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MOSCOW, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 28, 2018: Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Welcome to our Occasional Paper Series where we will put up larger studies on defence, security and international relations. We at SIA thank, long-time contributor Kira Bre Clingen, our very own Dr. Jonathan Z. Ludwig & first-timer on SIA, Reagan Page, for their efforts on this, our first Occasional Paper calling on the Biden Administration to formulate clear-thinking Russian policy as an American national priority.

Making Russia Policy in the Biden administration

By Kira Bre Clingen, Dr. Jonathan Z. Ludwig & Reagan Page

OCCASIONAL PAPER 1


The simple truth is that Russia is at war with the democratic world, in particular with the United States. This is not a declared war, and it is not a traditional hot war, although the temperature has been rapidly increasing with the recent exacerbation of tensions in the Bering Sea and revelations of the deep hack conducted against numerous US government agencies. Rather, as is indicated by the hacking attack, it is a hybrid war, the only type of war that Russia can likely “win,” at least in the short term.

This is not a new war. Russia has been engaging in this, largely without significant international response, for almost two decades. Shortly after coming to power, Russian President Vladimir Putin began to gather his forces to fight back against what he saw as the increasing hegemony of the democratic world, emanating from the United States, but stretching around the world throughout Europe and in the Indo-Pacific, with Australia, Japan, India, South Korea, and Taiwan leading the way. To buy himself needed time, Putin was the first world leader to call US President George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks and offer his assistance. This allowed him to project an image of Russia as being on the side of opposing Islamist terrorism and guarantee it would garner no criticism for bolstering its forces, particularly in the Caucasus, from whence anti-Russian terrorism emanated. Bush was later rightly criticized for saying in 2001 that he looked into Putin’s eyes and got “a sense of his soul,” for Putin was soon to become more aggressive. 

In 2006, Putin ordered the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London. The UK sought to play the attack down, fearful that any response would cause an exodus of Russian money from London, and, without a strong British response, the rest of the world looked the other way. Putin learned that, in the eyes of the democratic world, it was not an act of war to assassinate an opponent by a nuclear-chemical attack that also posed a significant danger to the local populace. 

In 2007, Russia launched a cyberattack against Estonia, which, if reports are true, was dissuaded from requesting an Article 5 NATO declaration. Putin thus learned that, in the eyes of the democratic world, it was not an act of war to cyberattack a NATO member.

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