The larger issue is not simply Russian designs on Ukraine, but to maneuver the U.S. and its western allies into a position that presents Moscow with an advantageous negotiating stance on other issues including, among other things, preventing an expansion of NATO and even more immediate Russian political military operations in the Middle East. It is a form of chess, well understood by these traditional masters of the game. The accrual of pawns for use in exchange for instruments of greater value is a basic technique in security negotiations as it is in the game of chess.
These actions may be perceived as “dirty tricks,” but in fact they are a long-standing part of international activities of all kinds. Certainly, the Persians always were considered very talented in this form of advanced negotiating technique and contemporary Iran has inherited all these same skills. The recent test firing of a multi-warhead ballistic missile is an example of the classic “show of strength” maneuver so as to present the adversary with the potential of what could be in order to get the opponent to negotiate a more acceptable solution. Such missile development already had been banned. Nonetheless, even this banning plays a role in the strategic maneuvering that is an essential part of the effort of the U.S. and its allies in setting the parameters of Iranian political military ambitions.
On the other side, with this new weapon in development Tehran is now in a position to bargain for greater advantage in the backrooms of negotiation. It is easily seen that giving up this new weapon would require an equal or greater sacrifice by the other side – in this case the United States and others. Of course, this, in turn, can be countered by an escalation on the part of the American-led group. However, that’s not a step the Iranians believe Washington will take. Tehran doesn’t have to use its new weapon. Its mere existence is enough for negotiating purposes.
A similar tactic already has been used by the North Koreans in announcing the creation of “a new non-nuclear military device.” Most analysts agree that this euphemistic reference relates to an advanced anti-cruise missile capability. Russia also stated earlier that it had developed extraordinary technology in this field. Putin himself announced this several months before. The implication, therefore, exists that somehow the DPRK announcement of its new capability is somehow related to the similar Russian breakthrough. Now, that adds up to a double move very useful in negotiations. Well done, comrades!
These technological chess moves are quite naturally part of what opposing players would call “dirty tricks.” Perhaps it’s more complicated and expensive than past concepts of the usual covert activity, but certainly equal to – or exceeding – past maneuvers. The Chinese have been especially apt at targeting the “Wall Street” financial structure so as to give advantage to China’s place in international finance. The counteraction taken by the current U.S. Administration of boldly raising tariffs took Beijing by surprise, for they expected that Washington did not have the will to endanger its relationship with Beijing. In this they misjudged the buccaneer style of “dealing” in which the current President was practiced – unlike previous more traditional presidents. President Trump seemed to enjoy the challenge. To him it was just another business deal. The Chinese have finally figured that out. It’s part of getting to know one’s opponent.
It’s taken a while for other leaders to realize the American president actually prefers this type of negotiating. Unlike the Chinese, some still don’t quite view the American acceptance of confrontation as a legitimate form of playing the game. The Chinese, on the other hand, have used that move themselves in the past and, as is said, don’t take it personally. There is little the Chinese haven’t encountered in their history. The fact is that they, too, enjoy the game and their leader, Xi Jinping, appears personally to be at ease with the contest.
The North Koreans are in a weaker position and they know it. Their principal weapon is delay, delay and being backed by the really big boys – China and Russia. The Iranians are suspicious of everyone. This includes even their own cadre. They are good tactically, but because of their theocratic dictatorship, poor strategically. The Russians still can’t decide whether they are a Western or Eastern nation, simply because they really are both. It makes them easier opponents on one hand, yet a bit confusing on the other. In the end Moscow will come down on the side of Western pragmatism, but in the meantime be very rough in the clinches.
As different as these adversaries of the United States may be, they all operate in the same pattern – and indeed, so do we. It is the pattern of national contest that underpins world politics. It is when we in the U. S. lose sight of all the elements of the contests that we get frustrated and tend to make wrong decisions. The truth is that in this world, there are no rules – only ploys and gambits.