The Russian Threat

The Russian Threat

josh-rigsby
Josh Rigsby is a student at Clayton State studying Political Science.

For the past month the news cycle has been dominated by talk of Russian cyber attacks. Hillary Clinton has cited this as a reason that she lost. Realistically Clinton lost because she was a terrible candidate that used her influence at the DNC to shut out Bernie Sanders, and she has had a cloud of corruption over her head even before the release of emails by Wikileaks. Russia did not tip the scales this election, but that does not mean Russia isn’t a threat. To completely understand the dynamics at play between Russia and America, one must look at what has transpired since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Many Russian officials saw the fall of the Soviet Union as the greatest failure that the Russian state had experienced. The loss of the Baltic States and the power that the Soviet Union possessed was crippling for them. One of these men was Vladimir Putin. Eight years after the collapse, Putin became the Prime Minister of Russia in 1999. He began consolidating power and cementing his rule almost immediately. He made no secret of his ambitions to return prestige to Russia, which bolstered domestic support.
Putin had his first chance to show the renewed strength of Russia in 2008. Russia invaded the country of Georgia, but it was not the triumph he had anticipated. His troops were slow and inefficient and the invasion was more of an embarrassment compared to the streamlined and tactical militaries of the Western world. Many saw this as a sign that Russia did not have the capability to be a threat to Europe and the United States in a direct confrontation, but they missed the fact that Russia had incorporated cyber warfare in their invasion. While the military forces were slow and clunky, the cyber attacks were efficient. Russia took a blow to its image, but it was not something Putin would repeat.
After the humiliation of the Georgia invasion, Russia started to streamline their military. Putin wanted a force that could rapidly respond to threats instead of the steamroll technique that had been in place since World War 2. He increased military spending and began modernizing the Russian military. While he did not say it, the message was clear; Russia would not be embarrassed again. The country of Ukraine became the stage to show Russian strength and tact in 2014 when a civil war broke out in the country. Russia moved in and annexed Crimea and there were reports of Russian military on the ground in other parts of the Ukraine. These soldiers did not march in under the Russian flag but instead moved in covertly so that Russia could not be tied to the conflict. The civil war drew global attention, especially after a jetliner was shot down. Evidence pointed to the airliner being downed by a Russian-made anti-air missile launcher, but there was not enough evidence to prove that the Russians were behind it. The message was clear Russia was back.
The next step was Syria. What began as a U.S.-led coalition against ISIS has devolved into a tangled web of alliances. On one hand is the West, who has been supplying “rebels” with arms to fight both ISIS and Assad. On the other side there is Russia, Iran, and Syria. This alliance is pro-Assad and anti-ISIS and has taken a leading role in the region, most recently taking the rebel stronghold in Aleppo.
Throughout the various conflicts the Obama administration did not view Russia as a threat, while Republicans did. Now that the Russian threat has become political, both sides have switched roles. Democrats are running around yelling fire while Republicans sit calmly. Both sides have shown hypocrisy in their actions. Republicans have long known that Russia is a threat, but, now that it is not politically convenient for the Trump administration, they are attempting to downplay it. Democrats have ignored the threat under President Obama and allowed Putin to heavily influence global events. In the Presidential Debates, Obama even taunted Romney for suggesting that Russia was a threat by saying “The 1980s called and they want their foreign policy back.” Now that Russia is a political weapon they have decided that they are a threat. Russia was a threat and still is. They have increasingly focused on cyber warfare and modernizing their military with the goal of restoring Russia to superpower status. The United States stands in the way, and anyone who does not see them as a threat is lying to themselves.