered by effects of
sanctions, Putin will just tune up the degree of oppressiveness of the
regime instead of changing his course.
In fact, sanctions that are most felt by general Russian population
are self imposed - banning food imports, and now automobiles and
clothing as well. If Kremlin really cared about popularity, it would
not have done that. The true reason for those self-imposed sanctions
is preparation for a big war in a few years. By that time Russia needs
to be self-sufficient in key areas to survive the shock.
Another sign of a big war coming is the way Russia spends its money.
Due to two decades of high oil prices Russian stockpiled a large cash
trove. Now, despite the unrest in the Middle East, the oil prices are
dropping. The reasons are changes in oil and gas production around the
world, and in particular in the US. Those reasons are objective and
are unlikely to disappear. There is no doubt that Russia is aware of
that. Yet, what does it choose to do with its money? Does it invest
into industrial buildup? Research and development? No, it has
distanced itself from those courses, positioning itself as a
carbohydrate exporter. Instead, enormous amounts of money are invested
into military modernization and buildup.
The West needs to realize that ruling elites in Russia have an
ideology which is more important to them than economic development and
stability. While not as malignant as the ideology of the Third Reich,
this ideology is no less irrational and contrary to civilized human
values. In particular, civilized world needs to realize that Russian
regime is willing to use war as a means to achieve its economic,
political and ideological goals. This seems insane and unreal in the
post-WW2 world, but it is a reality to which we all woke up one day.
We need to acknowledge this reality.
The West needs to realize that Kremlin is playing a long game, and no
internal forces inside Russia are capable of stopping it. Russians
will not revolt, period. Russia needs to be stopped by the outside
forces, and since it is willing to go to actual war, big war - it can
only be stopped by military defeat in a big war.
Most importantly, the West needs to get serious about weakening Russia
as a country. The humanistic idea of sanctions that punish elites and
not the regular people needs to be abandoned. Russian elites, the
siloviki, are infected by an ideology, for which they are willing to
suffer significant financial losses. Those people associate themselves
with the glory of Russian empire, not with exact sizes of their
holdings. Putin in particular views himself as a manifestation of
Russian state. He is writing history and wants to be judged by
history, unlike those weaklings in the Western world who need to worry
about reelections and public opinion.
And the only way he could be stopped before the all out war is if
Russia is too weak to wage it. Expanding oil and gas production in the
US, and allowing their export is not a matter of money anymore, it is
a matter of world stability. Luckily, shell drilling and fracking are
not that harmful for the environment, and certainly less so than a
nuclear war. Building up the army and expanding the nuclear potential
is a must. In the next election the US should think long and hard
about electing somebody with a stamina to resist evil by military
force. German business needs to understand that the years of stable
growth are over, the world is going to be in turmoil for the next
10-20 years. A wise investor's strategy is to make this turmoil end
sooner, instead of trying to make profit during its time.
We all need to reread the history of WW2, keeping the names of
Churchill and Chamberlain in mind. The world has changed. It will not
be the same stable civilized world anymore, not for a couple decades.
We need to prepare.