The opportunities that Moscow is eager to seize beyond Russia’s border are openings or cracks in the world order. The ability to ferret out opportunity, developed during the 1980s and 1990s, is helping Moscow’s rulers detect such chances now.
Both Ukraine and Syria, each one in its own way, are such cracks. They fall between “world orders” if we accept Henry Kissinger’s description of the evolving international orders as being American, European, Chinese and Islamic (see also an interesting piece by Niall Ferguson on the Russian Question.)
The “imperial” power of the collective West is shrinking. Under the new administration, Washington is proclaiming out loud what had previously been implied or mentioned quietly to America’s allies: the U.S. is not willing to serve as the world’s preeminent “imperialist” power indefinitely. It wants to be paid for its services or it will withdraw.
President Donald Trump’s proposed deep cuts in the State Department’s funding and sharp hikes in military spending could be taken as a plan to relinquish America’s remaining soft power and concentrate on its hard power to protect whatever interests it chooses to keep.
In many ways Trump is the perfect puppet for Putin. He is an unsophisticated megalomaniac who lacks the vision to understand what America means to the world at large, and instead only cares about those who will hold rallies celebrating his isolationist agenda.
With Trump distracted by shiny objects Putin, and others, are free to take advantage of the opportunities for power and influence that slip from between Cheeto Hitler's chubby orange fingers.
And the cost for this country, and for our allies, will be vast and potentially irreversible.