Monday, November 21, 2016

Key dynamics underlying US-Russia ties.

A lot has been said about the Russian support to the Trump campaign. Perhaps the best summary of the details has been put out by Mike Lofgren [1].  The Lofgren article is worth reading because it gives us a sense of what Russia is doing by floating a new "Comintern" (composed of "Trump faithful", Alt-Right illuminati and Russian PR-Line operators), but is also gives us a sense of why Russia would do such a thing.

It is however worthwhile to recall a few facts about Russia. Even if you dislike Putin and hate the S-directorate - you may want to remember this.

Russia is the largest country on earth. It is three times the size of the US. It  possesses unimaginable levels of mineral wealth. It has an enormous industrious and cultured population. It is a natural bridge between Asia and Europe. It has - is - and - will -always - be a great Eurasian power.  You may fault the Russian for drinking too much Vodka, but you have to admit without the Russian standing up to Hitler - the world would be a very different place. Russia can easily become a pivot on which the world order changes.

Some of you may already know that Saudi Arabia and Russia are today vying for dominance over the global energy market. The Russians have recovered from their collapse in the 90s and they have managed to expand production and now match Saudi volumes if need be. The Russians are also now able to bring sizable oil refining resources - again matching anything the Saudis can pull together.

The Russians are the biggest single supplier of natural gas to Europe. Russia's interests in Syria are also very transparent. Apart from blocking any Saudi backed pipelines through the region, Russia wants to explore the Eastern Mediterranean Levant Basin [2] - whoever knows where to drill - is in a position of supreme leverage. In this fashion Russia could keep its stranglehold on the European  market. (Incidentally - I believe a faction inside Israel also believes that EMLB could provide a long term sense of energy security to Israel, and that may explain how people like the Kushner scion and Steve Bannon are able to stand next to each other).

It is only natural for Russia to want the same level of leverage in Washington DC as the Saudis enjoy.

We know President Elect Donald Trump is neck deep in all things Russian because the man can't give a straight answer when asked about it and he won't release his tax returns which would tell us how much money really came to him from Bayrock and other "channels". And I don't know if you guys noticed - but President Elect Trump comes across as being a little enamored with President Putin. He even thinks that President Putin thinks highly of him, something I really have trouble believing. In the old days (you know like the 50s which President Elect Donald Trump loves) if a political leader talked the way Donald Trump does - we would have called him an "agent provocateur" - possibly even picked him up and questioned extensively. But - we don't do stuff like that anymore.

Given his sizable investments in Russia - President Elect Donald Trump wants to be the guy to bring the Russians in from the cold. There is one particular problem with doing this with the Russians and that is they have traditionally had a very narrow perspective of their relationship with the US.

Specifically - the Russians and the US still have nukes pointed at each other. And Russian missile guidance systems and propulsion systems are still less reliable than their  US counterparts. This gap has narrowed over the last decade or so the Russians lagged the US by several decades to begin with and on this front.

The Russians were slow to move on the Nazi rocketry operation. They arrived at the Wunder Waffen factories after the Allies had already picked them over. The Russians made up some lost ground under the leadership of Kelydsh  and Korolev, but after the death of Sergei Korolev - things just fell apart in Russia.  The Russians are super smart, but everyone  needs time and money they simply have not had enough time and money to focus and get this done. So fundamentally the Russians still view an American attempts at an Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Defense mechanism as a "first strike" threat.  This forces the Russian hand in a peculiar way.

So from an American perspective - I have to say - one cannot distinguish between a completely acceptable expression of Russia's commercial interests and a completely unacceptable provocation aimed at disabling the ability of the US to defend itself.

And I think while President Elect Donald Trump may want to see things go one way with Russia, the deeply held and well motivated suspicion of Russian moves in DC will provide significant pushback.

Alternatively if President Elect Donald Trump is able to push an ill-conceived US-Russia embraced, we will significant blowback - with major losses on the ABM and nuclear security fronts.

Based on the public utterances during the election and the tweets of his national security leadership nominees, I think we are facing an administration that is not capable of understanding the nature of the Russian threat to our nation's security.


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