The strategy western hegemons have been leveling on Russia and Vladimir Putin, and to a lesser extent, China, Iran, and other nations is a new form of warfare honed into a rapier aimed at anyone who stands in the way of the world order. At the core of this strategy is something called “coercive gradualism, which is the current US policy with respect to other nation-states. Combined with overt and covert military action, economic warfare, propaganda, and political leveraging the hegemony aims to destroy opponents with a multifaceted onslaught. Not too many analysts out there try and tackle such a complex stratagem, but here’s a simplified report on the subject.
In an analysis piece by author Van Jackson, who’s an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), the author discusses the role of fait accompli as it applies to coercive and non-coercive geopolitical events. As Jackson suggests the fait accompli is a move that pursues an advantage by making it difficult for a competitor to retaliate or counter. But one of the case he uses for a highly-coercive example, the Russia-Crimea situation, does not correctly convey the New Cold War we are witnessing.
Like most agents for the liberal order, Jackson points the finger at America’s perceived or desired enemies and ignores the fact the US has controlled much of the world since before World War II ended. However, we can glean a lot from the expert’s Pentagon inspired prognostics. When Jackson points the finger at Russia, his assertion that “the fait accompli is a common means by which states pursue revisionist agendas,” mirrors back onto the world’s most notorious revisionists. One good example is his reference to Oran Young’s Politics of Force and the idea that the fait accompli is “the initiative that forces the opponent to initiate.” The problem with Jackson’s proclamation is that it relies on the researcher’s limited view to stamp Russia as the aggressor in the Ukraine situation. History is sure to show, nothing could be farther from the truth.
Let’s look at Pentagon strategy at the training level, in order to correctly classify aggressor from the defender in this situation. For the sake of objectivity, it seems fair to suggest that the US, Russia, China, the UK, and all the international players try to practice effective coercion. With this objectivity in place, now let’s examine this document from the US Army’s War College entitled “Understanding Coercive Gradualism.”
The authors of this analysis may be scholars of unimpeachable credentials, but their narrative on how China and Russia are the aggressors in the world’s current crises fails the litmus test big time. Take a look at what the War College expects new lieutenants to believe. The authors try to make the case of risk assessment in determining whether a state chooses to strike using a coercive gradualist strategy. They insinuate that the aggressor state may assume a high likelihood of success, and :
“Likewise, targeted states that depend on critical resources from an aggressor may be hesitant to counter aggression. As examples, Western Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas, and Japan’s electronics industry’s dependence on China’s rare earth elements impact European and Japanese support of, and participation in, sanctions against Russia and China respectively.”
I hope the reader can see the flaw here. Russian gas dependence is not the contingent lever in the West-Russia divide, the inflow of capital from Russian gas sales is. The authors act as if the Pentagon and the deep state can only play on a checkerboard. The “chess game” Mr. Putin and the world plays on is far more complex and well thought out. I’ve always contended the EU-Ukraine ascension and the Maidan coup were strategies with a known endpoint. Mr. Putin reacted predictably, according to all the rules of chess. NATO was moving to seconds from Moscow, what else could the Russians do?
The authors of this Pentagon inspired educational insert the Nazi coercive gradualism that lead to the worst conflict in history, as well. As if edited by the US State Department under Obama, the War College simply must equate Putin and Russia with the Nazi Reich. It’s ironic that Hitler references always point to the dictators most hated foes and not to the fascists still running things in Washington. The geniuses at West Point even bring in Russia and Putin hater Anders Aslund, whose name always pops up when Russophobia accents are needed. The authors trip on the proverbial banana peel when they suggest Mr. Putin is making policy to gain personal achievement and power. This is ludicrous. William G. Pierce, Douglas G. Douds, Michael A. Marra share authorship of an analysis intended to train future Russia haters and to perpetuate the notorious military-industrial complex.
These “experts” have only one job. Their mission is to make believable, to as make as many key people as possible, the notion that Vladimir Putin invented coercive gradualism, a strategy the United States has practiced for decades. I suggest “Coercive Air Power in the Vietnam War,” the “USAF AerospacePower Doctrine,” “NATO’s Air War in Perspective from Rand Corporation,” and at least 200 other scholarly articles on the subject of America’s superiority in these tactics.
And for those who still doubt who the real aggressors are in today’s coercive crisis, this PBS report on shows the arrogance and obtuseness of US diplomats who brag on accomplishments overthrowing regimes. For Van Jackson, the Army Colonels lying to their students at West Point, and all those with not an inkling of objectivity in their souls, shame on you for not showing both sides of humanity’s most important story. Russia is certainly reacting to the west’s incremental and acute strategies, Vladimir Putin has admitted this many times. As for my own country, I leave you with this statement from 2018 by A. Wess Mitchell, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In his intro, Mitchell also brings up the Nazis before immediately launching in on Putin. It did not take him long to come to the point of military funding, the real reason old colonels teach young cadets how Russia intends to dominate the world. Pay attention to his use of “instruments of power.”
“Our Russia policy proceeds from the recognition that, to be effective, U.S. diplomacy must be backed by “military power that is second to none and fully integrated with our allies and all of our instruments of power.”
And the real aggressor is?
Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, he’s an author of the recent bestseller “Putin’s Praetorians” and other books. He writes exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”