On May 30, Russia Today (not to be confused with the RT television network) published an article by Srdja Trifkovic in Russian, “Putin is a manager rather than a far-seeing statesman who follows a long-term plan.” We bring you this piece in Dr. Trifkovic’s translation, a sequel to his article Putin’s Collapsing Credibility posted here a month ago.
It has been perfectly clear to me, since early spring of 2014 and Putin’s hesitating response to the crisis in Ukraine, that Russia does not have a serious strategy. An adequate response would have entailed prompt despatch of Russian forces to protect the Russian-speaking population, from Kharkov in the northeast to Nikolaev in the center and Odessa in the southwest, in accordance with the R2P doctrine. Instead, there was a consolation prize [Crimea], rather meager for the loss of 500 miles of strategic depth inhabited by a pro-Russian majority.
Russia experienced something similar with the regime-change operation in Tbilisi in 2003, when Shevardnadze was replaced by the unstable Mikhel Saakashvili. The Russians “protected” South Ossetia and Abkhasia, one-fifth of the country, but Georgia was lost to the pro-NATO regime. In Central Asia the Russians are losing ground to the Chinese. Their north-south geopolitical vector in the direction of Iran has been cut by the Chinese one, which extends from Xinjiang to the Caspian Sea. The Chinese are gaining ground with greater investment and soft power, which is also projected by Turkey throughout the region. This is aptly illustrated by the fact that Kazakhstan is replacing Cyrillic with Latin as its national language script.
In Belarus the situation is fluid. The relations between Moscow and Minsk are worse than at any time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Poor personal rapport between [Belorussian president Alexander] Lukashenko and Putin has morphed into a very visible weakness of that alliance. In Armenia, the Russians were faced with a routine regime-change operation directly copied from Gene Sharp’s textbook. Unlike Georgia and Ukraine, let it be noted, Armenia is both a member of the Eurasian Economic Union and of the Collective Security Treaty Organization [ODKB, founded in Moscow in 1992].
Last April I attended for the second time the Moscow Economic Forum. There was the leading Russian economist Sergey Glazyev lamenting, yet again, the fact that the government has no investment program. He noted yet again that the oligarchs still control the flow of money and refuse to invest into production. Russia’s share of the world economy was two percent at the time of the USSR collapsing, and it is still two percent today. China’s share has grown from 6% in 1992 to 21% in 2017. That speaks for itself.
In the Russian power apparat there are several divergent forces. There are unabashed pro-Westerners, such as the National Bank chief Elvira Nabiullina and Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, who has been reappointed to his post, not to mention Alexei Kudrin who is Putin’s informal but influential advisor. It is indicative that Dmitri Rogozin has been removed as the first deputy premier, which was preceded by the ouster of Sergei Ivanov [in 2016]. All of this indicates that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is primarily a manager who coordinates and reconciles various divergent elements of the Russian power structure, rather than a far-seeing statesman who follows by stages a long-term vision. The manner in which Russia still responds belatedly and reactively, even in its immediate neighborhood, indicates the chronic lack of vision.
Putin said recently that he wants to meet Trump to prevent an arms race. That will not happen—not because Trump is personally adverse to the possibility, but because the entire power structure of the United States is engaged in a criminal conspiracy to prevent him from doing that. After all the concessions made by Trump, that much should be clear.
[Image via kremlin.ru]