The Putin strategy

Ralph Peters:

THE toughest challenge Americans face in dealing with Vladimir Putin's Russia is that we insist on complicating the obvious. Putin's schemes are plain as day, but we insist on polishing up his motives.

Recently, Prime Minister Putin bribed the Kyrgyz government to shut down US access to the Manas air base, which is crucial to sustaining NATO's efforts in Afghanistan. Simultaneously, Moscow offered us a lengthy caravan route through Russia and its Central Asian client states to make up for the loss of Manas.

The strategy couldn't be more straightforward: With our main supply route through Pakistan increasingly threatened, Putin wants to addict us to an alternative under his direct control.

Why? Because Putin judges that the supply route would grow indispensable as our troop commitment rises. By his calculation, that would leave him free to gobble up Georgia, intervene forcefully in Ukraine or even return to bullying the Baltic states.

Putin figures that, faced with a choice between Georgia's death as an independent state and the loss of our new main supply route for Afghanistan, we'd grumble but opt to keep the logistics flowing.

And he might be right. Washington has developed so severe a case of the chronic stupids when it comes to Russia that we're napping on the strategic railroad tracks.

...

Today, we have no strategy for dealing with Putin's Russia. None. And our lame responses to Putin's provocations increasingly seem "made in Europe."

One minor example among many: At the close of last summer's war of aggression against tiny, democratic Georgia, the Russian military seized US Marine Corps equipment that was on the docks awaiting shipment home after an exercise. The Russians refused to give the gear back. And we rolled over.

Now key voices inside the Beltway argue that we should entrust the Russians with the life-support supplies for US and NATO troops whose numbers may go as high as 90,000 (two-thirds American).

Would any reader of this paper buy such an idiotic proposal? Of course not. But you're not "brilliant" like the Beltway crowd. Trusting the Russians with our supply lifeline is the equivalent of handing over preschool education to the Child-Molesters Union.

...

Peters raises legitimate concerns. It is supposed to be an alternate supply route which means it would get its heaviest use when the main supply route is under attack. What that means is that Putin will have maximum leverage at that point to make demands. If he does so, we must be prepared to tell him know and use force along the Pakistan supply route to get the goods and equipment through to Afghanistan.

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