Analysis: Vladimir Putin is using North Korea as a pawn in a real-life global chess game to rebuild the Russian empire. Here’s what you need to know.
The Twilight War. That was what Winston Churchill called the first few months of World War Two.
Adolf Hitler’s Nazi army attacked Poland in a pre-dawn blitzkrieg on September 1, 1939. Two days later, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared war but British troops didn’t step onto the battleground for several months.
Hitler and Josef Stalin had agreed to carve up Poland in a non-aggression pact and the two despots did just that. A month after Germany invaded Poland from the West, Russia attacked her from the East.
The Twilight War — or the Phony War as it became known – served as a prelude to actual conflict. The allies dropped propaganda leaflets over Germany to expose Hitler’s true intentions. The NAZI’s also sank the SS Athenia, a passenger ship bound from Glasgow to Montreal which they claimed was an error.
For seven months, the Germans and the West glared at each other across the front lines. On May 10, 1940, Winston Churchill became the Prime Minister and the Phony War ended. “I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and this trial,” Churchill later wrote. That same morning, Hitler ordered his blitzkrieg into Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg. Between 40 and 50 million people died around the world in the ensuing war – the bloodiest in human history.
Seventy-eight years later and another despot with tyrannical tendencies is eyeing the rebuilding of his empire.
Vladimir Putin doesn’t hide his intention of rebuilding the destroyed Soviet Empire. He views the defeat of the Soviet Union as the single biggest tragedy to befall Russia in modern times. “The demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century,” Putin said in 2005.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2013, the world has been waging proxy wars courtesy of Putin’s imperialist strategy. Russia’s invasion of Georgia and Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea, Russia’s genocidal support of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in Syria and the long U.S. war in Afghanistan have all been part of Putin’s plan to restore the Russian empire.
Russia was also an establishing force for ISIS and Putin’s hands are bloodied with a reign of terror that has gripped the West for over a decade killing innocent children at pop concerts and civilian commuters from London to Madrid.
Since Putin came to power, he’s amassed a personal fortune of $200 Billion stolen from his countrymen and Ukrainians. He’s enabled a criminal state ruled by a kleptocracy who’ve raped and pillaged Russia’s wealth. Putin’s henchmen have been allowed to “arrest, kidnap, torture and kill to take people’s properties away with impunity,” says human rights activist Bill Browder.
Putin and his merry band of thieves have laundered billions of dollars obtained through drug-trafficking, nuclear arms sales, human trafficking, large-scale criminal theft, hacking and cryptocurrency. Since 2014, U.S. sanctions have begun to threaten the oligarchs’ wealth hidden away in off-shore companies.
Last year, Russia turned from proxy wars in Syria and Afghanistan into directly engaging the U.S., albeit invisibly.
Putin’s unprecedented attack on the U.S. democracy included a multi-year financial and operational infestation of major U.S. conservative institutions like the National Rifle Association, the Republican Party and the co-opting of several leading Silicon Valley companies and billionaires.
The Kremlin employed thousands of operatives in U.S. financial, military and technology infrastructure. Data analysts, hackers and propagandists in Russia and the U.S. manipulated the minds of an electorate, stealing private information on Americans and using it against them by peddling fake news and targeted hate content to amplify deep-seated anger, prejudice and fear.
Putin targeted the downtrodden among us: immigrants, transgendered people and victims of injustice. Our research shows a track record of financial and political support dating back to 2009 for social conservative groups like the NRA, anti-gay group World Congress of Families and the exploitation of racial tensions in the U.S. from Black Lives Matter to immigration issues.
Putin has not shied away from attacking U.S. forces. Four U.S. navy carriers in the Pacific mysteriously crashed in the Pacific in what seems likely to be the hack of their steering and GPS systems. 17 U.S. servicemen were killed. The Kremlin is also suspected of launching sonic attacks which severely injured U.S. diplomats in Cuba.
Russia conspired to elect a U.S. president using known Kremlin operatives like Paul Manafort and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn and others in the administration also copied and stole confidential documents from a secure room at the White House.
Why Trump? Possibly because he is monetarily compromised by Russia but also because he knew Trump could be goaded into a military response in North Korea. In December, Trump adviser Erik Prince met with Putin’s envoy in the Seychelles. They discussed ways of isolating Iran in exchange for the dropping of sanctions.
There is no greater signal Putin is itching for a real war with the West than his military and financial support for North Korea.
We were first to report about suspicious military cargo being shipped from Vladivostok in Russia to North Korea. Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear missiles are powered by Soviet-era rockets. Russia has also been dodging U.S. sanctions on North Korea, providing about $1 billion in illegal trade from its Russian neighbors, along with scientific help.
As we write, North Korea is planning another nuclear test possibly targeting the vicinity of the U.S. territory of Guam and likely launched from a submarine. This is a direct attempt to engage the U.S. militarily. While Trump will have his followers believe the war will stay in the Korean Peninsula, Russia is just using North Korea as a tactic to distract the U.S. military and allow an opening for Russia’s expansion into Eastern Europe.
Russia embarked on a ten-year, $700 billion program to bolster its military in 2010. Her military budget has ballooned from $25 billion in 2006 to $90 billion in 2013. Last month, Russian forces joined Belarus in a military exercise on their Western front. Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine and Georgia all raised concerns the Zapad exercises were a cover for Russia’s preparation for war.
Moscow and Minsk claimed only 12,7000 troops were involved in the exercise but the real number was closer to 100,000 and could have been as high as 240,000. Ukrainian military officials say Russia only withdrew a fraction of her troops after the war-games leaving them war-ready.
The Kremlin also deployed new Iskander surface-to-surface ballistic missile, Kalibr cruise missiles, Bal coastal-defense missile and the S-400 Triumph air defense systems during the war-games. Russia is also pursuing a new class of air-independent submarines, stealth fighter planes, high-tech ground gear for her ground forces and recently tested a new missile capable of destroying satellites in space.
Elsewhere, Russia has conducted joint military exercises with China and Egypt, as well as in the Northern Fleet of the Barents Sea. In Helsinki, the Fins have been preparing an underground city in the event of war.
If North Korea draws the U.S. into war on the Korean Peninsula, Russia will seize the opportunity to invade Eastern Europe.
Any attack on a NATO member country will draw the U.S. into war there, forcing the U.S. into fighting a war on two fronts. Both on Russia’s border. “Despite Russia’s denials, we know they are seeking to redraw international borders by force, undermining the sovereign and free nations of Europe,” U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said in Ukraine in August.
Latvia, Estonia and Ukraine are likely to be first targets of a Russian-NATO war. While NATO outguns Russian, NATO troops are not fully mobilized on the front. Until they are, Russia could overrun the Baltic states in as quickly as in 60 hours. With U.S. forces split between Eastern Europe and Korea, the U.S. military would be pressed to capacity.
There’s ample reason to believe China could be working in coordination with Russia. Recent war-games and China’s support for North Korea are chief among them. China bought 14% of Russia’s oil producer Rosneft. Russia stands to benefit financially from a war because global conflict drives up oil prices and oil is the one thing Russia has.
Beijing and Moscow have also opposed tougher sanctions against Pyongyang. This could be a tell-tale sign China will sit out any war waiting for Russia and the West to destroy each other. Worse, they could side with Russia and North Korea militarily, plunging us all into the worst war in history.
And if you think such war will stay confined to Europe and Asia, think again. Russia and the U.S. have each rigged each others’ power grids and infrastructure with malware able to cut off power supply to population centers. An aggravated and unpredictable North Korea could also strike the U.S. mainland with nuclear missiles. Russia and U.S. Nuclear warheads are a deterrent but history shows us they can be used when push comes to shove in global conflict.
The world stands at the precipice of war with unthinkable consequences. The result will be a world far different from the one we have now: ruled by kleptocrats, despots and enemies of truth and justice. That is not the world for which the U.S. and its allies has spent generations fighting. It’s not the world we should leave behind. We cannot be antagonized into war by North Korea and give Russia the opening it wants to rebuild its empire in Eastern Europe.
We should focus our intentions squarely on the tyrant who has led the world into this nightmare: Vladimir Putin.