The military scholars argue about the generations of warfare. What we are seeing in Ukraine with the Gerasimov Doctrine of openly non-attributable actions by the state in order to avoid a direct confrontation with a peer foe isn’t really fifth generation warfare. It is simply proxy warfare the same as Afghanistan in the 1980s or Vietnam in the 60s and 70s.
What ended the Cold War? Russian international debt brought about by falling oil prices (war in the middle east is always good for falling oil prices) and in increase in the cost of wheat on the international commodity market. Mother Russia could not balance the budget, and the Soviet Union fell apart in a cloud of debt.
Below is a link to the public discussion about Russia scaling back defense spending in the light of two years of recession, economic contraction, and falling oil prices. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-crisis-military-spending-idUSKCN0VS0RR
This is important to understand, all of the Russians over the age of 35 have memories of the collapse of the Soviet System, and the ones who are intellectually rigorous understand the economic forces at work. Russia has always been an energy and mineral exporting based economy, and as such is highly dependent on the world economy for national prosperity. Sanctions hit at a bad time for the world economy, the fall in oil prices hit like a kick to the gut.
But in addition to that, Putin’s social policies will have longer term economic ramifications. What economic activity in Russia not related to energy and mineral exports is either big defense projects (Russia does export a lot of military gear and technology, but not enough to support its government). In light of this the middle class has been feeling quite the squeeze as they get frozen out of international markets by sanctions and a disadvantageous exchange rate for currencies.
This opinion piece points out a disturbing fact that the Russian middle class has largely voted with their feet to leave Russia. http://upnorth.eu/the-virus-of-freedom/
With the entrepreneurs leaving Russia, the social Policies of Putin serve the lesson of “The Curly Effect” https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/glaeser/files/curley_effect_1.pdf of shaping the political electorate to automatically support the Policies of Putin further into the future. In essence, Putin’s Policies are good for Putin, but not good for Russia.
So the real question any good Liberal should be asking is, “how can we blame America for this?” And the answer is to that question is to simply look to what the Russian back Information Campaign in media sources is saying about America and NATO. Words like “NATO aggression” and “dangerous rhetoric” and “intentionally destabilizing” might be a bit over the top, but never let the truth stand in the way of hyperbole.
With the economics of Russia on our mind, the lack of a strategy regarding Syria is both frustrating and ironic. The more Russia exposes its forces in Syria, the more likely all Western countries are to see the actual capabilities of the Russian military and the more money Russia will poor into the bottomless pit that is middle eastern conflicts. While US forces are being largely in a holding pattern simply working to stop the spread of Daesh (ISIS) and maybe prepare some local forces for a counter attack, Russia looks like it is going to play for keeps. After all, a friendly Mediterranean port doesn’t just drop in your lap when you need it.
And this brings us to a more fundamental point, Russia will make itself relevant on the international stage no matter the cost. In the act of supporting democratic reform in Ukraine Russia had to react to avoid a strong democratic neighbor on its borders (even today Russian propaganda refers to Victoria Nuland constantly) . If you follow this link, you will see the Russian official line that Ukraine is completely the fault of those meddlesome Americans. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/15/russia-terrorism-ukraine-america-putin Of course this brings us back to the point, it is an open secret that the war in East Ukraine is a Russian war for territory.
But, the facts of the matter are not changing. Russia is becoming less wealthy and less free, and the electorate is changing in such a way that this will become the new normal. Russians will endure the economic pain because it still beats life under the Soviets and being depressed and drinking vodka is something of a national past time. Is it really America’s fault? Well no, but had America elected a stronger and wiser leader maybe Putin would have not felt the need to set in motion the events in Crimea and east Ukraine. Maybe this alternate leader would have listened to the Israelis when they warned not to get involved with “moderate muslim rebels” who would be hijacked by fundamentalists who would send all the moderates to the front lines to die (which is what happened).
So America is not blameless, but by the logic of an abusive wife beater who claims, “You made me do this! You made me act this way!” to excuse their own bad behavior. So here at the very end of my rambling post (the blog is titled “wandering through the night” after all) we come back to this state of pseudo war as the realization of “fifth generation” warfare. In the struggle for dominance and to impose the political will on their foe; proxies, sanctions, and the manipulation of international finances may become the tools of the next generations of truly competent warriors. If so, it could be that we are just entering the fifth generation of Americans and Russians to square off for world dominance.