Some mind-blowingly good analysis of Russian strategy just arrived in my e-mail box courtesy of Stratfor with the offer of a 7-day free trial. If I didn’t have a family, a day job (of sorts) and other interests (like sleeping), I must just be tempted. Analyst Peter Zeihan observes:
Russia lacks easily definable, easily defendable borders. There is no redoubt to which the Russians can withdraw, and the only security they know comes from establishing buffers — buffers which tend to be lost in times of crisis. The alternative is for Russia to simply trust other states to leave it alone. Considering Russia’s history of occupations, from the Mongol horde to Napoleonic France to Hitler’s Germany, it is not difficult to surmise why the Russians tend to choose a more activist set of policies.
As such, the country tends to expand and contract like a beating heart — gobbling up nearby territories in times of strength, and then contracting and losing those territories in times of weakness. Rather than what Westerners think of as a traditional nation-state, Russia has always been a multiethnic empire, heavily stocked with non-Russian (and even non-Orthodox) minorities. Keeping those minorities from damaging central control requires a strong internal security and intelligence arm, and hence we get the Cheka, the KGB, and now the FSB.
He goes on from there to observe that Russia’s best bet to remain on offense and not be nibbled-to-death by dozens of defensive conflicts around its edges is to harass, as best it can, the only power that can possibly contain it: the United States. That involves a three-pronged strategy centered in Latin America: 1) threaten the Panama canal, 2) empower drug traffickers, and 3) destabilize Mexico. Best stuff on any topic that I’ve read in months and much deeper than I’ve laid out here. Check it out. This site detailing the demographic and social fallout from Communism in Russia has some interesting data, albeit far less sophisticated.