Russia in an Invisible War
Russia Just Suddenly Reemerged as a World Power While the West
By Rostislav Ischenko
Translated by Seva
December 12, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" - How could Russia in just
20 years, without wars or other perturbations, rise from a
semi-colony to an acknowledged world leader, equal among the top
Kitchen “strategists”, who sincerely believe that
massive nuclear strike is the universal solution to any
international problem (even the hottest one, close to military
confrontation), are unhappy about the moderate position of the
Russian leadership in the crisis with Turkey. However, they deem
insufficient even direct participation of the Russian military in
the Syrian conflict. They are also dissatisfied with the Moscow’s
activities on the Ukrainian front.
However, for some reason nobody asks a
simple question. How did it happen that all of a sudden Russia
started not just actively stand up to the world hegemonic power, but
successfully win against it on all fronts?
By the end of 1990s, Russia was a state that
economically and financially was at the level of the third world. An
anti-oligarch rebellion was brewing in the country. It was fighting
an endless and hopeless war with Chechens that spilled over to
Dagestan. National security was supported only by nukes, as to
conduct any serious operation even within its own borders, the army
did have neither trained personnel nor modern equipment, fleet could
not sail, and aviation could not fly.
Sure enough, anybody can tell how the industry,
including military, was gradually revived, how growing living
standards stabilized the internal situation, how the army was
But the key question is not who did more to
rebuild the Russian military: Shoygu, Serdukov, or the General
Staff. The key question is not who is a better economist, Glaziev or
Kudrin, and whether it would have been possible to allocate even
more resources to social spending.
The key unknown factor in this task is
time. How did Russia have it, why did the US give Russia time to
prepare resistance, to grow economic and military muscle, to
annihilate State Department-funded pro-American lobby in the
politics and the media?
Why did not the open confrontation, in which we
are now getting ahead of Washington, begin earlier, 10-15 years ago,
when Russia had no chance to withstand sanctions? In reality, the US
in the 1990s or 2000s started installing puppet regimes on the
post-Soviet space, including Moscow, which was considered as one of
several capitals of dismembered Russia.
Healthy conservatism of diplomats
The conditions for today’s military and diplomatic
successes were being built for decades on the invisible (diplomatic)
It must be said that among central ministries the
Foreign Ministry was the first to recover from administrative mess
caused by the breakup of the early 1990s. As early as in 1996,
Evgeny Primakov became the Foreign Minister, who, in addition to
turning the government plane around over the Atlantic upon learning
about the US aggression against Yugoslavia, turned around the
Russian foreign policy, which after that never followed the US
Two and a half years later, he recommended Igor
Ivanov as his successor, who slowly (almost imperceptibly), but
surely continued to strengthen the Russian diplomacy. He was
succeeded in 2004 by the current foreign minister Sergey Lavrov,
under whose leadership diplomacy accumulated enough resources to
switch from positional defense to decisive offence.
Among these three ministers only Ivanov
received The Hero Star, but I am sure that both his predecessor and
successor are just as worthy of this award.
It must be said that traditional caste closeness
and healthy conservatism of the diplomatic corps contributed to
rapid restoration of the work of the Foreign Ministry. That very
unhurriedness and traditionalism the diplomats are accused of
helped. “Kozyrevshchina” (the word is derived from the name of
Andrei Kozyrev, the Foreign minister in 1990-1996; the word means
“acting like Kozyrev”, i.e. in a subservient manner against one’s
own interests – translator’s note) never caught on in the
Foreign Ministry because it did not fit.
Period of internal consolidation
Let’s return to the 1996. Russia is at the bottom
of the pit economically, but the default of 1998 is still ahead. The
USA totally disregards the international law replacing it with its
arbitrary actions. NATO and the EU are getting ready to move to the
Russia has nothing to respond with. Russia (as
USSR before it) can annihilate any aggressor in 20 minutes, but
nobody plans to fight it. Any deviation from the Washington-approved
line, any attempt to pursue an independent foreign policy would lead
to economic strangulation and subsequent internal destabilization –
at that time the country lives on Western credits.
The situation is further complicated by the fact
that until 1999 the power is in the hands of the comprador elite
beholden to the US (like the current Ukrainian one), and until
2004-2005 compradors are still fighting for power with patriotic
Putin’s bureaucracy. The last rearguard battle given by the loosing
compradors was an attempt at a revolution in 2011 at Bolotnaya
square. What would have happened if they had made their move in
2000, when they had an overwhelming advantage?
The Russian leaders needed time for
internal consolidation, restoration of the economic and financial
systems, ensuring their self-reliance and independence from the
West, and rebuilding the modern army. Finally, Russia needed allies.
Diplomats had an almost impossible mission. It was
necessary, without retreating on key issues, to consolidate the
influence of Russia in post-Soviet states, ally itself with other
governments resisting the US, strengthen them, if possible, all the
while creating an illusion in Washington that Russia is weak and
ready for strategic concessions.
The illusion of Russia’s weakness
One demonstration of the fact that this task was
successfully achieved are the myths that are still alive among some
Western analysts and pro-American Russian “opposition”. For example,
if Russia opposes another instance of Western adventurism, it is
“bluffing to save face”, the Russian elites are totally dependent on
the West because “their money is there”, “Russia sells out its
However, the myths of “rusty rockets that do not
fly”, “hungry solders building dachas for generals”, and about
“economy in tatters” are essentially gone. Only marginals believe in
them, who are not really incapable, but are too afraid to
acknowledge the reality.
These very illusions of weakness and readiness to
back off that fooled the West into belief that the Russian question
is solved and prevented it from rapid political and economic attacks
on Moscow, gave the Russian leadership the precious time for
Naturally, there is never too much time,
and Russia would have preferred to postpone the direct confrontation
with the US, which started in 2012-13, by another 3-5 years, or even
avoid it altogether, but the diplomacy won 12-15 years for the
country – a huge period of time in today’s rapidly changing world.
Russian diplomacy in Ukraine
To save space, I will give just one very clear
example, most relevant in the current political situation.
People still blame Russia for not counteracting
the US in Ukraine actively enough, for failing to create a
pro-Russian “fifth column” to counterbalance the pro-American one,
for working with elites, rather than with the people, etc. Let us
evaluate the situation based on real capabilities, rather than
Despite all references to the people, it is the
elite that determines the state policy. The Ukrainian elite, in all
its actions, has always been and still is anti-Russian. The
difference is that the ideologically nationalistic (gradually
becoming Nazi) elite was openly russophobic, whereas the economic
(comprador, oligarchic) elite was simply pro-Western, but did not
object to lucrative links with Russia.
I would like to remind you that not somebody else
but representatives of supposedly pro-Russian Party of Regions
bragged that they did not allow Russian business to Donbass. They
also were the once who tried to convince the world that they are
better for Euro-integration than nationalists.
The regime of Yanukovich-Azarov
precipitated economic confrontation with Russia in 2013, demanding
that despite signing the treaty of association with the EU Russia
retained and even enhanced favorable regime with Ukraine. After all,
Yanukovich and his fellows in the Party of Regions, while they had
absolute power (2010-2013), supported Nazis financially,
informationally, and politically. They led them from marginal niche
to mainstream politics in order to have a convenient opponent in the
presidential elections in 2015, while suppressing any pro-Russian
informational activity (not to mention a political one).
The Ukrainian communist party, while retaining
pro-Russia rhetoric, never had a shot at power, and played a role of
convenient loyal opposition indirectly supporting oligarchs,
channeling protest activity into venues safe for any (including
Under these conditions, any Russian attempt to
work with NGOs or to create pro-Russian media would be perceived as
an encroachment on the rights of Ukrainian oligarchs to rob the
country singlehandedly, which would cause a further drift of the
Ukrainian officialdom towards the West viewed by Kiev as a
counter-balance to Russia. The US would, quite naturally, see it as
transition of Russia to direct confrontation, and would have
redoubled its efforts to destabilize Russia and support pro-Western
elites all over the post-Soviet space.
Neither in 2000, nor in 2004 Russia was ready to
openly confront the US. Even when (not by Moscow’s choice) this
happened 2013, Russia needed almost two years to mobilize its
resources in order to give a strong response in Syria. The Syrian
elite, in contrast to the Ukrainian one, from the very beginning (in
2011-2012) rejected the option of compromising with the West.
That is why during 12 years (from “Ukraine without
Kuchma” action, which was the first unsuccessful attempt of
pro-American coup in Ukraine) the Russian diplomacy worked on two
First, it was keeping the situation in
Ukraine in unstable equilibrium; second, convincing the Ukrainian
elite that the West was a danger to their wellbeing, whereas
reorientation towards Russia was the only way to stabilize the
situation and save the country as well as the position of the elite
The first task was successfully achieved. The US
has managed to switch Ukraine from the multi-directional mode into
the mode of anti-Russian battering ram only by 2013, having spent
enormous amount of time and resources and having acquired a regime
with huge internal contradictions incapable of existing
independently (without growing American support). Instead of using
Ukrainian resources for their benefit, the US is forced to spend
their own resources to prolong the agony of the Ukrainian statehood
destroyed by the coup.
The second task has not been accomplished due to
objective (independent of Russian efforts) reasons. The Ukrainian
elite turned out to be totally inadequate, incapable of strategic
thinking, of evaluating real risks and advantages, but living and
acting under the influence of two myths.
First – the West will easily win in any
confrontation with Russia and share the spoils with Ukraine. Second
– no effort, except the unwavering anti-Russian position, is
necessary for comfortable existence (at the expense of Western
financing). In the situation of choice between orientation on Russia
and survival, or siding with the West and dying, the Ukrainian elite
However, even out of negative choice of the
Ukrainian elite the Russian diplomacy managed to get maximum
advantage. Russia did not let itself be sucked into a confrontation
with Ukrainian regime, instead forcing Kiev and the West into the
grueling negotiation process on the background of a low-key civil
war and excluding the USA from the Minsk format. By focusing on
contradictions between Washington and the EU, Russia managed to
burden the West with Ukraine financially.
As a result, initially consolidated
position of Washington and Brussels disintegrated. Counting on a
politico-diplomatic blitzkrieg, the European politicians were not
prepared for a prolonged confrontation. The EU economy simply could
not support it. In its turn, The US was not ready to accept Kiev
exclusively on its own payroll.
Today, after a year and a half of efforts, the
“old Europe”, which determines the position of the EU, such as
Germany and France, has abandoned Ukraine completely and is looking
for a way to extend a hand to Russia over the heads of the
pro-American Eastern European limitrofes (Poland and Baltics). Even
Warsaw, which used to be the main “advocate” of Kiev in the EU,
openly (although semi-officially) hints at the possibility of
dividing Ukraine, having lost the faith in the ability of the Kiev
authorities to keep the country together.
In the Ukrainian political and expert community
hysterics about “the treason of Europe” is growing. Former governor
of the Donetsk region (appointed by the Nazi regime) and oligarch
Sergey Taruta states that his country has eight months to exist.
Oligarch Dmitry Firtash (who had a reputation of the Ukrainian “king
maker”) predicts disintegration as early as in the spring.
All this, quietly and imperceptibly, without using
tanks and strategic aviation, was achieved by the Russian diplomacy.
Achieved in a tough confrontation with the block of most powerful,
militarily and economically, countries, while starting from a much
weaker position and with the most peculiar allies, not all of which
were or are happy about growing Russian power.
Breakthrough in the Middle East
In parallel, Russia managed to return to the
Middle East, retain and develop integration within the post-Soviet
space (Eurasian Economic Union), together with China roll out a
Eurasian integration project (Shanghai Cooperation Organization),
and initiate via BRICS a global integration project.
Unfortunately, limited space does not allow us to
discuss in detail all strategic actions of the Russian diplomacy for
the past 20 years (from Primakov until today). A comprehensive study
would take many volumes.
However, anyone who would try to answer honestly
how Russia managed within 20 years, without wars or upheavals, to
rise from the state of a semi-colony to the state of a recognized
world leader, would have to acknowledge the contributions of many
people on Smolenskaya Square (where the Foreign Ministry is
located – translator’s note). Their efforts do not tolerate
fuss or publicity, but without blood and victims yield results
comparable to those achieved by multi-million armies in many years.
Rostislav Ischenko, analyst of “Russia today”.