New Book on Putin: Russia's War Against ISIS Isn't What It Seems
If you think Putin's Russia is at war with the Islamic State (ISIS), think again. That's the message of the new book Putin's Master Plan: To Destroy Europe, Divide NATO, and Restore Russian Power and Global Influence. In this book, Democratic strategist Doug Schoen argues that Putin is more than happy to promote terrorism if it serves his purposes, and his very public "war against ISIS" is a smokescreen for his real goals.
"It is very clear to me that Putin's principal and central focus [in Syria] is keeping Bashar Assad in power," Schoen tells PJ Media. "Stopping and defeating terror is a distinctly lower priority, no matter what Putin's rhetoric might suggest."
Indeed, the author even argues that Putin is effectively using terrorism to divide America and Europe. "The United States is facing Vladimir Putin, who is systematically trying to undermine the Western alliance and use things like refugees and terrorists to facilitate his interests."
In his book, Schoen argues that Russian airstrikes hit anti-Assad rebels more than members of the Islamic State. The author notes that the ceasefire in Syria broke down within days, and the main results of the Syrian Civil War — the refugee crisis and terror against the West — "play into and facilitate Russians' interest."
According to Schoen, the Putin-terror nexus goes beyond just the Islamic State, however. Russia has already taken advantage of America's nuclear deal with Iran, and Putin is selling the rogue regime missiles. Schoen also recalls Russia's declaration of a "year of friendship" with North Korea in 2015, with plans to cancel Pyongyang's debt and to invest in North Korea's infrastructure.
But terrorism and rogue regimes form only one aspect of the Russian president's master plan, according to the new book. Not only has the autocrat invaded Ukraine (2014) and Georgia (2008), but he has engaged in a new kind of warfare against the West. Putin's government has supported pro-Russian political parties across Europe, has a very effective spy and hacking network, and leverages Russia's massive energy reserves to control European politics.
Putin is even trying to build oil pipelines into China, strengthening his ties with President Xi Jinping. The likely failure of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will weaken America's position in East Asia, Schoen argues. He also notes that the Chinese have built their own islands in the South China Sea, despite world court rulings against them. Russia and China are "working together, economically, politically, and militarily."
Schoen lays out the key differences between the West and Russia. America and Europe prize "freedom, liberty, the sanctity of freedom of speech, the ability of the individual in society to make decisions for or against whatever interests they want." In contrast, "Russians represent an autocratic approach to life, government, and politics."
Next Page: 6 things America should do to fight back.
Schoen argues that the United States must counter Putin's master plan with "our own American or Western strategy." His book presents six key aspects of such a master plan.
1. Arm the Ukrainians.
America must arm the Ukrainians in their fight against Russia. Schoen chides President Barack Obama for only sending non-lethal aid to the eastern European country, arguing that Russian troops are on the ground in the Ukraine and that it needs the ability to force them out.
2. Arm the Kurds in Syria.
The United States must also arm the Kurds in Syria. "They've certainly been the most effective fighters" against both Assad and ISIS, Schoen says.
The author notes America's reluctance to help the Kurds — Turkey is a key American ally, and the Kurds have carried on a kind of rebellion inside that country. Nevertheless, "given that we've had problems with the Turks, and that the Turks seem more interested frankly in clamping down the Kurds than they do in taking out ISIS," the author argues that America should favor the Kurds over the Turks, at least when it comes to Syria.
3. Strengthen connections with NATO and Europe.
In his book, Schoen references Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, the touchstone of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This article binds all NATO allies to take up arms in defense if any one of the countries is attacked by a foreign power. Schoen notes that each of the Baltic states -- Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia -- are members of NATO, and that Putin has been angling for influence in those countries.
The United States will have to prove that NATO is not a dead letter in order to deter Putin from deciding to invade any of the Baltic states. If Russia were to invade one of these nations, and NATO acted according to its obligations, that might trigger a world war. The U.S. can prevent this by demonstrating its commitment to NATO, which should prevent Russia from going too far.
4. Update our military force and nuclear arsenal.
While America and other Western nations have been decreasing their troop size, Russia increased its soldiers by 25 percent from 2011 to 2014. The Russians also are developing a new generation of tanks and jets as well. Since taking the helm in Russian leadership in 2000, Putin has boosted defense spending twenty-fold, in ruble terms. Russian defense spending has reached 4.5 percent of GDP, higher than America's decreasing share, which 3.5 percent of GDP and falling. Only the U.S. and China spend more, in concrete dollars, on defense.
Schoen writes that Russia has the world's largest nuclear arsenal, and the United States should stop reducing its own arsenal. Instead, America should develop "the next generation of nuclear warheads and missiles" in order to keep "our arsenal a step ahead of Russian missile defense and detection capabilities." Since Putin is building his arsenal, Schoen argues, America should demonstrate its commitment to keep up.
Next Page: Why Schoen does not trust Clinton or Trump to counter Russia.
5. Pursue energy independence.
Energy is one of the most powerful weapons in Putin's arsenal, according to Schoen. Russian energy accounts for 30 percent of Germany's energy imports, 28 percent of Italy's, 17 percent of France's, and 13 percent of Britain's. The prospect of losing power in the middle of winter terrifies northern Europeans, and they may not agree to stiff sanctions against Putin due to the influence of Russian oil and natural gas.
"The extent that we pursue a policy that utilizes all sources of energy ... puts us in a position where we will maximize our chance of minimizing Russian use of energy resources against us," Schoen tells PJ Media. He specifically mentions the "extraordinary benefits" of hydraulic fracturing (commonly known as "fracking"), and adds that by not constructing the Keystone XL pipeline, "we are playing into the hands of our adversaries."
The book notes that Europe actually has its own massive oil reserves, which could be unleashed with fracking. It also alleges that there is evidence of Russian funding for anti-fracking advocacy. "I would support more fracking in Europe, and a greater effort by the United States to keep the European nations from being dependent on the Russians, which will lead those same nations to weaken on sanctions for the Russians," Schoen says.
6. Countering Russia in the Arctic.
Putin's aggression in the Arctic Circle has perhaps drawn less attention than it should. Schoen points out that as much as 20 percent of the world's undiscovered oil reserves lie under the Arctic Sea, and that Russia has invested in the infrastructure necessary to tap into those reserves. The United States and Canada need to respond in kind, in order to prevent Putin from extending his energy empire.
Unfortunately, Schoen sees the chances of America adopting such a strategy in 2017 as "uncertain at best." He tells PJ Media that he has serious concerns with both Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump.
While Clinton "says, to me, more of the right things than President Obama or Donald Trump, her record as Secretary of State was certainly not distinguished." Schoen lists her particular failings: "She did not succeed in Libya, there was no peace deal in the Middle East, Ukraine remains Russian, the reset was a failure."
He also alludes to Clinton scandals with her email and the Clinton Foundation. "I am troubled that the State Department during Secretary Clinton's term signed off on the sale of a quarter of our uranium supply to a Russian company," Shoen adds. "I worry, frankly, that given the server that Secretary Clinton used when she was going overseas, she would have been hacked into by the Russians, the Chinese, or somebody else."
But Schoen has nothing good to say for Trump, either. "I'm troubled that Putin remains somebody that Donald Trump praises," the author says. "Donald Trump has been consistently questioning the role of NATO," thus allowing Putin to separate the U.S. and its allies.
Schoen sees no hope in the third-party candidates either, calling Libertarian Gary Johnson "dovish" and Green Party nominee Jill Stein "even more dovish."
Interestingly, this Democrat strategist heaps praise on Mitt Romney, saying he was "validated, proven correct." He attacks George W. Bush as expanding the U.S. "too much" and hits Barack Obama for extending himself "too little." To explain his praise of Romney and his attacking Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Schoen says, "I see these problems not in partisan terms." He calls these issues "not ones of ideology but ones of real-world threats to the United States."
"We won't lose as Democrats or Republicans, we'll lose as Americans."