What Does Russia Really Want?
Editor’s Note: This article accompanies “Putin vs. Obama: The ‘New Cold War’ Roots of the Clash Over Syria.” Both were authored by Jerry D. Morelock, PhD, ARMCHAIR GENERAL Editor in Chief, the former Chief of Russia Branch on the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon where he helped coordinate U. S. policy regarding Russia and the fifteen nations formerly part of the Soviet Union. Dr. Morelock’s wife, the Russian artist Inessa Kazaryan Morelock, is a native of Kharkov, Ukraine. Click on the link to read “Putin vs. Obama.”
In 2009, then-U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton famously announced that the Obama administration had “re-set” U.S.-Russia relations. Calling this a “fresh start” in dealings between the two countries, the administration strives to emphasize engagement over confrontation and seeks to identify common foreign policy goals (such as countering the threat from Islamic jihadists) in order to pursue U.S.-Russia cooperative actions. However, finding common ground requires that American policy makers first clearly understand what Russian leaders really want.
The domestic and foreign policy goals of the Putin regime – based on public statements and actions plus a thorough understanding of the goals Kremlin leaders historically have pursued – are focused on maintaining its power monopoly within Russia and with regaining for their country the Soviet Union’s former international superpower status and prestige.
Domestic Policy Goals
—Maintain political domination (Putin and Medvedev each garnered 71-percent of the vote in the 2004 and 2008 elections, respectively; and Putin received 64-percent of the vote in 2012 and can now serve two consecutive 6-year terms)
—Keep the regime’s stranglehold on the media (technically independent, Russian media toes the “party line;” reporters criticizing the government face grave consequences)
—Encourage and capitalize on rabid Russian nationalism (recent law punishes anyone “falsifying history to the detriment of Russia” by publicizing Soviet-era crimes; former leaders such as Stalin are being resurrected as “Russian heroes”)
—Increase power of internal security (threats include organized crime and terrorism – particularly attacks by Chechen separatists; recent reorganization of Interior Ministry expands Kremlin’s police power)
Foreign Policy Goals
—Reestablish Russian hegemony in its traditional “sphere of influence” (primarily former Soviet Union republics such as Ukraine, Georgia and the Baltic nations, but notably including the strategically-located Central Asian former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan)
—Protect Russian “citizens” wherever they are (the excuse used to justify launching the 2008 Georgia war; ethnic Russian populations in countries like Ukraine increase fears Russia may use this excuse to justify further aggression)
—Maintain nuclear balance with the U. S. (defeat any further U. S. attempt to create a Europe-based missile shield; aggressively pursue Strategic Arms talks to prevent/retard U. S. nuclear superiority)
—Pursue closer relations with nations opposed to U. S. foreign policy (portray U. S. as the “common enemy” when courting countries such as Iran, Venezuela and, most recently, Syria)
—Regain for Russia the global superpower status formerly held by the Soviet Union (the Kremlin code phrase for this goal is attaining a “multi-polar” world).