Putin’s Russia Is, Perhaps Unintentionally, Grooming North Korea and the World for Global War
War is a course best pursued when an enemy is weakest and least expects an attack. From individual assaults to military campaigns, skilled predators know they must strike when their victims are most unlikely to beat back an attack or escape. Men like Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Un, the military leaders of Myanmar, and the warlords of the Middle East are predators living in a relatively peaceful International Community that ineptly confronts conflict with economic and diplomatic sanctions. The leaders and populations of First World countries, which have enjoyed decades of prolonged peace and stability outside of violent crime, have become perfectly adapted to their environment. They appear to have lost their defenses against predators.
The 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia, the 2014 invasion of Crimea, and the clandestine 2014 paramilitary Russian campaign in Eastern Ukraine, among other Russian campaigns, have established a clear M.O. for the Putin government. Russia likes to stage military buildups under misleading pretenses then use any perceived threats or security incidents to rationalize crushing retaliation. This is why Russia’s understated Belarus military games have stoke fears among Baltic states. Putin and his comrades do not care about the economic and diplomatic costs of their policies as their contemporaries in the West and Asia, including China, do. They think more like Kim Jong-Un and the heads of other aggressive, insecure nations.
To North Korea, which never achieved an end to the Korean War and peace with the United States, the US is a military threat that drives a constant need to prepare for war. North Koreans live in a perpetual state of emergency that justifies brutal government control over every aspect of their lives. Since the end of the Cold War, the Russian People had been able to assimilate into the International Community and allowed free access to Western culture. The current Russian leadership, however, was born and sculpted during the Cold War, thus they see NATO countries as cunning enemies poised to invade. They think much like North Koreans.
There are, of course, military leaders and political faction in the US and Europe that feel the same about Russia. The difference between Russia and the West, however, is that the minorities, which see Russia as an inherent enemy, do not control every aspects of the government and military. Most Westerners do not fear Russia as a country and a People. They fear Russia due to the aggression of the Russian government, i.e. the minority faction in Russia that cannot see beyond their Cold War mentality.
A majority of Russians are adversely affected by international isolation, economic sanctions, and the prospects of war. Average Russians, and its oligarchs, literally gain nothing, except hardship, from Moscow’s attempts to disarm perceived and political threats by dominating their neighbors. Russia’s privileged political elites can, however, use conflict to solidify and secure their influence through engineered conflict with the West.
That said, the Putin government’s previously measured approach to regional domination and Russian manifest destiny has attempted to mitigate the threat of war with the US and its powerful European allies. It was not until the US and Europe responded to the Ukraine Crisis with prolonged sanctions that the Putin government sought to stoke tensions with the West as a means to discourage Western military aggression against Russia through intimidation. China attempted a similar path as Russia, which culminated in the South China Sea Crisis, but its political leaders appear to be moving away from the influence of military hardliners and shifting back to a foreign policy path that places economic stability as the topic priority.
In truth, even North Korea has rationally attempted to avoid conflict with the US. Ballistic missile and nuclear tests strikes have always been ways to discourage invasion from the outside world, not precursors to war. Like Russia, however, North Korea’s leadership is shifting from a hostile defensive stance to hostile aggression. In turn, North Korea’s increasing provocative moves are actually awaking the predatory instincts of the United States, Japan, and the rest of Asia. Advancements in North Korea’s military hardware appear to be fueling this downward spiral, yet Putin’s government may well play a far greater role than the world appreciates.
Since the Ukraine Crisis began, Moscow, which has been trying to foster a working relationships with North Korea, Iran, and other rogue nations, has been signaling to the heads of these states that Russia would be willing to join forces against Western dominance. The US and its allies have long dominated the International Community and set the global agenda. Nations like Russia, North Korea, Iran, and Syria have either had to cooperate with these world powers or suffered the consequences. Feeling Western powers have grown vulnerable due to their aversion to war and pursuit of peace at all costs, Russia decided to use its status as a global power to discourage retaliation and copy the behavior of rogue nations in order to regain global prestige.
When Russia’s aggression alarmed Westerners and resulted in prolonged sanctions, the Putin government realized it either had to soothe tension with the West or build formidable alliances of its own. Where the US built alliances on the basis of international peace and stability during an era of war, Russia is attracting allies on the basis of preemptive aggression, thus fostering an era defined by unnecessary tensions and war. Although the Putin government may not actually be attempting to use military force to topple the US as the world’s hegemonic power and invade its European allies, its provocative policies do tell the world that war is coming.
Putin’s government is telling the leaders of countries like North Korea that war is an acceptable path by justifying it as necessary means of self-defense against any and all perceived threats with minuscule probabilities of becoming reality. Putin government is suggesting Russia will join countries that take preemptive strikes against the US and its allies, which can only mean a world war. It also stokes fears among US allies and their Peoples, which allows those with war mentalities to gain influence and implement their own hostile policies. In short, Moscow is testing to see if it has a opportunity to advance its standing through military intimidation and action against regional dissent, but it is actually grooming the world for global war.
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