Putin and the Night Wolves

If nothing else, Vladimir Putin is a leader who paints Russia’s image with broad strokes. He overcame a KGB and Communist past to create a kind of democratic autocracy in Russia. He literally, and figuratively, restored Christianity and Orthodox churches across the land. In his spare time, Putin rides Harley Davidson bikes with the Night Wolves, Russia’s first post-Communist motorcycle club, an organization that might be the only state-sponsored political club for bikers on the planet.

The Russian president rehabilitated the Russian armed forces, too, in the wake of the Afghan/Chechen debacles. More recently, Putin has unchained the bear and altered the complexion of politics and dissent in the Caucuses, Georgia, Ukraine, and now Syria. Russian pushback against NATO expansion and regime change follies is a predictable, if not understandable, response to a hapless Brussels. Why European politicians seek a fight with Russia in the middle of an Islamic migrant blitz is a mystery to tacticians, strategists, and veteran diplomats alike.

The Russian president recently exposed Turkey, too, as NATO’s Achilles’ heel, a terrorist 5th column between East and West. NATO turned a blind eye to the Erdogan/Baghdadi oil cartel until the Russian Air Force began destroying northbound convoys. The CFO for the Turk/ISIS consortium appears to be Billy Erdogan, son of the duplicitous Turkish president. Across the border, Syria was another small war stalemate until Putin stepped in.

Russians still carry American astronauts into space, too, while Washington maintains spite sanctions against Moscow -- a testimony to Russian character and Obama era vapidity. With Putin, diplomacy is often just a door left ajar. The Russian space taxi serves Americans at NASA and affirmative action astronauts worldwide. The cutting edge of extra-terrestrial travel now requires a Kazak base and a Russian rocket.

Unlike European and American leaders, Vladimir Putin has no illusions about existential threats like open borders, Islamic imperialism, or religious fascism.

The Muslim world has been providing fighters to a half century of global jihad that targets and kills Americans and West Europeans with near impunity. Ironically, no Muslim nations are burdened with economic sanctions like those imposed on Russia. Indeed, America and Europe are now suffering from atrocity fatigue. Muslims continue to kill and maim while Washington and Brussels continue to rationalize global terror as the new normal.  

For apologists, calling Islam a “great” culture is the feckless rhetoric of enablers.

The boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel is similar to the Russian sanctions, movements motivated by bias and historical bigotry. Just as Israel won a series of wars against predatory Arabs, the West won the Cold War with inept Communism -- and Europe still can’t take yes for an answer from a Russia that has reinvented itself.

Victory Day, celebrating Soviet success in World War II, has become the most significant holiday on the Russian calendar under Putin.

Unlike America and Europe; victory, success, and the need to oppose fascism, including the religious variety, are mainstays of contemporary Russian vigilance. President Obama is about to visit Hiroshima in Japan; he has declined invitations to celebrate Victory Day in Russia.  Of the WWII “Big Three” allies that defeated fascist Germany and imperial Japan, Russia sacrificed the most to defeat the Nazis and save Europe.  Russia may have to rescue Europe from itself again in the 21st Century.

While the Russian president cultivates “a never forget” ethic, the American president seems to never remember. Indeed, Barack Obama, as with Muslim history, seems to be ignorant about the legacy of uncommon cultures -- and the difference between friendly and lethal competition. If a liberal like Roosevelt could make common cause with Joseph Stalin and a conservative like Ronald Reagan could do business with Mikhail Gorbachev, how is it that a political footnote like Barack Hussein Obama can’t do business with Vladimir Putin?

The face of 21st century fascism is religious – and Islamic. There’s not much difference between secular and religious totalitarians. Coercion, terror, and atrocity are what they have in common.  Alas, Europe, with the possible exception of Brexit England, seems to be channeling early 20th Century behaviors that enabled National Socialism. Recall that Italy and Spain made common cause with fascism. France and Belgium rolled over like tarts, and most of Scandinavia allowed Hitler’s vermin to take control uncontested. “Neutrality” in Europe before and during WWII was another word for appeasement. In the North, the flavor was Quisling; in the South, collaboration was called Vichy. The EU and NATO are not about defense today so much as they are about flirting with similar historical folly.

The parallels between midcentury Europe and early the early 21st Century European Union are difficult to ignore anymore.  Euocrats seem not to have a clue about common cultural or common kinetic defense. Terrorists live cheek to jowl with oblivious Belgians. The European Union seeks to solve the 5th Column problem now by making Turkey an open border too!  

Some days it’s not difficult to conclude that clueless Europe and ruthless Mecca deserve each other. In the distant past, Islam was at the Gates of Vienna. Now the crescent and sword knocks on the doors of Westminster Abby. If common sense were currency, the European Union would be insolvent.

The loss of a clueless West Europe is sure to provide new opportunities for new alliances. Given the endemic chaos and aggression emanating from the Muslim world; Russia, China, and the United States might be the logical core for a new “big three,” alliance against 21st Century totalitarians. One of the most obvious advantages of a new global military coalition would be economy. Unlike NATO dependencies, the Chinese and Russians will surely pay their own way.

Ironically, China and Russia are already fiscal allies, in so much as both have emerged as a kind budget Viagra for the US Department of Defense. It’s difficult to justify “huge” defense budgets at the Pentagon if the real threat is 5th column migrants and terror driving a Toyota.

Only one candidate in the US presidential primaries suggests that small wars, strategy, and alliances should on the table in 2016. Hard as it is to forecast how such a discussion might go, any movement in new directions would be an improvement over the “new normal;” cooked threats, sanguinary inertia, and suicidal appeasement.

Time is not a European or American ally when conflict is a war of a thousand cuts.  

G. Murphy Donovan is a former Intelligence officer who writes about the politics of national security.