Why have the very best minds in American foreign policy chosen Russia as their primary study? It has to do with finding a specific culture that was forced to accommodate modernity. Given its vast geography, its multiple languages and its friendly relations with France, it remained the best example for studying the social, political impact of true revolutionary ideology. Gallic revolutionary idealism has destroyed the last vestiges of any Muscovite political tradition. We cannot mention any lasting influence that became the British/American mercantile enlightenment, for that revolution had no appeal to Slavic revolutionaries. How does Putin fit in here?
Putins second arrival marks a downward turn toward autocratic rule. Concerning nascent civil societies birth after the fall of atheist Marxism, it looked like Russia’s janus like embrace of western modernity was finalized. That was until anyone looked at Russian demography.
Russia is threatened by low birthrates. The confluence of a secular ideology marred from decades of militant socialism has brought Russia close to collapse. Not so for Islam in the realm of Muscovy. Along its southern flank, Islam is exploding throughout the soft underbelly just north of Ukraine. This story line is one to watch, especially as it underwrites Russia’s relations with NATO and the U.S.
It is throughout that soft underbelly that Russian Generals manage an illicit drug trade, in conjunction with an ever growing threat of militant Islam. Ironically, the radical influence of Chechen Sufi Islam is new; it was always enamored away from Islam’s traditional role of poppy courier throughout Central Asia. This is not lost on the Chechens who seek to embarrass the Russians.
Have you noticed Putins new friends in South America? Venezuela, Bolivia and Mexico are abetting Putins hold on Persian drug trafficking. Couriers bearing gifts indeed.
Unless we have forgotten our lesson from Machiavelli, all this only confirms what realism displays: Putins clandestine agenda serves only his own purpose, a need to continue thwart a superior foe, namely America.
How should we deal with this slight of hand?
Easy. Play it straight and embarrass the Russians. We should pass and enforce the Magnitsky Act that now sits in Congress, for it would bring visa and asset sanctions against Russian government functionaries culpable of criminal and human rights abuses.
The United States should stop the charade of cooperation and meet Putin on his own battlefield of realism: don’t worry, the House of Muscovy is weak!