Pentagon's New Cold War Strategy

The Pentagon’s new strategy, which outlines possible military actions against revisionist states and violent extremist organizations and incudes complaints about Iran, North Korea, China and terrorist organizations such as the “Islamic State”, is actually a proclamation of a new cold war against Russia.

A recent meeting of Russia’s Security Council discussed ways to protect national interests in conditions of anti-Russian restrictions introduced by several countries, primarily the United States and its NATO allies and the EU. The reason for their pressure is clear: Moscow pursues an independent foreign policy and does not trade in sovereignty, which infuriates some foreign leaders, especially those who fully depend on Washington and Brussels. This also angers those who have grown used to dominating the world and believe in their exceptionalism and even their “messianic” destiny. This explains their search for any pretext to accuse Russia of all the sins they can think of, and more.

It makes sense that the 2015 National Military Strategy (2015 NMS) of the Joint Chiefs of Staff implies that Russia is challenging international norms; that is, the norms that suit the US and NATO and that can be described as Pax Americana.

The 24-page document published on the official website of the Joint Chiefs of Staff begins with a description of today’s strategic environment. According to US generals, its complexity and rapid change are driven by globalization, the diffusion of technology, and demographic shifts: populations in Europe and across northern Asia are set to decline and get older, while youth populations are rapidly growing in Africa and the Middle East. Global problems have not diminished, the US generals say, pointing to violent extremist organizations and revisionist states. The generals don’t explain what they mean by “revisionism” but that group includes, very logically, Russia, Iran, North Korea and China.

At the same time, the 2015 NMS says that “most states today – led by the United States, its allies, and partners – support the established institutions and processes dedicated to preventing conflict, respecting sovereignty, and furthering human rights. Some states, however, are attempting to revise key aspects of the international order and are acting in a manner that threatens our national security interests.”

This is how 2015 NMS describes today’s strategic environment.

According to this document, Russia does not respect the sovereignty of its neighbors and is willing to use force to achieve its goals. It claims that Russia’s military actions are undermining regional security directly and through proxy forces and violate numerous agreements in which it pledged to act in accordance with international norms, including the UN Charter, Helsinki Accords, Russia-NATO Founding Act, Budapest Memorandum, and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Washington has used this propaganda trick very often to accuse Moscow of its own actions, regardless of the fact that informed people could cite numerous US violations of the UN Charter, the Helsinki Accords, the Russia-NATO Founding Act and the INF Treaty.

They include the aggression against Yugoslavia (1999), during which Serbia lost a large province (Kosovo and Metohija), two Iraq wars (1990 and 2003-2011), the Afghan war (2001-2014), the infamous war in Somalia (1993) and the bombing of Libya in 1986 and its invasion in 2011. The US has been supporting the Syrian armed opposition against the country’s legitimate president, Bashar al-Assad (since 2012), and has deployed 5,000 troops and 250 tanks in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, in gross violation of the Russia-NATO Founding Act (1997). It has violated the INF Treaty by using missile drones to test its ballistic missile defense systems, interfered in the internal affairs of sovereign states, and orchestrated “color” revolutions across a vast area from Tunis, Egypt and Georgia to Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine.

There are many more such examples, but I think the above is enough to see that it is the United States and its NATO allies that do not respect international institutions, democratic norms and human rights. But Washington continues to accuse Russia of all manner of sins, including the use of hybrid war methods, which consist of military forces assuming a non-state identity and asymmetric threats. According to the 2015 NMS, this is what Russia did in Crimea.

But a hybrid conflict is more than “polite people” assuming a non-state identity, as any respectable military expert will tell you. The key element of a hybrid conflict is an integrated combination of political, diplomatic, economic, financial, information and psychological measures of pressure on the opponent (rival) aimed at forcing him to change his foreign and domestic policies. This is what the EU, its financial institutions and the IMF have been doing to Greece in the past few weeks. Military action is only taken at the end of a hybrid conflict – usually after a color revolution – or in its place. The military joke is that generals are like surgeons: they step in when all other methods have failed.

It’s no joke that the Pentagon’s new strategy, which outlines possible military actions against revisionist states and violent extremist organizations and incudes complaints about Iran, North Korea, China and terrorist organizations such as the “Islamic State”, is actually a proclamation of a new cold war against Russia.

According to Sergei Rogov, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for the US and Canadian Studies, “over the past year, Russia-US relations have seriously soured and have reached a level of confrontation that many analysts describe as a new stage of the Cold War.” Ideological differences have been settled since the first stage of the Cold War, which was marked by the global confrontation of two rival systems. But the sides still have weapons for waging such a war, including a new arms race, economic sanctions and propaganda attacks. “Half a year ago, the Obama Administration approved a new National Security Strategy, which mentioned ‘Russian aggression’ over a dozen times. The Pentagon’s 2015 National Military Strategy is clearly based on the US fundamental national security doctrine, according to which Russia’s policy is challenging the international norms imposed by the US. Russia is described as a revisionist state that does not respect the sovereignty of its neighbors and is willing to use force to achieve its goals. According to this document, the US needs to counter aggression from revisionist states and to deter, deny and defeat potential state adversaries,” Rogov said.

According to the 2015 NMS, although Russia has contributed in select security areas, such as counter-narcotics and counterterrorism, the US military policy is focused on confrontation with Russia. This is probably because Russia has not and does not intend to adjust its policy to the US leadership mentioned in the new US military strategy.

In this situation, Russia should calmly and consistently implement its independent foreign and domestic policy, irrespective of what its partners over the ocean may say. President Vladimir Putin has said on more than one occasion that Russia does not intend to threaten any country. “We do not have – and cannot have – any aggressive plans. We don’t threaten anyone and we try to resolve all conflicts by political means only, with respect for international law and the interests of other nations,” the Russian president said at a reception in honor of graduates of military academies in late June. “Russia is a nation that is open to the world, a country that advocates strengthening cooperation and partnership with everyone who is ready to do so,” he said.

“Attempts to split and divide our society, play on our problems, and seek out our vulnerable spots and weak links have not produced the results hoped for by those who imposed these restrictive measures on our country and continue to support them,” Putin said at a recent meeting of Russia’s Security Council at the Kremlin.

The president believes recent events show that we cannot hope that some of our geopolitical opponents will change their hostile course anytime in the foreseeable future. In this situation, “we must make a rapid analysis of all the potential challenges and risks we face – political, economic, information risks and others. Based on this analysis, we then need to make adjustments to our National Security Strategy,” Putin said. “At the same time, our strategic course in the foreign policy area remains unchanged. We are open for equal cooperation and collective work on key issues on the international agenda. We will continue to build relations with our partners based on the principles of respect and mutual consideration of each other’s interests, so long as this does not harm our own sovereignty and national security, of course.”

Russia is not going to join a new arms race. It’s a vain hope that the West can ruin Russia through an arms race, just as it did to the Soviet Union. Russia’s armed forces will have the weapons to remind some hot heads that it’s better to have Russia as a friend than as an enemy, better to cooperate with it on equal terms.

As for the Pentagon’s new Cold War concept, it’s not the first and it won’t be the last. It’s only good for US Senators and generals, but it won’t frighten Russia. 

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.