Team Trump faces formidable problems both domestic and foreign, we’ve got both a solvency problem and a credibility problem abroad, addressing it will take new capital; even still, nothing is assured in this engagement. As I see it, Putin and other rogue states like Iran, North Korea and hosts of other non-state actors, could coalesce and provide a staggering defeat upon us. Remember, the terrorists and rogue regimes throughout the world only have to be lucky, we’ve actually got to field leadership in our engagements. That’s why any brief glance at the Russian regime is worrisome. Putin’s entire nuclear modernization program is outpacing us, we need to check Putin’s ambitions if we are to gain advantages with other emerging geopolitical problems.
As it stands now, the Russian regime is an oligarchy. Its a criminal enterprise. Although the best way to defeat Putin is financially, we still need to re-industrialize and reform U.S. Statecraft if we are to compete.
Putin’s Russia abjures any market, so our time table for Russian engagement is long. Play the long game first; Putin’s entire modernization program was to achieve rapid success and impose humiliation on an adversary. As of now, Putin’s criminal regime permanently holds the following institutional weaknesses: weak staff leadership, crippled social base evidenced in inflation, limited defense procurement architecture, identical domestic and structural problems with alliances, and finally, inability to secure objectives globally (weak capacity in power projection). All of these can only be resolved by returning to market based political economy.
Regarding team Trump, here’s the good news: political leaders throughout Congress and Department of Defense are aware of requisite reform needed to advance U.S. global objectives for ‘the long war’. Trump’s Secretary of Defense and National Security Advisor Flynn can quickly secure reform so as to field force projection quickly. However, going forward the administration must credibly advance public relations objectives to acknowledge that a nuclear arms race has already begun with Russia. For the past decade, Russia has fielded a 100 megaton nuclear torpedo, short/medium range ballistic missiles and an array of nuclear warfighting systems that violate the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
Under Putin, Russia has modernized its entire nuclear Triad. We haven’t. Putin has deployed new mobile and heavy ICBM’s with new classes of ballistic nuclear submarines, its chief strategic weapon of choice. Putin is advancing new rail-mobile ICBM’s, bombers and cruise missiles. As of this writing, Russia possesses a 10-to-1 advantage. The guy is locked and loaded.
Under several President’s, the U.S. has dismantled nearly 90% of our non-strategic nuclear arms in Europe. Our triad isn’t modernized or tested. The U.S. has fielded new Ohio-class submarine and new nuclear bombers, while seeking to replace old nuclear minutemen land based nuclear missiles with new ICBM’s. Our triad is old and our delivery platforms untested. This is a unilateral restriction that does not apply to Pakistan, China, North Korea, India, or Russia.
When the Obama administration sought to advance the New Start Treaty with Russia, Putin demanded that the U.S. dismantle our entire Pacific based sea-launched cruise systems, our deterrent umbrella for the Pacific. Putin’s objective wasn’t just numerical superiority or even parity; he wants to be able to control the tempo of any engagement, a term called escalation dominance.
To begin addressing this disparity, team Trump will need to field new nuclear war fighting doctrines. With Putin in sight, the American’s need to counter Putin’s need to secure a fast win through superior tactical unconventional forces, cyber war and nuclear threats. Evidenced in Crimea and Ukraine, Russia under Putin seeks to quickly prevail with cross-domain coercion. If Putin can’t, he seeks nuclear blackmail witnessed with recent threats to Norway, Poland, Baltic states, Denmark and Romania.
How do we begin? We start by fielding political realism to advance regional stability through the demonstration of credible nuclear deterrence.
It means limited war globally. If team Trump doesn’t engage meaningfully at the periphery, he should expect Putin to open up engagements in the heartland of Europe.
Welcome to the jungle.