Europe is the main prize that Russia hopes to win in the event of a future world war. That being said, Russian strategy fluxuates as conditions change. One also has to keep in mind that there are two different schools of strategic thought at work in the Kremlin since the late 1950s. These I will describe in general outline.
From a careful review of Russian defector testimony and Soviet military literature, it appears that a dialectical approach was developed by Soviet planners after the advent of the Brezhnev Committee (which met from 1956-1957). This is the committee which brought KGB General Dmitri Mironov together with Marshal V. Sokolovskiy in an effort to integrate nuclear war concepts with advanced disinformation and subversion concepts.
In the history of strategic theory, we find two dialectically opposed ideas of war. First, we have the Chinese theorist Sun Tzu, who said excellence in war consists in "winning without fighting," and we have Carl von Clausewitz, who emphasized that winning without fighting is a dangerous concept because it leaves one unready for the bloody confrontation. When Soviet strategic theory was revised in 1956-1957, Mironov represented the Sun Tzu theory and Sokolovskiy represented the Clausewitz theory. Looking at defector testimony and Soviet strategic literature, the two theories were joined in a dialectical forward march--a competitive interaction with one side of the dialectic advancing the agenda of the other.
How does this dialectic work?
In a conversation I had with former GRU Colonel Stanislav Lunev in 1998, I was given an ultra-simplified version of the 1980s Soviet war plan against NATO. According to Lunev, the First Strategic Echelon of the Warsaw Pact would drive over NATO's nuclear land mines and be destroyed. Then the Second Strategic Echelon would advance to exchange tactical nuclear blows with NATO forces. Then the Third Strategic Echelon would overrun Europe. This is a simplistic version of something incredibly complex, but readers will get the overall picture of blood, fire, and horror that it presents.
How does this bloody Clausewitzian plan dialectically advance the cause of winning without fighting?
The very existence of this plan and the psychological pressure it exerted on Europe resulted in a Russian peace offensive under Gorbachev that effectively disarmed and denuclearized Europe in a remarkable way, so that Russian strategists are near to their goal of bypassing Europe entirely in any future war with America. In fact, the European press is reporting that France's military forces--Western Europe's main continental nuclear power--are in total disarray after a decade of budget cuts and mismanagement. A confidential French Ministry of Defense report states that France's armed forces are incapable of defending the country. A third of the country's tanks are unusable and half the helicopters are grounded. It is all due, of course, to Russia's strategy of pulling back from its previously threatening position in Central Europe.
France is not the only European country with a backward and useless military machine. Russia's efforts to pacify Europe have worked like a charm. Only a few largely political obstacles remain for Moscow in Europe, and although these are proving to be quite painful to remove, future tricks are sure to take Europe out of America's benevolent orbit. When this happens, Russia will be free to unite with China and North Korea against America in the Pacific.
It is only obvious, as things stand today, that any future war pitting Russia against America will involve a Russian-Chinese cross-Pacific attack on American interests. The advantage for Russia would be in keeping Europe out of such a war, safe and neutral for later use.
It has to be understood that Russia's sophisticated combination strategy aims at America's destruction, not at Europe's destruction. Why fight 19 countries for world domination when you only have to fight one country--the U.S.A.?
There is great danger, however, in Moscow's extreme reliance on deception and disinformation. Even now, people (like journalist Gordon Thomas) are beginning to trace the lines between Beijing and Osama bin Laden. They can also trace the lines that connect Beijing and Moscow. Given the fact that people will eventually see through Russia's schemes, Europe cannot be a reliable partner for Russia. Even if Europe one day moves away from America toward Russia, the mistake will soon be realized and regretted.
In a certain sense, every deceiver puts himself in the Devil's chair, and this is what Russia has done. However successful you are in tricking the whole world, one day you must act contrary to everyone's expectations. When this happens, Europe will realize that Communism's collapse was a brilliant organizational contrivance, involving great failures but also significant successes upon which Moscow built a new and better position for itself. Already this realization begins to make its appearance in Washington. D.C. It even appears in the columnists (like William Safire) who dub themselves "Angletonians" (i.e., people who see through Russia's schemes).
There is also another difficulty which Russia must eventually face. Carl von Clausewitz was far deeper in his analysis than Sun Tzu. In my opinion, the Russian objective is too ambitious, their maneuvers too elaborate, one day their moves will appear absolutely transparent. That's when the next great war will break out.
I think we should look ahead to a period of crisis in the next several years. The enemies of America seem to be fishing for weaknesses. Well, they have so far come up empty-handed, though time will tell.
The key point here, I think, is for American strategists to watch the Far East and for Europeans to stick by the Americans.
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