Vladimir Putin addresses the United States in a tone that reflects his belief that its heydays are doomed to fade away. He is scheming to lay a very thorny trap in the Ukraine while demanding a very high price for not letting anyone fall into that trap. When Putin talks about the Ukraine, he sets his own terms rather than any demands regarding the country, and the repetition of this scenario has revealed its real motivations.
It was the Kremlin that contrived to create the current hotspot in the Ukraine. Moscow might be right about the West’s abandonment of the pledges made by former US Secretary of State James Baker not to expand the NATO eastwards – following the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, the list of Russian concerns seems rather to be a package of pretexts fabricated to exhaust the West.
At any rate, it is still hard to predict what Putin has in mind, and global experience with him indicates he is a master in concealing his intentions, as he has often managed to double-cross several Western leaders at times when he has needed to strengthen the Russian motherland against the nightmare of disintegration, and restore the prestige of its Army, while advancing its armor. Some who know him in person say that he could be a lecturer on the art of deceit, which is taught at war colleges and intelligence institutions. Anyway, his cutting-edge skill in that domain needs no further proof.
In a related issue, one could say that Putin’s vindictive recipes have become common knowledge, as any demonstration is now regarded as a project for destabilization, any uprising as a conspiracy staged by external forces, and any civil society institutions as trading shops run by particular embassies for suspicious schemes.
Further along, it seems that has Putin made use of the brutal practices of extremist fundamentalists of the Arab Spring in launching a global hatred campaign against any popular activities that aspire for change, advocating the concept that any innovation is ‘suspicious’ and thus better aborted early on. Additionally, he is good at providing a sufficient cover-up for his interventions, as when he accuses some sides incapable of launching chemical attacks and unwilling to carry them out of preparing for them, or when he stains other sides with terrorism only because they aspire to see a reduction in corruption and the state’s brutality in its crackdown on citizens.
It was in within this mindset that Putin rushed to handle the stormy events in Kazakhstan, where demonstrations and riots were staged to protest the increased fuel prices.
Kazakh President Qasim Tukayev rushed to use the terminology of Putin’s dictionary, condemning the protestors as “gangsters” and “international terrorists,” and hurriedly asking for the assistance of the Russian big brother.
To Putin, it is categorically out of the question to allow the winds of change to blow in that neighboring country, with its massive area and abundant natural resources, and start to destabilize it. Hence, the Kremlin has had a pre-planned intervention plan named the Collective Security Treaty Organization, to cover-up for a return of the Russian military to this republic that was born from beneath the rubble of the passé Soviet Union.
To sum up, Putin has rushed to conclude the issue in Kazakhstan so he can again focus entirely on exhausting the West in general, and the US in particular.
Anyway, Putin is not the only personality interested in tiring the US and the West. Qasem Soleimani passed away without seeing his dream of seeing the Grand Satan – the US – bleed to death come true. Soleimani was thrilled enough at the start of the Khomeinian revolution in 1979 to witness American citizens captive inside their own embassy in Tehran, that he then he chased similar results in several world capitals. One could even suggest that he went to the extent of receiving Al-Qaida leaders and facilitating their access to Iraq, the land that witnessed clear traces of his plots that cost a considerable American lives. His obsession was to drag the US into a war of attrition, in line with his preoccupation to cross established international borders and change them.
Tehran’s efforts to cause a rupture of relations between the US and some regional capitals fall into the same category, as Iran thinks that the US has been safeguarding regional balances for decades. Soleimani was engaged in that attempt to exhaust the US and the West for several years, apparently never reckoning that a US president would issue a kill order on him, which Donald Trump did.
Osama bin Laden died without achieving his dream of closely watch of heavily wounded US troops retreating from Afghanistan, as the Mujahideen did with the former Soviet Red Army.
Bin Laden’s plot was to drag the US war machinery into the rough Afghan mountainous terrain, where it could never achieve victory. He was likely motivated by history books that describe this mountain heavy country as ‘the graveyard of empires.’ Bin Laden had an Afghan partner in the joint endeavor to exhaust the US; namely, former Taliban Leader Mullah Omar. However, the latter has also passed away without witnessing the US divorce from the Afghan issue through a hasty withdrawal, which left the country in the hands of hungry mobs, and a Taliban that has difficulty in controlling them.
The US has successfully finished off Al-Qaida, as it did with ISIS, whose leader Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi died without achieving his aspirations of establishing a long-lasting Islamic Caliphate state and exhausting the US and its allies.
One should never underestimate the damage done to the US by Soleimani, Bin Laden and Mullah Omar, Al-Baghdadi, let alone Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. However, one should also recall the fact that the US was never finished off by their wars of attrition.
Instead, Washington retaliated through imposing sanctions that debilitate the Iranian economy, dismantling Al-Qaida, finishing off ISIS at its essence, and leaving the Taliban minding its own troubles in a hungry country. Hence, the capability of all Islamist organizations to exhaust the US is quite limited, due to their history, and the lack of any alternative systems that would compete with the successful one presented by the West.
Returning to Russia, it is noteworthy that Putin’s capabilities in exhausting the US are way stronger than those of Soleimani, Bin Laden, Mullah Omar, and Al-Baghdadi. Vladimir is the head of Russia, a country with a gargantuan landmass, who leads over a vast military arsenal. He also has the weapon of the UN veto, and controls the gas pipelines that provide warmth to people in the freezing European winter. Thus, he can achieve what others could not. Putin claims fear, although he is an alpha-male, claims being besieged, although he besieges others, expresses concern over Russia’s stability, although he attempts to destabilize the US.
It is such a big deal when Putin manages to turn the likelihood of invading the Ukraine to a key topic in the international political arena and at the offices of NATO generals. Is he betting on inciting a disagreement between Europe and the US?
Does he think he can trick Biden in the Ukraine, as he tricked Obama in Syria? Does he think that Washington’s fear of the threatening Chinese Dragon might push it to appease Russia and give up some of its gains achieved following the Soviet collapse? There are numerous such questions, but the sure thing is that Vladimir will proceed with his war of attrition against the US, as it is certain that he emerged from the ranks of the former KGB into Stalin’s bureau to take revenge from those who erased the map of the Soviet Union and condemned its legacy to history.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.