For John, BLUF: Russia is king of the hill, but it isn't clear it is a stable hill. Nothing to see here; just move along.
This is satire, written by retired Admiral James Stavridis♠ and published by Foreign Policy Magazine. The title is "Hey Boss, a Little Help Here?" and the subtitle is "In Putin's Russia, strategy drives you!" It is a very short, fast read, but it does a good job of covering the waterfront.
TOP SECRETAs we skim through the memo, passed the reflections on recent successes, we come to the request for guidance. In short, what next, boss?
FROM: Russian Strategic Planner
TO: President Vladimir Putin
SUBJECT: Request for Guidance
5. All of which brings me to my request for guidance. Having burned our bridges to the West with Europe (well done, of course, and the prizes of Crimea, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia are clearly worth it), where shall we focus ourselves as we create the New Russia of the 21st century? We have a strong base to build on with Belarus, Cuba, Nicaragua, North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela, of course, but, frankly, most of them are unfortunately international pariahs and offer little in the way of trade and growth. So where should we be focused?Exactly! Where to next, or is this actually just a geostrategic cul de sac?
6. I know that Karl Marx said that history always repeats itself, "first as tragedy, then as farce." I am sorry to say that some in the West seem to think that our new geopolitical moves to control nations like South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Crimea, Moldova/Transnistria, and parts of Ukraine are hardly the Warsaw Pact of old; but they are a brave group of satellites that cannot be dismissed as a farce.
7. Hopefully the price of oil will stay high, your PSA will stay low, and we will continue to dominate the news cycle!
8. We anxiously await your guidance!
There is a line that sometimes applies in situations like this. "Don't just do something — Stand there." Notwithstanding the criticism President Obama is receiving, his best approach may be to steadily apply sanctions and to avoid forcing President Putin into a corner. Nothing to be gained from President Putin feeling the caged animal.
Regards — Cliff
♠ Admiral Stavridis knows the territory, having surved as NATO's 16th Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR, June 2009 - May 2013) and currently serving as the 12th Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University [down county], amazingly, the oldest school in the United States dedicated solely to graduate studies in international affairs.