Russia is not the Main Enemy

One of the most disturbing and dangerous dimensions of the contemporary world political panorama is the growing tension between the United States and the Russian Federation. Future historians will try to find an explanation involving the staggering blindness of the leadership of both countries.

The problem is not complicated.  While the United States is presented as number one enemy of Russia, and vice versa, the simple truth is that it is radical Islam that constitutes a deadly threat to both countries. For the adherents of the growing theocratic-totalitarian ideology there is no bigger chance to turn into reality their dreams for a global domination rather than the growing hostility between America and Russia, or ideally, a war between those countries.

Not so long ago, President Vladimir Putin gave a speech in which he declared that Russia doesn’t have any aggressive intentions toward the former Baltic “republics” of the Soviet Union, or toward any former Eastern European dependency of the Soviet Union currently a part of NATO.  In other words, President Putin is trying to assure Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria that Russia does not have any aggressive designs toward them. The follow-up question is an important one: To what extent are the American plans to place heavy weaponry and to dispatch a 5,000 strong U.S. military contingent in that area perceived in Moscow as a threat to Russia?

In case the Americans think that the real intent of president Putin is a sudden attack resulting in the conquest of Eastern Europe, does anybody in Washington sincerely believe that 5,000 U.S. officers and men would be able to repel potential Russian aggression? There is not the slightest hint that Putin contemplates the broadening of Russian aggression by trying to occupy Eastern Europe and thus provoking the outbreak of the Third World War.

One of the many strange aspects of the current American-Russian confrontation expresses itself in the fact that on the one hand Putin is assuring the West in general and the U.S. in particular that Russia doesn’t intend to attack either Ukraine or Eastern Europe, while on the other hand the President of Russia doesn’t understand, or pretends not to understand, that the American symbolic transfer of weaponry and personnel eastward represents a defensive move.

It was the Syrian Civil War preceding the Ukrainian crisis that provided the reason for the deterioration of the American-Russian relations by deepening the divide between both countries. The conflict that erupted in Syria forced Washington and Moscow to extend their support to the different protagonists who were trying to determine the future of Syria. There was only one critically important difference between the choices made by Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama.  

The choice of Putin was determined by a clear-cut strategy based on the consideration to preserve the secular regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad from the assault of different Islamic groups and organizations whose purpose was the establishment of an Islamic state on the territory of the country. The case with President Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was completely different. As the president has recently confessed, the United States doesn’t have a consistent strategy in the Middle East. The statement Secretary of State Clinton made at the very beginning of the ravaging Syrian Civil War was also categorical and short:  “Assad must go!”

As a matter of fact, the shocking statement of President Obama about a lack of U.S. strategy was incorrect. What happened was that back in 2011 during the earliest stages of the Syrian drama, the silent partnership of the President of the United States with the former Prime Minister of Turkey Recip Tayyip Erdogan, brought about two rather important results. Probably under the influence of Erdogan, President Obama was even considering inviting Mahamed Morsi, the former, hard-core Islamic president of Egypt, to the White House in September of 2011.

As far as the Syrian Civil War was concerned, the Obama administration missed a wonderful opportunity to wipe out ISIS from the very beginning with a massive air attack originating from U.S. aircraft carriers while the Jihadists were on their way to Mosul (Iraq).  Instead, Mr. Obama referred to ISIS as the “Junior Varsity team.”  Finally, at least some Washington policymakers realize that the problem with the U.S. policy in the Middle East is not the lack of strategy but rather the wrong strategy. The hope is that there is an increasing number of people who realize that so far the United States have been assisting the wrong side of the Syrian conflict.

The conflict stemming from President Putin’s confrontation with Ukraine and the sanctions imposed against Russia for the occupation of Crimea and the military action in Eastern Ukraine, could find its solution only within the framework of the realization on the part of Washington and Moscow that radical Islam is the main danger threatening the United States, Russia, and Europe.

If we dare follow the most likely scenario of events and the almost inevitable Taliban victory in Afghanistan after the U.S. withdrawal, we shall be able to observe a development very similar to the one that took place in Syria and Iraq.  The Taliban’s tentacles will spread into the former Soviet Central Asia and into the barely accessible areas of Pakistan. With this huge territory as a base, the intense drug trafficking and the destabilization of the United States and Russia will acquire a new dynamic.

As far as the Ukrainian conflict is concerned, maybe a formerly rejected option will offer a solution. In other words, the federalization of Ukraine would allow the pro-Russian component of the Eastern Ukrainian population an acceptable level of representation, while keeping the territorial integrity of the country. This has the potential to offer a mutually acceptable solution to the confrontation.

Georgy Gounev teaches and writes on ideology and strategy of radical Islam. He is the author of  The Dark Side of the Crescent Moon - the Islamization of Europe and its Impact on American - Russian Relations Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick (New Jersey) and London (England), 2014. The book is available on Amazon.