The Advisor had done some research in the history of Russia’s struggle to compete with British seapower and later the United States. The czars as well as Mr. Putin, who believes he is a czar, understand the need for the Russian fleet to have a warm water port. Without an all-weather port the Russians cannot extend their power much beyond their own borders. The Advisor thought, it is precisely this kind of knowledge the President does not have. Nothing in his background prepared him to understand the real world which is that nations act in their own interest. If you don’t understand this central reality, your foreign policy is composed of reactions to events you really don’t understand. Like it or not, his mission required him to educate as well as advise President Obama.
The Advisor knew the President seldom took his advice but he was enough of a scholar to listen thoughtfully and enough of an ideologue to follow his collectivist doctrine. The President would be down here within the next hour. I’ll ask him if he will allow me to present my research. Right on schedule, the ancient steel clad door opened and the President strode in. “Good evening Mr. President. The coffee is ready. Take what ever seat you want. I did some research this week and, if you will permit, I will give you the bottom lines.”
“Well, I thought your advice was just the result of your eight decades of life. I’m intrigued that you include research. So go ahead.”
“Thank you. Why are the Russians so hard to work with in the disaster we call Syria? Russia has no common border with Syria. Syria has no supply of oil or minerals. They have no exports Russia wants or needs. Yet Russia is sending game-changing weapons to Syria and, if their past behavior is any guide, they have or will also send technicians and weapons specialists to Syria. Putin knows there is no one to stop him. Certainly not any Arab or Persian State. Israel can’t without our help. The Euro powers are too focused on themselves to risk capital and blood for anyone else. I have no special insight to U.S. Russian policy but I do remember you whispering to President Medvedev before Putin took the presidency again, asking him to tell Putin you would have more flexibility after the election. Putin is a Czar. He only understands strength. Your secret message to Medvedev told Putin you were in a weak position. In Syria he believes you will not oppose Russia’s historical push to have a warm water port.
“Without a warm water port their fleet is frozen in, bottled up in the Black Sea or cruising far beyond their supply base for many months of each year. Again there is no proof I know of but the Soviet push into Afghanistan in the 1980s was another step in their bumbling efforts dating back to the Czars to gain a corridor to warm water. Syria has dangled a warm water port in the Mediterranean called Tartous. The Russians have already done significant development projects in this port. They really don’t much care who rules Syria as long as Tartous is firmly in Russian control. The Russians will do whatever is necessary to ensure they do not lose control of this port. They have never been so close in recent history to the control of a warm water port. A Syrian regime friendly to the United States that would exercise real control over Tartous is not acceptable. Putin, today, has no respect for America. He only understands strength and has no use for words that are mere rhetoric.
“There is more at stake in Syria than the ousting of President Bashar al-Assad from Syria. I don’t think your Administration understands the historical power that motivates Putin to capture an all-weather port. That single feat will mark him as the greatest of all Russia’s Czars. A warm water port at no cost in blood or treasure. A remarkable achievement.”
“You’re telling me Russia’s end game in Syria is for a seaport?”
“Yes. Of course, they don’t mind throwing all Western powers out of the Middle East.”
“No one on my team will believe your analysis.”
“Try some military scholars. They will tell you the same thing,” The Advisor said, as the President was getting up to leave. “Mr. President, maybe you need some different people on your team.”
The author has 27 years of Government service, including two years serving President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s as an
advisor. Considering today’s volatile political situation, you are encouraged to share this on Facebook and to click the “like” button below. Comments and dialogue are welcome and helpful. Find and connect with the author on Goodreads.