Leave the Left (and Far Right) alone!
Post-Soviet “Active Measures” and related infiltration into EU / NATO intellectual assets may account for the promotion of polarized “Brown v Red-Green” politics.
The post-Cold War narrative arc spans American Administrations, but the general public (I’ve become accidentally a little bit specialized) tends to see the moment, i.e., a span of months to years, when it should be seeing decades of process in removing the holdovers from the Soviet Era. For good reasons, Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi are gone, but it’s at Assad’s Syria, the gateway to Iran in the old politics coming apart, that Putin visibly returned to the old KGB walk and the reinforcement of old relationships. As no one in the west has wanted another “cold war” or a strong “Moscow” on the tracks that it’s on, the purchase of time combined with sanctions and deflated oil pricing has substantially weakened the Moscow-Damascus-Tehran (more truly, “Moscow-Tehran” axis).
Now: enter Trump.
Just so it’s known: Moscow’s cash reserves have been deeply drawn down not only by years of reduced oil revenues and political sanctions but by the regime’s own abuse of the nascent Russian business system and the flight of capital from it. Most of what isn’t at hand has been parked in the western (rule-of-law) banking system or similarly stable high-value assets (most obviously real estate), and that may add to the discouragement of Moscow’s propensity for armed aggression. However, Putin is a bit of a wildcard as regards his own behavior, and he knows that when faced with a nuclear gambit, the United States will stand firm but elide the issue, returning that aspect of war to equilibrium.
For the Cold War days, moving “Jupiter rockets” sufficed to fully resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis. http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/nsa/cuba_mis_cri/moment.htm
In this day, NATO may have forward dual use conventional-nuclear warheads, giving paranoid Moscow perhaps some legitimate fits as regards its own state of risk. Here is the kind of article one runs into when encountering the nuclear arms control field:
To stay (in the old sense of that word) the course toward nuclear exchange, diplomacy and indirect confrontation have held off the contemplation of direct conflict engagement between Russian and NATO and western forces, but as history tells time and again with despots, that kind of leadership busts through its own boundaries, internal, psychological, external, political until firmly checked.
I think what you’re going to see in Syria will be the “checking” of Moscow’s revanchist (Soviet-style) ambitions and encouragement for it to engage the west in a once again responsible fashion.
It may help to keep in mind, whatever conclusions may be drawn here, that Russia has its own robust internal politics now forming up some challenge to the regime even though the regime holds the strong hand in its expression of absolute power.
The Obama Administration for both political and practical purposes put off confrontation in the field with the “phantoms of the Soviet” most likely to buy time, encourage change, and both financially and politically weaken the regimes that require politics in the feudal mode to sustain their own kleptocracies (“Different Talks — Same Walk!” is the BackChannels trope for how those relationships hold together).
Arguments about the legitimacy of political power are arguments about the future:
“What is to be done?”
“How are we to live?”
“Moscow”, the metonym for the Russian State as devised and held together by President Putin, knows how to make itself look good in superficial ways, but its less remarked positions have not been so wonderful.
Web search “Russia, Economy” brought up these three news pieces a few minutes ago:
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