So, what if your God has chosen Vladimir Putin to play a unique role in undermining your nation from within?
We are wondering about that. And you have to admit, Vlad is a very unique character in the story. Look what one of your well-known opinion writers wrote of Vlad…
Who is the most influential human being on the planet? My vote goes to Vladimir Putin.
Putin has established himself as one pole in the great global debate of the era, the debate between authoritarianism and democracy. He has a coherent strategy to promote his authoritarian side of that debate. He’s able to humiliate and disrupt his democratic rivals at will and get away with it. He’s become a cultural hero to populist conservatives everywhere — in France, Italy, the Philippines and the Oval Office.
People are always saying that Putin is merely good at playing a weak hand. Everybody expects him to ultimately falter because Russia’s economy is so creaky. But his hand isn’t that weak. That’s because his power base is not economic; it’s cultural and ideological.Vladimir Putin, the Most Influential Man in the World, By David Brooks, New York Times, April 2, 2018
Go Vlad, go!
We know that you won’t take this seriously. You are so focused on America, that you fail to see the bigger story, in which President Putin is a serious player.
And Donald Trump’s first wife would seem to agree…
Ivana herself has eschewed politics. She told The Post in September that she had turned down the ambassadorship to the Czech Republic after Donald offered it to her.
She thinks that the president can hold his own in the political arena.
“He doesn’t take nonsense from anybody and he prefers to be friends [rather] than be enemies with Putin, or basically any leader around the world,” she said, adding, “I think [Russian president Vladimir] Putin is the toughest guy in the world. Really.”Ivana Trump thinks Vanessa will ‘have a problem’ finding a new man, By Dana Schuster, Page Six, April 21, 2018
And Donald himself certainly admires Vlad…
Trump has made his affection for authoritarians — from the Philippines’ Duterte to Turkey’s Erdogan to China’s Xi — well known. While he fights with American allies, he lavishes praise on Vladimir Putin, who he has discussed approvingly more than 80 times since 2013. This included such gems as, “You have to give [Putin] credit that what he’s doing for that country in terms of their world prestige is very strong” and praising the Russian dictator’s “very strong control over [his] country.”
Trump not only admires dictators, he envies them. Surely stinging over Kim’s state-run media coverage, Trump tweeted after his Singapore visit: “Our Country’s biggest enemy is the Fake News so easily promulgated by fools.” Yes, Trump views the media as a far bigger enemy than North Korea. Achieving his larger goal of destroying any sense of truth — which all authoritarians aspire to do — requires he destroy the institution that keeps pointing out that he is an inveterate liar. As he told CBS’s Lesley Stahl, his attacks are meant to “discredit” reporters so that people won’t believe negative stories about him.Donald Trump has always expressed love for authoritarian leaders, but we failed to listen, By Kirsten Powers, USA Today, June 20, 2018
So, something may be going on with him too. Vladimir Putin may also be a Chosen One.
We saw the 2019 National Intelligence Strategy Report from Dan Coats, your Director of National Intelligence. And China is listed second behind Russia in the report’s focus on external threats to the United States…
“…threats come from long-standing adversaries — Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran, among others – new adversaries, including terrorist groups and other non-state actors. We also see threats from cyber space, and adversaries using emerging, disruptive technologies against us.”Dan Coats, Director of the National Intelligence Presentation
I’m offended, of course, by Coats not placing China first in line. But, I understand. Russia is skilled in landing on your front pages so often, while we Chinese prefer to fly under the radar and overwhelm you unexpectedly.
Make no mistake, these threats are real, and should be of great concern to you…
The United States may spend more on defense than the next seven highest-spending nations on the planet combined, but it seems to be ill-prepared for war against its most dangerous adversaries: A new analysis suggests the Pentagon would almost certainly endure a “decisive military defeat” if faced with war against Russia or China.
The comprehensive report, released this week by the National Defense Strategy Commission—a bipartisan panel of experts selected by Congress to review and assess the National Defense Strategy put forward by the Trump administration—concludes that America’s armed forces would be woefully unprepared in the event of a conflict with its two most daunting rivals, Russia and China, over disputes related to the Baltic region of Northern Europe and the sovereignty of Taiwan, respectively. “The security and wellbeing of the United States are at greater risk than at any time in decades,” the report reads. “Put bluntly, the U.S. military could lose the next state-versus-state war it fights.”DESPITE RECORD SPENDING, THE U.S. MILITARY WOULD BE AT ‘GRAVE RISK’ IN A WAR WITH RUSSIA OR CHINA, By JARED KELLER, Pacific Standard, November 16, 2018
Unfortunately, the liberal order has become sufficiently frayed, and the American role in the world sufficiently uncertain, that Putin is bound to continue probing for weaknesses. Until now Putin has sought to disrupt, divide, and degrade the liberal world order through murky actions in the gray area between war and peace-through half invasions, frozen conflicts, “little green men,” and the manipulation of the Internet and social media, including interference in elections on both sides of the Atlantic. Whether he turns to more open forms of aggression in the future, against Ukraine again or even against a NATO ally like Estonia, will depend on his reading of the United States and the state of the liberal world order. If the order is strong and confident and backed by reliable American power, he will be cautious. A losing confrontation with the West could be embarrassing and loosen Putin’s grip on power at home. If the order appears weak and divided, however, and the United States appears uncertain or uninterested, he will be tempted to take the next bolder step. Nothing would more surely destroy the liberal order and put Russia back in the big game than proof that the United States was not prepared to come to the defense of a treaty ally in Europe.Robert Kagan, The Jungle Grows Back
And Paula showed us two warnings which came your way in two subsequent days in September, 2016…
Obama apparently assumes he can leave office as a peacemaker before his appeased chickens come home to roost in violent fashion. He has assured us that the world has never been calmer and quieter.
Others said the same thing in the last calm summer weeks of 1914 and 1939.
War clouds are gathering. A hard rain is soon going to fall.A Hard Rain Is Going to Fall, By Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, September 22, 2016
Russia dreams publicly of its former hold on Eastern Europe and cannot but see opportunity in a disintegrating European Union and faltering NATO. China annexes the South China Sea and looks to South Korea, Japan and Australasia as future subordinates. Given the degradation of U.S. and allied conventional forces previously able to hold such ambitions in check, critical confrontations are bound to occur. When they do occur, and if without American reaction, China or Russia have continued to augment their strategic forces to the point of vast superiority where one or both consider a first strike feasible, we may see nuclear brinkmanship (or worse) in which the United States—startled from sleep and suddenly disabused of the myth of sufficiency—might have to capitulate, allowing totalitarian dictatorships to dominate the world.The Gathering Nuclear Storm, By MARK HELPRIN, Wall Street Journal, September 23, 2016
The story may unfold like that. We don’t deny it. But there are others who see in a different way…
The U.S. government has no more important duty than defending the nation. However, providing for the “common defense,” as the Constitution puts it, is remarkably easy. America has vast oceans east and west and peaceful neighbors to the north and south.
Today only Russia, with an arsenal of nuclear-tipped missiles, could launch a serious attack on America. However, Moscow has no incentive to do so, since the result would be devastating retaliation. China’s military is expanding but directed at preventing Washington from dominating the People’s Republic of China at home and in its neighborhood.
Terrorists abound but mostly result from maladroit U.S. policies that create enemies and make other people’s conflicts America’s own. Moreover, while such attacks are atrocious, they do not pose an existential threat.The One Reason America Can’t Police the World Anymore: Washington Is Broke, By Doug Bandow, The National Interest, December 26, 2018
Anyway, while the government intelligence community obviously must address these external threats, I have a question for you Christians in America…
Have you considered the possibility the Russians see that your dividing house is the great danger to your troubled country?
Because, well, look at this…
Putin is a sophisticated, cunning man. He surely does not delude himself into believing he can actually determine the outcome of an American election. If you look at how Putin meddles in Western elections, his pattern is to back losing factions and stoke friction. His goal is to foment discord. He may say he wanted Trump to win — after all, he knows that saying so causes still more controversy. But he didn’t support Trump because he wanted Trump to win; he supported Trump because he was sure Trump would lose.
The idea was to make life as difficult as possible for the fledgling Hillary Clinton presidency. Like other expert observers, Putin did not believe Trump was going to win. His influence operation to divide American society has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams because he has gotten media and Democratic-party help that would never have materialized if Clinton had won, as everyone was so certain she would.The President’s Do-Over, By ANDREW C. MCCARTHY, National Review, July 17, 2018
For the first time since World War II, Russia has been the nation that has redrawn international borders by force of arms in Georgia and Ukraine, while pursuing veto authority over their neighbors’ diplomatic, economic and security decisions.
Putin seeks to shatter NATO. He aims to diminish the appeal of the Western democratic model and attempts to undermine America’s moral authority. His actions are designed not to challenge our arms, at this point, but to undercut and compromise our belief in our ideals.Remarks By Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis at the U.S. Naval War College Commencement, Newport, Rhode Island, June 15, 2018
“They want to exploit our schisms and the polarization in this country and unfortunately we are a ripe target. It starts with Putin, who has intense animus for this country and the values it stands for.”
— Former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperThe big picture: James Clapper on America’s top 2 threats, By Dave Lawler, Axios, May 28, 2018
In reality, however, Putin’s regime is morally and spiritually bankrupt—“nepotistic, nihilistic and contemptuous of the rule of law,” creating a vast mobocracy across the former Soviet Union.
On the international scene, Putin’s goal is to create as much chaos in the West as possible and to prop up the West’s enemies, while trying to wean Turkey away from NATO.Facing the World Squarely: Understanding the “History of Now” BY WILLIAM DOINO JR., Public Discourse, DECEMBER 6, 2018
Did Putin want Trump to win the election? Who knows? But there is no reason to think Putin (unlike any other informed observer) believed Trump would win the election. What Russia was aiming for is what Russia is always aiming for: to sow discord in American society and make it more difficult for the American government to pursue American interests.After Mueller’s Exoneration of Trump, Full Disclosure, By ANDREW C. MCCARTHY, National Review, March 23, 2019
Yet Russia’s strategic objective is not to obliterate the West, but to contain and constrain it with divide-and-rule tactics. These exploit rifts between countries (such as between the United States and its European allies) and divisions and tensions within those countries, such as ethnic, linguistic, religious, and social fissures. Political polarization, such as that currently afflicting Britain over Brexit, European countries over migration, or the U.S. over the Trump administration, helps too.The New Weapons of War, By Edward Lucas, CEPA, January 22, 2019
And this caught our attention…
Although Russia, by any measure, is the weaker of the two great powers, it has so far had more success than China in accomplishing its objective of dividing and disrupting the West.Backing Into World War III, By Robert Kagan, Foreign Policy, February 6, 2017
But, you should know that we’re working together with the Russians more and more. And your government is very much aware of this…
Threats to US national security will expand and diversify in the coming year, driven in part by China and Russia as they respectively compete more intensely with the United States and its traditional allies and partners. This competition cuts across all domains, involves a race for technological and military superiority, and is increasingly about values. Russia and China seek to shape the international system and regional security dynamics and exert influence over the politics and economies of states in all regions of the world and especially in their respective backyards.
· China and Russia are more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s, and the relationship is likely to strengthen in the coming year as some of their interests and threat perceptions converge, particularly regarding perceived US unilateralism and interventionism and Western promotion of democratic values and human rights.
· As China and Russia seek to expand their global influence, they are eroding once wellestablished security norms and increasing the risk of regional conflicts, particularly in the Middle East and East Asia.
CHINA AND RUSSIA China and Russia will present a wide variety of economic, political, counterintelligence, military, and diplomatic challenges to the United States and its allies. We anticipate that they will collaborate to counter US objectives, taking advantage of rising doubts in some places about the liberal democratic model. Chinese-Russian Relations China and Russia are expanding cooperation with each other and through international bodies to shape global rules and standards to their benefit and present a counterweight to the United States and other Western countries.STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD, WORLDWIDE THREAT ASSESSMENT of the US INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY, By Daniel R. Coats, Director of National Intelligence, January 29, 2019
· The two countries have significantly expanded their cooperation, especially in the energy, military, and technology spheres, since 2014.
So, while the Russians may be an external threat, what if their real threat to you comes from seeing what you have ignored, and then exploiting it?
The U.S. is ill-equipped to counter the increasingly brazen political warfare Russia is waging to undermine democracies, the Pentagon and independent strategists warn in a detailed assessment that happens to echo much bipartisan criticism of President Donald Trump’s approach to Moscow.
The more than 150-page white paper, prepared for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and shared with POLITICO,says the U.S. is still underestimating the scope of Russia’s aggression, which includes the use of propaganda and disinformation to sway public opinion across Europe, Central Asia, Africa and Latin America. The study also points to the dangers of a growing alignment between Russia and China, which share a fear of the United States’ international alliances and an affinity for “authoritarian stability.”
Its authors contend thatdisarray at home is hampering U.S. efforts to respond — saying America lacks the kind of compelling “story” it used to win the Cold War.Pentagon study: Russia outgunning U.S. in race for global influence, By BRYAN BENDER, Politico, June 30, 2019
And look at this, from the report…
Anne Applebaum (2015) is an excellent example. While she clearly identifies Putin’s tactic of sowing “organized chaos” where he can, she concludes, “The only point in doing that is to create the impression of crisis to make people nervous and have NATO members question NATO’s commitment to them and to create this impression of uncertainty.” This organized chaos includes “flying in British airspace, camping out near the borders of Baltic states and kidnapping foreign military officers,” which she states is a “strange strategy,” but it “keeps the Russian people reliant on him. It also serves as an effective distraction to keep his illegitimate rise to power an afterthought.” But Applebaum concluded that it “sounds odd to call it a grand strategy, and there’s a way in which it really isn’t even about geopolitics.” “What we’re watching,” Applebaum concludes, “is someone trying to stay in power by changing the narrative, changing the story and making sure the revolution he fears doesn’t take place.”Russian Strategic Intentions, A Strategic Multilayer Assessment (SMA) White Paper, Department of Defense, May 2019
And, since the Gray Rhino in your house divided is grunting and growling at you, what if Putin, like Trump, was chosen to play a unique role in your unfolding drama?
Where the Russians have broken through, the apertures they’ve exploited seem glaring in retrospect. “I have been impressed over the last five weeks by how fragile our democracy is,” Schiff told me not long before he was prank-called, as we sat in a cafeteria booth in the basement of the Capitol. What Russia showed in the 2016 election—and what it has continued to show in the election’s aftermath—is not so much its own strength, but American vulnerability: that it doesn’t take much to turn the American system on itself. “Covert-influence operations don’t create divisions on the ground; they amplify them,” says Michael Hayden, the former NSA chief. John Sipher, the former CIA operative, agrees. “If there’s anyone to blame, it’s us,” he says. “If we accept the stoking, it’s our fault.”What Putin Really Wants, By JULIA IOFFE, The Atlantic, JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2018 ISSUE
Since our friend Vlad is on such a roll, I thought you might be interested in knowing about the backstory of an unusual series of intelligence memos which Vlad initiated and our team believes might be of some use as we move forward in the exploration of the question assigned to us, Will the United States Survive Until 2025?
The memos are officially titled “Putin Prize Essays” because, as you’ll see, they are from a contest initiated by Putin himself.
Back when Shih Tzu was still on our team, we decided to let him handle the job, because myself and the rest of our team were busy working out the odds on some wagers related to price fluctuations in the American real estate market should the US break up.
The Backstory on the Putin Prize Essays, by Shih Tzu
Chow, remember the following news report from back in early February 2009?
Obama Making Kremlin Nervous
(MOSCOW) — From every indication these days, it appears Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has gone on the offensive against new American President Barack Obama. But despite what seems to be a series of brash and confident moves, ranging from interrupting European gas supplies to purchasing the closure of a key American base in Kyrgyzstan, Kremlin watchers say that behind the bravado lurks a surprising lack of confidence.
“Oh, da, da,” explained an anonymous source inside the Kremlin, “Putin is talking and acting tough, but Obama clearly has him unnerved.”
According to unsubstantiated reports, Putin spends hours each week huddled with advisers, trying to solve a mystery.
“It all started during the American presidential campaign,” explained Dr. Trofim Lysenko, a leading Russian political commentator, and a close advisor to the Kremlin. “Our leaders were baffled by Obama’s rise. Totally baffled. He’s a true Black Swan.”
And what concerns the Kremlin the most appears to be what’s being called Obama’s “Power Timeline.”
“It’s actually a fascinating question,” continued Lysenko. “During the campaign, Obama made consistent claims to powers which had never been made before by an American presidential candidate. He would remake, transform, and save the world. He had power to know the future with certainty. He could lower ocean levels. You know the claims.”
“Well, at first we thought it was merely language designed to hustle naive Americans. But then we began to wonder. What if he had acquired some kind of power somewhere along the line? Could we be sure this was all just campaign rhetoric? After all, we’ve never known the American public to be so, shall we say, susceptible to this kind of rubbish.”
The possibility that Obama had acquired some astounding power at some point in recent years, set off an investigation which continues to this day.
“Look,” explained Lysenko, “we know he never before did anything commensurate with the claims he made during the campaign. We’ve studied him, it’s just not there. So, the key question is, could he perhaps have mysteriously acquired some power we don’t know of? It haunts us. Putin loses sleep over it.”
And that is why the Russians are testing Obama so early in the game.
“What other choice do we have?” asked Lysenko. “If he’s got the power he says he has, he will easily be able to counter our moves. But we have to find out now, so we know what we’re really dealing with. We can’t afford to wait and try something really big later, only to find out his claims were true. Can you imagine what a disaster that would be? So we’re probing now. And we’ll keep probing until we find out one way or the other.”
Well comrades, we now know of course that it was all a charade! Obama and his team were all just making that stuff up. They crafted a narrative about him they thought the America people might fall for. And boy did they ever! But at the time, who knew? And it made the Russians nervous – and envious.
Then in late July of 2009, Vice President Joe Biden, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, gave a less than flattering opinion about Russia, saying, among other things, that it had a “withering” population and economy.
According to Biden, “They’re in a situation where the world is changing before them and they’re clinging to something in the past that is not sustainable.” This led him to the conclusion that “I think we vastly underestimate the hand that we hold.”
Interestingly enough, during the interview he was sitting next to his wife, who is a doctor – of philosophy, or pediatrics, or possibly dentistry – holding her hand! So, was it really a comment about American strength relative to Russia or a deeper level reflection on the sort of things his wife’s hand was still capable of in the world of dentistry? Either way, the Russians were highly offended and began to suspect the much ballyhooed “reset” button from Hillary Clinton was just a big practical joke at their expense.
This has happened to them before, of course. In June of 1987, Ronald Reagan went to Berlin and called on Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” Little did the Soviets understand at the time he was conspiring with Margaret Thatcher, Pope John Paul II, and Dom Deluise to tear down the evil empire and his call to tear down the wall was a form of cryptic Reagan humor. Four years later it was gone. Class dismissed!
Prime Minister Putin, himself of KGB origin, with an authentic birth certificate which proves he was born in Felix Dzerzhinsky Memorial Hospital in Moscow, was not going to let his country be played again by a manipulative, mocking America.
After he rose from his deep sea dive in Lake Baikal, the deepest freshwater lake in the world and home to the Baikal Ballerinas, an underwater synchronized swim team which has won the Asian Over-60 Games trophy six years running, Putin announced to the world that “the United States should look to its own house. It won’t survive until 2025.”
At his side was a certain Professor Igor Panarin, famous for predicting the United States would break up by the year 2010. Panarin, who was ridiculed in the West (and certain parts of the East, like a supper club in Hoboken, New Jersey, which featured “Scampi Panarin” on its menu one night in 2008, even though Panarin’s middle name, like most great Russians, is Nikolaevich) for his prediction, announced he had done some recalculations of racial and economic tensions, leading him to revise his prediction by fifteen years.
Many in the Russian press, who follow Putin from one exploit to another like a pack of Russian Wolfhounds (“papparaskovichni” they are called), were initially confused, thinking it meant the U.S. dissolved in the year 1995. But none of them could remember it happening!
The misunderstanding was quickly erased by his next sentence, which explained “I now believe that the United States will not survive until 2025. And I stand behind that with unshakable confidence, built upon years of predictions.”
That was good enough for Putin, who then announced the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, the SVR (Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki– taken from a famous porridge served nightly to attendees at the Bolshoi Ballet), was going to hold an essay contest.
But it wasn’t just any old essay contest. This was an exclusive contest for the world’s intelligence services, the winner of which would receive Twelve State Secrets, Eleven Elevated Threat Warnings, Ten Toadying Bureaucrats, Nine Inch Nail CDs, Eight Asian Junkets, Seven Surface to Air Missiles, Six Scud Launchers, Five Frank Discussions, Four Flanking Maneuvers, Three Aging Soviet Bluebirds, Two Shots of Vodka, and One Tiger Hunting Safari with Prime Minister Putin.
Those treasures taken together constitute what is commonly referred to now in the intelligence community as “The Putin Prize.” There’s no word yet on when the prize was rewarded or who actually won, but since everyone in the intel community loves secrets, it doesn’t bother them at all!
The subject of the essay was this:
“Will the United States Survive Until 2025?”
Now that’s a question not many people outside the intelligence communities of the world give much serious thought to. Seriously. When was the last time you were in an internet café, plunking away on your Weibo account and somebody sits down next to you and whispers, “Psst, hey friend, any thoughts on the possibility the United States might not survive until 2025?”
Has that ever happened to you?
Which reminds me of a joke circulating among higher academic circles on the internet:
Do you know why elephants paint their toenails red?
So they can hide in cherry trees.
Ever see an elephant in a cherry tree?
See, it works!
Fortunately for us, the essays were all made available on the SVR’s web site as they were submitted.
And boy, were they submitted. In fact, in all of world history, including the period of time for which we have no records, or cassette tapes for that matter, there has never been such a concerted effort by the world’s intelligence services. They responded to Putin’s call and flooded the servers with an astonishing array of analyses, parts of which have strangely begun to appear, without attribution, in speeches by world leaders ranging from Tony Blair to Robert Mugabe.
So that’s the backstory, Comrade Chow. Call me maybe – if you need me again!
— Shih Tzu
Okay, enough for now of our close frenemy, Vladimir Putin.