Vladimir Putin is “a calculating master of geopolitics with a master plan to divide Europe, destroy NATO, re-establish Russian influence in the world, and most of all, marginalize the United States and the West in order to achieve regional hegemony and global power. And his plan is working”, according to the authors of Putin’s Master Plan. They offer a survey of all the potential targets of Russian aggression and conclude that “Putin’s master plan is designed to make the twenty-first century a Russian century,” the Atlantic Council’s Anders Aslund writes:
Five out of nine chapters are devoted to the Kremlin’s techniques of aggression. Schoen and Roth Smith subscribe to the idea of hybrid warfare, offering an overview of what it amounts to. They discuss its many aspects: military action as seen in Georgia, Ukraine, and Syria; espionage; propaganda and cyber warfare; support to rogue regimes and terrorists; energy policy; and financial support to proxies in Europe and now the US. Their ambition is not to offer readers any new revelations, but to provide a clear picture of how many and extensive the Kremlin’s activities are. They express respect for Kremlin successes. “Putin’s sudden strike in Syria was a master class in interventionism and a stark counterpoint to failed Western efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.” (p. x).
The authors devote two chapters to criticism of current Western policy. “In the face of Putin’s naked aggression in Europe, the West has shown a level of incompetence that approaches impotence,” Aslund adds:
They lament “the shameful inadequacy of the Western response to Putin, as well as the embarrassing state of America, NATO, and EU military preparedness” (p. 123). Most of all they criticize the EU, which “is growing more wobbly by the day, with the UK’s shocking Brexit vote an ominous harbinger of future European disintegration” (p. ix). RTWT
Russian autocracy by its very nature “will always threaten the development of Ukraine,” and this threat may be especially serious now because the world has entered a kind of “interregnum” in which the old international arrangements have “exhausted themselves” and have not yet been replaced by new and effective ones, says the Moscow-based Brookings Institution scholar Lilya Shevtsova.*
One of the reasons Ukrainians have not focused on the underlying changes in the West is that Western support for sanctions against Russia over Moscow’s Anschluss of Crimea are “unwavering and steady,” although she cautions that because of loopholes, Moscow has been able to end run some of them, Paul Goble’s Window on Eurasia reports:
At a deeper level, Shevtsova says, Russia, at least as long as “Russian autocracy” exists, will seek to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty, security and stability. But because Ukrainians understand this, there is “a paradox: It is precisely the existence of Russia [which] is accelerating the formation of Ukrainian national identity and its pro-European direction.”
*Shevtsova delivered the National Endowment for Democracy’s 2014 Lipset Lecture on Russia’s Political System: The Drama of Decay.