Thursday, March 06, 2014

Putin to Obama - "it is a chess game!"

No patriot wants their country to fail. It should not give anyone joy to celebrate the failures of our nations' leaders. But as members of the participatory sport known as the US democracy we must examine, as well as hold our elected accountable, for failure and foolishness.

Speaking of which, there have been a fair amount of idiotic policy approaches and comments coming out of the White House and those who are working for Obama over these last 4 plus years. Take for instance the recent comment during the latest Putin adventures (Ukraine) that ‘global events are not a chess game.' Really?!  Add to this the willing suspension of disbelief Secretary Kerry would like us to exhibit, as he suggested we should not interpret recent events, like the Russians going on a field trip to Crimea, as a return to the Cold War. Of course not! Just because Putin repeatedly has lamented the decline of Russia as the Soviet Union fell, and has made no secret about trying to position his nation to global preeminence at all cost, why on earth should we be concerned about his latest military camping trip into a sovereign country?!

Several years ago one of my first articles for FSM addressed the Global Chess Game, describing how Putin is still winning. During that time Russia invaded Georgia.

And over the years I warned, and have been proven right time and time again, that Putin is not a man to be underestimated. He is not a shoe pounding oaf like his predecessors. He is a well educated, accomplished, and dangerous man, committed to restoring the Russian Federation (RF) to Cold War status as one of the primary global powers. The loss of Soviet prominence at the hands of Ronald Reagan and the United States is an insult he has pledged to remedy, and avenge. He thinks strategically. The world is his chess board, and a game is being played for every arena - energy, money, territory, natural resources, influence and power.  Against whom? The United States. And Putin is playing it very well. Not that he has to. Against Obama, Vladimir Putin could send in his "B Team" understudy.
China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and other competitor nations think long term, unlike Obama, and much of the United States which think in terms of quarterly reports, ratings, opinion polls, sound bites, and our latest paychecks, forgetting that the size of our income, our safety here and abroad, and the likelihood of our children enjoying a better life than we do, are all intertwined with world affairs, and how well our leaders address the complexity of a global economy.
China and Russia put a target on our back - attacking our economy - currency, trade, debt, innovation, using cyber and patent attacks, as well as undermining our global interests and spheres of influence.  It is indeed a global game of chess, and we are playing it badly.
The latest gauntlet Putin has thrown is the Ukraine. And apparently the only folks shocked, and stunned were the occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, and the sycophants on POTUS' payroll. It reminds me of a scene in the film ARGO where the Iranians, who have just taken over the US embassy in Tehran (under another Presidential failure in foreign policy - Jimmy Carter), claimed the facility was a den of espionage. Upon hearing that, the President's Chief of Staff opines (I'm paraphrasing a bit) - "den of espionage, an intelligence gathering center? The CIA has 3 agents, and no one sees the revolution coming? I call that something other than a den of intelligence!"  Not picking on the CIA - an enterprise I have great respect for, since we must remember Jimmy Carter imposed Stansfield Turner upon that venerable spy agency. It was an organization he hated, and did a great job of degrading its capabilities. Obviously, not only did the Iranian Revolution occur, but Russia invaded Afghanistan on Carter's government watch. Fast forward to 2014 - no one in the US saw the Ukraine incursion coming? Russia rising and no one notices? Seriously?! Can someone please send a map to the President and his team?
And why shouldn't people approach Putin Inc? No option is ever off the table with him. Ever. And that includes military as well as diplomacy, in addition to using brute force or gentle persuasion. Do I admire his tactics? No. Do I admire his resolve to position his nation as Number 1? Absolutely. It is refreshing. I keep wondering who our President is working for? The Shiites during the Arab Spring? The Muslim Brotherhood? The Palestinians? The North Koreans? The welfare industrial complex? George Soros? The weather underground?
And what does President Obama do to send Putin quaking in his boots? Warn there will be consequences if Russia goes into the Ukraine.  What consequences? Talk therapy?  President Obama is only tough on Republicans. Anyone else, he talks a good fight - but that's about it.
On the wild assumption that Obama would actually back up his threat, more than merely saying "stop that Mr. Putin" - something to act tough to his followers who are still trying to get the rest of us to believe he is a strong leader on the world stage (stop laughing...they actually believe it), I looked at the domains in terms of what can the US under Obama's leadership actually do?

Economic sanctions - really? What percent of US Treasury instruments does Russia hold? Lest we forget, the Chinese and Russians are helping to prop up the US economy and own a not insignificant amount of our financials. Not to mention lots of industries, and real estate is owned by Russian shell companies if not outright named corporations. We can ignore the Russian Mafia, at least for the moment, but they are certainly influential, as well. Will we impound Russia's assets? It works both ways, and there are more than a few dollars invested in Russia. Maybe impose sanctions? We saw how well that worked in Iran and elsewhere. Stop buying Russian goods you suggest? OK, except for the watch I'm currently wearing, just how many products do we purchase with "made in Russia" stamped on them? Unlike China, Russian goods are not a staple among US consumers.  Well we could encourage our allies to stop buying Russian. That worked well for Europe a couple winters ago.
Hmmm, guess the economic option is not a winner. Let's try something else.
Military options! Really?! Are we really going to do a slugfest with Russia? Obama was too squeamish to do the job right in Afghanistan, or Iran, let alone take on a super power.  We can joke about Russia all we want - their craftsmanship in question in terms of cars, and housing, or the fact that they opted to use a pencil to write in space while the US invested millions of dollars to create a pen that could work in zero gravity. But the reality - they have not mothballed their military.  And no one joked in Georgia or Chechnya.
On the other hand POTUS and his military advisors are planning on forever fighting the wars of 2003 to the present, thinking this is how future wars will be fought, and planning on cutting defense spending. Hillary hit the "reset" button with Russia, so we'll be singing "kumbaya" in the Roosevelt Room any day now. Especially since Russia didn't fight us in Iraq or Afghanistan, they must be our pals at best, or not a threat, right? In the process Obama Inc. ignore the never broken cycle of preparing to fight the last war, instead of taking note of the world's leading threats and recognizing a few noble truths about playing full check in the big leagues. First and foremost in any competition the fundamental truth - perception is power. The Russian hockey team pretty much always vanquished their opponents. Well at least until the 1980 Olympics. Why? Because they projected they would win. Power perceived is power achieved.  The US is a paper tiger, with an overstretched military, led by a reluctant if not inept (or fully adversarial to all things military) leader.
This administration is opting to spend more money on cell phones for career welfare recipients instead of investing in our military. It is a bad message to send. And it is much akin to a failing business cutting inventory and shortening operating hours. However, unlike the US, our two primary competitors, if the term ‘adversaries' is objectionable to you - Russia and China - they are increasing their military spending at unprecedented levels, on everything from space based technology to ships, tanks, and other weapons - for conventional and asymmetric warfare. They are expanding their global capacity to project national interests, defend their borders, and initiate war.  It is not subtle. Seeing the Chinese Navy put into ports that it had never visited in over fifty years since Mao created the Communist Dragon, well that sends a powerful message.  Seeing Russia rebuild Syrian ports tells the rest of the Middle East that there is a new sheriff in town.
And as an aside, what technology has given the vaunted Israeli Defense Force (IDF) a wakeup call? The Russian RPG - and other Russian, as well as Chinese air defense systems, and antitank weapons for starters. And who has them? Terrorists, Iran, insurgents, and well, you get the idea.
OK scratch a show of force with Russia, what about galvanizing the UN, or consolidating European, and world opinion against Putin? For starters, does anyone think Putin cares? Secondly - everyone, including countries, has a short memory. All was forgiven concerning Georgia. Why? Energy, money, fear, trust, loyalty, to name a few motivators.
The last time Europe cried ‘foul' at Russia, Gazprom turned off the heat. A few winter nights without petroleum can change your opinion, if not your commentary. So while Europe may have a couple options to circumvent Gazprom, let's not forget that Russian interests control the pipelines even if they don't control all of the products piped in them.
Can we play the petroleum battle with Russia as punishment for Ukraine or expansionist appetites?  Several years ago I started writing about the growing threat the Red Navy posed to the Arctic, a region that holds great promise for the US petro-economy, as well as the Eastern European region, the Middle East, and eventually North America.   In spite of estimates that the US could become an energy hyperpower if not superpower, the EPA, environmentalists, the White House and other influence groups try to derail an industry to would make the US nearly independent of the Middle East, while creating high paying jobs, and providing a silver bullet to take the US economy forward, something Obama et al, seem reluctant to do.  There are few areas in the world with new or established oil/gas reserves that Russia hasn't positioned itself to participate in - whether as driller, pipeline, shipping, LNG developer, supplier or refiner. And the US does what? Tries to eliminate the fossil fuel industry.
Already Russia is an energy superpower - something we could be as well, if the United States had the same kind of leadership the RF does, and was willing to drive our nation to greatness, instead of dividing it towards mediocrity. Alas, our president seems disinclined to promote US interests at all costs, including pandering to polar bears, compared to Putin, who will do anything to promote Russia.
I sometimes imagine that if diplomacy was tossed out the window, what Russian leader Putin would like to say to President Obama, if the conversation was held in strict secrecy. It would be educational, and Putin would have to work hard at trying to hide his contempt at POTUS' foreign policy incompetence, and hide his laughter at our President's silly pronouncements and hollow tough talk threats. Truth be told, Putin is probably already exhibiting great restraint on the world stage in terms of his comments towards the United States.
First Putin would give Obama a geography lesson, and place a Russian flag on every region, island, atoll, and country where the RF is gaining influence or is outright the favored ally. From South America to the Arctic, Russia has or is increasing influence.  From a military perspective, Russia continues to create alliances. Cuba, for starters. Add Venezuela, Mexico, and more South American countries in the future.  Not surprisingly Russia has positioned itself in our backyard quite well. Of concern, China and Russia are warming up to each other towards closer alliance. Cold War anyone?
And what does Obama do? Talk about wage inequality, foment class warfare, blame the GOP for everything, proclaim progress in the Middle East after the Arab Spring, and how he has restored America's reputation on the world stage since he took office. Obama brags about greater friendship with Mexico - a country that exports illegal aliens, criminal cartels, drugs, and black market weapons into the United States, and in return, gets US welfare dollars imported as a revenue stream.  There's a diplomatic victory. Oy!
Funny that inconvenient truth about polls - with approval ratings in the 40's and opinion growing that Obama is not respected or trusted by many Americans, let alone other countries - it is hard to say, unless you are intoxicated on liberal ideology, that the US is considered the same protector or ally it was under Bush. The world may not have liked Bush and his "US first" philosophy, but they respected his conviction, and probably feared him a bit, too. US interests were better served under the Bush doctrine than under the Obama doctrine (whatever that currently is). On the global stage, fear is not an unhealthy thing to inspire among your friends and adversaries. The bully rarely picks a fight with someone who fights back, especially if the target fights to win.
So let's eavesdrop on the Putin/Obama chat. Here's a brief excerpt from their diplomatic encounter -
Putin - "Mr. Obama, you are wrong! Your advisors are wrong. The world is a giant chess board, my chess board, and I am winning. And, you, Mr. President, are making this just too easy. You are giving me no competition at all, and as a sportsman it is embarrassing to even play against you. Let us look at the chess board called "the world" and let me show you how I have outplayed you on many strategic fronts.
Comrade, let's talk about the Arctic. I have tied up much your heavy oil drilling capacity with industry collaborations between Russian companies, US and global petroleum corporations. Even if you wanted to follow Mr. Bush's strategy of Arctic exploration, you cannot compete with Russia. I also have an Arctic military force that can wipe out your pitifully inadequate cold water navy, obliterate Canada's new northern response team, decimate the Scandinavian  defense collaborative - oh yes, we have known about these for years. Over 10% of my countrymen live in Arctic conditions. A greater percentage of Russia's GDP is involved in manufacturing than your nation. Yet isn't that how you build a middle class? When I capture the Arctic, and I will, you neither can or will even try to stop me. Your failed attempts at alternative fuels make it less attractive to grow food than biofuels, and your solar, wind and other "green' approaches are years from ever cost effectively transitioning the global economy to a petroleum alternative! The world needs and runs on fossil fuels Mr. President, and Russia will be the supplier for the next 30 years! "
Obama - "OK Solendra wasn't such a good start. But we'll beat you in green energy. You just wait and see. "
Stifling back the laughter, Putin then says "I bet you didn't even know, or bother to read my graduate thesis which discussed how to position an energy and resource rich nation into becoming a super power. What book did you write? Oh yes, some blathering memoir about an anti-West father who abandoned you, and yet you somehow try and emulate him, even following his philosophy by destroying your own country. How that prepared you to run a super-power, or inspired your country to support your election escapes me, and I am an expert in propaganda! Nyet?
Obama counters "yes but my book inspired a nation of community organizers - it made me rich, and made me President. Who read your thesis?"
Putin ignoring that pin prick of a response continues. "Speaking of the current fuel supplier - the Middle East, I am now the "go to" honest broker in that region. Not only are America's enemies my friends Mr. Obama - Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Algeria for example, but even countries - allies under your predecessors - such as Israel, Turkey, and Jordan - they are now looking to me for friendship. I went to Israel, and met with Mr. Netanyahu before you did, Mr. Obama. What does that tell your Jewish friends? He and I have worked a deal, actually many deals - among them Russia will get some very desirable Israeli technology, and in the process I hold off supplying Iran with air defense systems that are among the best in the world. Benny - that's what I call Prime Minister Netanyahu, trusts me more than he trusts you. I wonder why that is, Mr. Obama?"
Obama "Israel knows they can count on me. My track record speaks for itself."
Putin "Your record? Are you kidding? Almost every neutral or pro US country in the Middle East - certainly Sunni nations, is at risk because of your inaction. Israel is more vulnerable because of your supporting the Arab Spring. You allowed Egypt to fall into radical hands, and opened the door for terrorists to supply Gaza, which imperils Jews. You are openly hostile to Tel Aviv, and openly sympathetic to Palestinians. Is that your record which Israel should trust?"
Obama "the seeds of democracy in the Middle East were sown because of the United States. Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Libya - they are all better off because of our example."
Putin "Al Qaeda and Iran's proxies are emerging in all those countries, along with Moslem Brotherhood, and other radical groups. I don't know how long I can hold the balance of power to protect Israel since you, Mr. Obama have abandoned the Jews. The Mediterranean no longer belongs exclusively to NATO and to your US Navy. My fleet now enjoys the port of Tartus and more shores along the Middle East are soon to become Red Navy ports of call. These countries historically have preferred American friendship, but are now seeking my help. Ask yourself why?"

Obama "we hit the reset button - now the world knows both our countries are friends, have common ground, and because of me, Mr. Putin, you are now trusted. See what my imprimatur can do for you?!"
Putin, stifling a laugh, continues. "Syrian President Assad protects Christians. Did you know I am a Christian Mr. Obama? What are you doing for Christians who are being murdered in almost all the Arab Spring countries, as well as Iraq? Aren't Christians your people, too?"
Obama "I believe in separation of church and state."
Putin "So did my predecessors, and they left us a country without God, which is a soul-less enterprise, subject to moral decay.  It will take decades to undue that damage to my people. I attend church. We have reopened our churches. And yes, Assad may be monstrous, but he is useful, and I support those who are useful to me. Can that be said of you?  You have abandoned the Middle East - Bahrain, the Emirates, Saudi Arabia are all at risk for Shiite uprisings - something you could have quashed, instead of cheering the Shia on as populace movements towards democracy. That is a foreign concept to an ancient people. Only a fool ignores history. "
Obama "who are you calling a fool?"
Putin "would you like to wrestle me for an apology? If it makes you feel better, I will tie one hand behind my back, using one of my black belts."
Obama "if you have to resort to violence, you have already lost."
Putin "I've read Sun Tzu - but the difference? I know my enemy better than he knows me, and I will win."
Obama - "I was right about the Arab Spring - you can sense the democracy in the air"
Putin "And you were so loved that as an act of gratitude the people of Libya allowed your ambassador to be killed? Mr. Obama you had your chance to depose your enemies in Iran, and failed the uprising. The one movement in the Middle East during the years 2009 - 2011 that the United States could have, and should have intervened, and you sat impotent. The one revolution that at least remotely resembled a democratic uprising, and you let it fail. Yet the revolts of 2011 which you and your vapid supporters named the Arab Spring, as if wishful thinking made things real, well they have undermined your influence, emboldened your enemies, and allowed me to emerge as far more influential across the region. Not because I am beloved, but because I can be feared. If I tell an adversary I will do them harm, they will believe me. When I tell an ally it is not a good idea to do something, they do not do something. When I tell a friend I will protect them, I will protect them. Can that be said of you?"
Obama "I got a Nobel Peace Prize, so there!"
Putin "For which no peace has ever been accomplished under your leadership. Your nation is faltering. Russia's GDP growth is better than yours. Iran, thanks to your diplomatic blunders, and cowardice, has resulted in their economy growing, given permission to European industries to pursue investments, and allowed the Shiites to again brag that they have outplayed the United States. Not that the sanctions needed to be lifted. Iran did not purchase nuclear technology, weapons, rockets and missiles on credit. You foolish, foolish man. If I didn't know better, you were trying to weaken your country. You want the United States to be just like any other country. I want Russia to be the most powerful and influential nation in the world. And because of that, your allies don't trust you, your enemies don't fear you."
Obama "I've made the US beloved!"
Putin "You've made the US weak. So please do not threaten me or tell Russia what to do in the Ukraine or anywhere else on the map that I intend to annex, invest in, invade, collaborate with, co-opt or become an ally of.  Europe is a big customer of Russian interests. They will remain so, and I will provide reminders of the consequences for supporting competitors. The Middle East is important to my energy plan. I intend to undermine your influence in every region that the US cares about, and that becomes vulnerable. There are many from Asia and Africa, to the Americas and Europe. And unless you get your financial, intelligence, and military in order, and decide to play chess with me as a grown up, do not whine when I outplay you Mr. Obama.
And let me remind you the Red Army has more tanks than NATO.  Our Red Army can overrun any of your installations in Europe, unless you resort to the nuclear option. Which you won't!  So you can see, your hollow threats are meaningless, whether telling me that I should leave the Ukraine, or stop  intervening in Syria or discontinue Russia's relationship with Iran - or avoid places I think Russian interests are best served, well we both know you will not back your words up - they are theatre for your followers and meaningless. "
Well that was a happy dialogue. And it only scratches the surface. It didn't mention the links (tentacles) between Russia and the Russian mob in the US - a good portion of which is made up of former KGB and FSB members. Putin didn't mention the neighborhoods where Russian enterprises are plentiful - legitimate and illegal, like banks, gas stations, prostitution, protection, and real estate - in other words, a formidable fifth column from Mother Russia.
Moreover, Putin is correct. Obama's threats are theatre. The perception of him on the world stage is as brilliant orator, charismatic performer, weak leader, and not trustworthy. The US deserves better from our leadership. The world is a dangerous place, and a global chess game is underway. It is being played by very strong, savvy and dangerous players who believe in winner take all. They may not be savory, admirable, or likable. Putin is charismatic, and ruthless. He is a patriot, probably a killer, a father, an educated man, a fighter, a diplomat, an invader, a businessman, a spy, and a deadly opportunist.
Thank you, Mr. Putin, for the brief recap on Russian ‘diplomacy.' I couldn't have done better myself
Putin to Obama - "it is a chess game!"  The game is afoot!  And we cannot wish away our adversaries. We can, however, listen to and learn from them.
Dr. Robin McFee, MPH, FACPM, FAACT, is medical director of Threat Science - and nationally recognized expert in WMD preparedness, who consults with government agencies, corporations and the media. Dr. McFee is the former director and cofounder of the Center for Bioterrorism Preparedness (CB PREP) and bioweapons - WMD adviser to the Domestic Security Task Force, numerous law enforcement and corporate entities after 911, as well as pandemic advisor to federal, state and local agencies, and corporations during the anthrax events, SARS, Avian and swine flu epidemics. Dr. McFee is the former chair of the Global Terrorism Council of ASIS International, and is a member of the US Counterterrorism Advisory Team. She has delivered over 500 invited lectures since 9-11, created graduate level courses on WMD preparedness for several universities, authored more than 100 articles on terrorism, health care and preparedness, and coauthored two books: Toxico-Terrorism by McGraw Hill and The Handbook of Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Agents, published by Informa/CRC Press.

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