Last year I wrote a post about the Russians and predicted that they would exploit the Million Muslim March that was just getting started at the time. The point of that post was that the Russians were playing a different game than everyone else in the Middle East and they were bringing new tactics to the great game. They clearly were learning from watching what the Americans were doing and not doing.
The news brings word that the Russians are now exploiting one outcome of the Million Muslim March into Germany and that is the rape crisis. The cleverness of this is the sort of thing that should lead Western planners to rethink their approach to Russia and global diplomacy.
Here we see ethnic Russians out protesting in German cities in a way that is intended to remind European leaders of the large number of ethnic Russians in their midst. Oh, and remind the Germans of where those Russians look for guidance. It looks a little bit like what we saw before Crimea broke off from Ukraine.
Then you have the nature of the protest. It is highlighting an issue the German government has been trying to hide. That is, these are not refugees. These are invaders. That, of course, presses on the legitimacy issue. The German people are already upset about the policy and this is a reminder that the government has repeatedly lied about it. Thus, we have the Russians applying pressure to Merkel from an entirely unexpected place.
Then we have news of the growing conflict between the Russians and Turkey, a NATO members, over Syria. The Turks and Russians have a lot of history and all of it bad. Having Russian and Turkish aircraft in the same sky is a disaster waiting to happen. Having each side shelling the other side’s proxy forces in Syria makes for a very dangerous game. It does not help that the Turks are led by a reckless nationalist either.
Again, you see the Russians using asymmetrical warfare even when using conventional weapons. The Russians know that NATO does not want a confrontation over Syria. At the same time, they know the Turks want things from Europe and the US that they probably should not get, like advanced weaponry and financial support. Russia backing the Kurds just ratchets up the tensions on the NATO side.
Merkel was in Ankara begging the Turks to shut off the migrant faucet. You can be sure the Turks set the price very high. The question in Moscow is will the alliance stick with the Turks if they don’t shut off the faucet or if war breaks out between Russia and Turkey over Syria. The other question is how much is Merkel willing to pay to keep the Russians happy.
If that is not enough pressure on the West, the news brings word that NATO could not defend the Baltic states against a Russian invasion. The Russians surely know this. That means when dealing with the Baltic states, they will expect a lot of cooperation. The ongoing turmoil in Ukraine serves a great reminder to the rest of Europe that the Russians are still important.
The Russians are also using one of the oldest weapons of war and that is confusion. No one seems to know their intentions so the West is left to speculate. The dearth of foreign policy talent in Washington does not help. The fact that Western leaders are post-nation bureaucrats and ideologues makes dealing with an unreconstructed nationalist like Putin even more confusing.
All of this highlights the fact that NATO is a relic from a bygone era. The Alliance was created as a check on the Soviets and a way to formalize the bipolar world of the Cold War. Moscow and Washington would run the world and be the point of contact for one another. The world in which NATO was created no longer exists.
The bigger factor is that the modern foreign policy elite is psychologically wedded to the old arrangements. They were raised in them. They have known nothing else. Even thinking of a world without NATO or a Europe that has Russia as a partner is still heresy. Instead the West keeps trying to recreate the conditions of the Cold War, presumably so they can have a walk down memory lane in the remaining days of their careers.
A century ago, the old arrangements had outlived their utility, but no one knew it. Events in the Balkans set the world on fire and almost wiped out Europe. That’s the natural fear over what’s happening with the Russians. They are poking, prodding and pressuring the West at all points. Counting on the Turks to keep their cool looks like a terrible bet.
Whether or not the world is a mistake away from war is hard to know, but old arrangements tend not to go away quietly. The combination of Russian meddling and Washington incompetence is creating conditions for upheaval. We already see social unrest in Europe over the migrant invasion. What happens when the next wave hits and some of them are there to self-detonate?
The Bear is making the world a very dangerous place.