Putin’s East German Political Resources
At the Russian Academy of Military Science’s annual meeting in 2013, Russian Army General Valeriy Gerasimov articulated the doctrines of hybrid warfare that structure Putin’s strategic thinking. Gerasimov builds his concept of hybrid warfare atop ancient patterns of coercive diplomacy. Anthropologist of war, Keith Otterbein, provides the traditional definition of coercive diplomacy:
One state attempts to force another state to give up land, resources, or anything else that it may want, such as works of art or women. Negotiations will take place, and the state that views itself as militarily stronger will use coercive diplomacy, namely, threaten the other side with a military attack if it does not oblige.[i]
The primal motivational pattern of diplomatic coercion as understood within the context of intertribal warfare is important to study because today’s hybrid warfare strategists repeat that basic pattern, even as they refine and elaborate its archetype.
Gerasimov, for example, understands coercive diplomacy in those terms, but he adds a layer of very sophisticated subtlety. Gerasimov knows that an indispensable tactic of hybrid warfare is to create political conditions that undermine an enemy state’s sovereignty. He also knows that sovereignty is traditionally established by a robust foreign policy conjoined to the ability to enforce compliance with domestic laws. The state that can jealously protect its monopoly on violence at home and diplomatically influence law- and policymakers abroad is sovereign.
More trenchantly, however, Gerasimov perceives that sovereignty depends on social trust.[ii] Where social trust within a state can be transformed into social mal-trust, sovereignty will begin to wither. When a large enough or powerful enough demographic of a state’s citizenry lose trust in their state’s institutions, especially in the state’s ability to provide domestic security, sovereignty will implode. The war in Eastern Ukraine began with a widespread loss of social trust among different clan-like groups in the region, social mal-trust that Putin’s Information Operations agents cultivated into regional civil war.
Preferring a Machiavellian style of trickery and deception, Gerasimov recommends deceiving foreign politicians and state leaders into enacting domestic policies whereby they unwittingly undermine social trust within their own state, because, as he well knows, social trust is the domestic foundation for sovereignty even as international law is the non-domestic foundation of sovereignty.[iii]
Gerasimov’s doctrine features a strategy for tricking foreign state leaders into pulling the carpet of sovereignty out from under their own feet, trickery that consists in turning an enemy state’s own laws and constitutional principles against itself: He derives doctrinal inspiration from Stalin’s covert reasons for signing the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact: He believed that Western powers would destroy themselves. Like Stalin, Gerasimov draws no distinction between foreign diplomacy and hybrid warfare. Coercive diplomacy is war by other means.
Gerasimov’s HW doctrine applies information operations as the preferred weapon by which to undermine social trust within the target state. Propaganda (IO)agents locate the primary vectors of social mal-trust within the target state. Once located, these vectors are exploited to carry the contaminants of social trust into regions of political instability. When these regions are sufficiently infected with social mal-trust, they can be opened up into lawless zones. When these lawless zones open, covert paramilitary tactics, similar to but not the same as those of insurgency and guerrilla warfare, are stealthily applied, to accelerate the erosion of the sovereignty of the target state by spreading the contagion of social mal-trust.[iv] Timing is crucial during this phase of the operation. Putin possesses a masterful sense of timing.
When a state’s sovereignty is infected with sufficient social mal-trust, its ability to conduct its preferred style of foreign policy recedes. As Gerasimov understands it, this is a primary objective of hybrid warfare: To weaken an enemy state’s ability to conduct foreign policy in its preferred style.
Thus understood, Putin’s style of HW reaches back through Stalin and Hitler to Clausewitz. Putin’s HW is a political tool that strengthens and expands your own state’s sovereignty by weakening, reducing, or even denying it to enemy states. In this regard, HW is conducted within the calculus of the zero-sum game, and the tactical logic of hybrid warfare will reflect the hyper-rationalism of zero-sum mathematics. Putin demonstrates his facility with this logic in his dissertation on macro-economics. [v]
The West has typically not perceived the subtlety of Gerasimov’s HW doctrine. Even our best Russia analyst, Edward Lucas, has missed this dimension of Putin’s HW. Lucas did swiftly draw our attention to Putin’s diplomacy of deception as early as 2008 when he warned us:
The West believes in international law, and in the duty of free countries to promote universal human rights everywhere. These ideas are chipped and faded now and tainted by compromises, short-cuts, and hypocrisies, particularly those stemming from the disastrous “war on terror.” But they are real. Until we make it clear that we believe in our own values, we cannot defend ourselves against the subversion and corruption that are leaking into our citadels of economic and political power. And we stand not the slightest chance of persuading Russians themselves that the authoritarian, xenophobic, and distorted version of capitalism peddled by their rulers is not a new civilization but a dead end.[vi]
Lucas helpfully reveals how Putin’s information operations have turned our many failures to live up to our political ideals, legal obligations, and constitutional imperatives against us. Our hypocrisy has been grist to Putin’s IO mill.
Putin did initially build his propaganda machine out of our own political self-doubts, and he has managed to erode our political self-confidence and daunt our martial and political courage. Germany’s flat out refusal to stand by President Obama when he drew his impotent line in the Syrian sand is stark evidence of NATO’s loss of martial and political courage. However, Lucas is describing first generation hybrid warfare, and Putin has entered second generation HW.
Gerasimov’s doctrine of hybrid warfare, as Putin is now implementing it, is even more insidious and tactically effective than what Lucas reveals about Putin’s IO exploitation of our own hypocrisy to get us to doubt the value of our own best political and moral ideals.
In the past six months, Putin has found an innovative means by which to turn our own laws, principles, and legal obligations against us, not as we fail to uphold or fulfil them, but exactly where we meet our obligations—constitutional laws regarding refugees. In this regard, Putin’s second generation HW confirms Timothy Snyder’s recent analysis of Putin’s strategic thinking:
In 2014 and 2015, Putin rehabilitated the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, [in which] Stalin made an alliance with Hitler, that is, the European Far Right of the time, on the logic that doing so would cause Europe to destroy itself. Stalin imagined that Germany and its western neighbors would then clash and that their power would dissolve. Putin seems to have made a similar calculation.[vii]
The so-called refugee crisis in Germany is an instructive example of Gerasimov HW doctrinal trickery in practice. Amidst the fog of the refugee crisis, Putin has effectively managed to turn European foreign policy against itself in the style of the Molotov-Rippentrop pact.
Western humanitarian ideals – ideals that, in Germany, are written into the constitution as law – have become the HW means by which social trust is rapidly being eroded by Germany’s own state leaders.
Putin’s HW tactics have manoeuvred Merkel into a lose-lose leadership predicament: If she alters her foreign policy, she concedes state sovereignty abroad. If she doesn’t, she undermines social trust at home. As Merkel continues an un-revised foreign policy regarding refugees, she erodes much more than her popular support. As indicated in recent public opinion polls, her refugee policy is toxifying social trust, not only in her administration but in German state institutions, generally.[viii]
The refugee crisis in Germany has created so much domestic social upheaval and attendant social maltrust that Berlin has been detectibly weakened in its ability to conduct foreign policy in its preferred style, as evidenced in Berlin’s support of Putin’s Syrian intervention, even as Putin assists Assad in war crimes, targeting and bombing civilians, propelling even more refugees toward Germany. Domestically, there are indications that Berlin is losing its monopoly on violence and finds itself increasingly compromised in its ability to enforce compliance with its own laws at the street level. For the first time since the end of WWII, vigilantism is a serious problem for local German municipalities.[ix]
Germany is witnessing the rapid rise of an extremist party, the Alternative for Germany (AFD), which is ideologically kith and kin of the ruling fascist party in Hungary and, like that party, funded in part by Putin affiliates. The AFD gain members in regions where social trust is lost, especially in former East Germany, where Putin served as a KBG operative.
The most discernable ideological platform of the AFD is its hostility toward refugees in particular and non-Germans in general. But its ideological, political, and psychological resources are profoundly anti-American, anti-Western, and anti-Democratic.
Putin’s East-German Psycho-Political Resources
Exploiting a refugee crisis he has helped create and is exacerbating with recent bombings of civilians in Syria, Putin’s immediate foreign policy objective has been to get Berlin to look away from the Crimea, the Ukraine, the Baltic States and to support his military intervention in Syria. In Germany, he is managing to capitalize on his tactical successes, effectively strengthening and extending his foreign-policy reach, while weakening and reducing Berlin’s. He has achieved this aim by conducting highly effective IO campaigns that target and undermine social trust.
At the street level in Germany, Putin’s IO assets have been busy. They recently concocted a story of a 13-year-old Russian-German girl being abducted and sexually abused by Syrian refugees.[x] As intended, the story created panic among Russian-German communities across Germany.
A notoriously sedulous analyst, Putin likely studied the FSB’s demographic charts of foreign-based Russian-speaking communities,[xi] which we can infer from his IO assets targeting Russian-German enclaves in Germany, exploiting social media to flood Russian-German IP regions with the abduction concoction. Exploiting the same social media and political resources, Putin’s IO assets organized a protest of Russian-Germans in front of the chancellor’s office in Berlin, which received international media attention, a stark and humiliating demonstration of how completely Berlin’s lost control of the refugee situation.
From an IO standpoint, the operation was a splendid success, creating a “laager culture” among Russian-Germans, an ethno-nationalist culture that perceives itself to be under attack, which primes them for being manipulated into accepting and enacting Putin’s anti-Western credendum. His recent IO coup followed the New Year’s Eve refugee “gang-rapes” in Cologne. As an associational catalyst, the story of the abducted and sexually abused Russian-German adolescent deepened social mal-trust among all Germans. Most Russian-Germans do not believe the story was fabricated by Putin, neither do many Germans. The abduction IO not only exacerbated uncertainty avoidance among Russian Germans but among Germans generally.
Putin’s IO assets ruthlessly exploit the sociological phenomenon of uncertainty avoidance, which is, as Jonathan Matusitz explains, “the degree of intolerance of risk or uncertain situations in a given culture.” The scholar of terrorism notes:
On the whole, cultures experiencing greater anxiety create groups that reinforce their need for stability. Occasionally, such groups develop into terrorist groups because they include like-minded individuals sharing the same experiences, feelings, and values. Hence, they are more easily geared toward communal group behavior. [xii]
To undermine social trust, Putin’s IO assets typically locate and target groups that are already marked by high levels of uncertainty avoidance.[xiii] Then, they manipulate uncertainty avoidance to create the socio-psychological conditions in which extra-legal groups, like gangs, militias, and vigilantes, will spontaneously form, especially in de-stabilized areas of lawlessness, such as we have witnessed in Eastern Ukraine.
Vigilantism, as Germany is now experiencing, is also the result of uncertainty avoidance that provokes the seemingly spontaneous formation of extra-legal groups and political parties, like the AFD and PEGIDA, who have both repeatedly demonstrated hostility to German constitutional law. Many of their members openly challenge the state’s monopoly on violence by attacking police at barricades and by burning down refugee homes. The symbolic import of this violence is beginning to chip away at the foundations of German sovereignty: Violence against refugees in Germany (arsons and shootings) is now being perpetrated in most cases by hitherto medial Germans, who are now commonly called Wutbürger (enraged citizens). AFD/PEGIDA members may not know it, but Putin has used them as shock troops in a devious HW attack on German sovereignty, vis-à-vis social trust.
In Germany, East Germany especially, we are beginning to glimpse the grim lineaments of the political conditions in which state sovereignty gets eroded from within its own borders. These conditions are forming in an indirect response to the rapid influx of about 1,5 million Syrian refugees over the past year and as a direct response to the German state’s failure at all levels of what they allowed to become a refugee crisis to demonstrate sovereign command or even bare-minimal leadership.
Germans suffering from loss of social trust typically cite this social evidence:
Berlin has failed to protect refugees from manifold hundreds of arson attacks on asylum homes. It has failed to protect hundreds of refugees from street-level attacks by neo-Nazis and other violent racist gangs. It has failed to protect refugees from each other within the camps. Bloody conflict between Sunnis and Shiites is now endemic. It has failed to protect Christian refugees from Muslim violence in the camps. (Salafists dominate refugee camps and facilities, openly proselytising and condemning the Kuffir who created the refugee crisis.) It has failed to vet legitimate refugees from terrorists. Ten percent may be Islamic State assets. In Cologne and elsewhere, it has failed to protect German citizens from predatory terrorists disguised as refugees. And the small but symbolically important Jewish population in Germany is now caught between the Scylla of violent right-wing anti-Semites and the Charybdis of violent Arab-Muslim anti-Semites.
Putin knows exactly how to push situations of social mal-trust like the refugee crisis in Germany into lawless chaos. He has an especially detailed, first-hand knowledge of the human terrain of East Germany, where he served as a KGB officer of counterintelligence. His specific duty was to police the East German thought-police, the STASI, and to lash these lackeys to find (or invent) enemies of the state. He was the pit bull who growled at the dobermans to rip the sheep to pieces.
East Germany today is still marked by what sociologists call high levels of homo-social reproduction, “the process whereby descriptive characteristics of societal power structures are perpetuated across several generations.” Homosocial reproduction often precludes political and institutional transformation because it keeps old social and political power structures tacitly in tact, despite new legal fictions. A stark example of a modern state burdened by homo-social reproduction is Albania.[xiv]
East Germany is still not a democratic culture. Many political scientists question the degree to which East Germans who chose to remain in East Germany after the fall of the wall (still the majority voting population in East Germany) truly understand and have accepted and adopted democratic processes. Many East Germans today are hostile to Western democracy because they experienced the fall of the wall not as a gain in freedom but as a loss of personal power, the power to punish.[xv] This disgruntled population within a major NATO state represents a powerful political resource for Putin. And he knows it. East German “Putinistas” have already been mobilized by the AFD/PEGIDA, the result of his funding these social-trust-eroding political movements. [xvi]
Recall, East Germany had been the finest-grained, most complete espiocracy the world has ever known. It was a near-perfect spystate, a real-world manifestation of Orwell’s 1984 that was even more terrifying than its original literary model. Pre-teenager sons and daughters were ratting their own parents out to the STASI for comments their father or mother had made at the dinner table. Every third GDR German was an informant for the STASI.[xvii]
Fear of torture was the GDR’s preferred means of gaining complicity. By making state spies even of children, East Germany perfected its totalitarian methodology, as Hannah Arendt explains, “to prepare individuals equally well for the role of executioner and the role of victim.” Many of those children from yesterday run East Germany today. Arendt reminds us, “This two-sided preparation, the substitution for a principle of action, is ideology.” Putin has put Arendt’s insight into practice. Gerasimov’s doctrine openly recommends substituting an ideology of ethnic war for principles of legitimate political action, such as the constitutional protection of minority groups.[xviii]
Working within Gerasimov’s framework, Putin’s IO campaigns prepare target populations “equally well for the role of executioner and the role of victim,” as we have seen in the Crimea and East Ukraine, and as we are witnessing among the Russian-speaking Baltic population. His IO campaigns will continue to succeed especially well among populations whom Putin’s own beloved KGB “ideologized” during the Cold War, in places like East Germany where his IO assets have already located and exploited vectors of social mal-trust, the petri-dish in which an emergent proto-fascist political party, the AFD, has been cultivated.
As Putin well knows, East Germany remains a socially toxic zone, even two and a half decades after the fall of the wall. He well knows that, in many areas of East Germany today, one can go out into the street and quickly locate STASI torture victims. Twenty-five years later, they still walk around like zombies, never having received proper psychological care or compensation for the crimes done to their bodies and souls by the GDR. These victims compose the majority of the jobless and homeless, over age forty, in this region. He knows that these spy-state victims are not a blithely accepted social fact among the functioning natives. He knows that one finds scant shame, pity, or compassion among the majority of today’s East Germans toward the walking victims of one of the most brutal and total totalitarian regimes ever concocted, because many of the bureaucrats and managers now functioning in East Germany today were yesterday’s state executioners. They represent a powerful psychological resource for Putin.
In sum, Putin knows how to exploit the ugly social facts of East German human terrain today because he helped the KGB make East Germany a zone of maximum social toxicity yesterday.
We have gravely underestimated Putin’s political resources in East Germany because, in the early nineties, Putin’s German-based spy-network flew away on the champagne-drenched carpets upon which Germany had celebrated the fall of the wall. When public outrage about STASI crimes against humanity surfaced a few years later, Kohl had already granted blanket amnesty to all STASI agents and terminated all official, state-led investigations into its members’ crimes against humanity. Much of that information is still locked down under data-protection laws that make it a federal crime to investigate, let alone report, this information in detail, with names, dates, places.
We thereby lost the opportunity to study GDR networks and methods, to study what Arendt calls, “the long-established school where all means of violence and slyness for the purpose of the domination of man by men have been taught and evaluated.”[xix] Today, many of the GDR’s “professors and students” of that “long-established school” now serve at the highest levels of East German state institutions, from chiefs of police to mayors to heads of state archives. [xx] These individuals represent a key East German political resource for Putin.
This is to say, the hateful, inhuman ideology of the STASI apparatchiks -- their hatred of the West and of NATO and of the United States in particular -- did not disappear. It barely went underground, even as that same political animosity did not disappear from the soul of Vladmir Putin, an animosity intensified by the humiliating collapse of his institutional sponsor, the USSR. He frequently boasts that the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century was not the Shoah but the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Because Putin commands a detailed, experience-based understanding of the socio-cultural terrain of East Germany and thus knows how to exploit its grotesque history, it should not be surprising to learn that East Germany is where he and his affiliates are spending their Gasprom pelf supporting emergent extremist groups that openly challenge the legitimacy of the German constitution. His IO campaign is well underway in what is the newest front line of his travelling HW show.
Of Merkel’s leadership, three of every four Germans express bewilderment. Of her background, it’s worth recalling that, in the GDR, only the elite of the elite were allowed to get a higher education. Of that elite, only the absolutely elite, the absolutely unquestionably party-true and STASI-approved were allowed to get PhDs. Of that elite, in turn, only the most trustworthy (those who’d been eavesdropped and watched for every second of their lives) were allowed to get their PhDs in a state-vital hard science like physics, chemistry, or engineering. Angela Merkel got her PhD in Physics in the GDR. Her husband got his, also in the GDR, in chemistry. Merkel grew up and was educated at the very center of the East German espiocracy. She was a STASI-approved protégé of a terror state. Her political loyalty, not her intelligence, got her a PhD in that system. She speaks Russian fluently, but no English. When she meets with Putin in the Kremlin, the psychology at work is analogous to that during a meeting between an adult child and her abusive parent. Putin had Merkel at a psychological disadvantage even before she took office.[xxi]
Merkel’s predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, is close friends with Putin and was made a board member of Gasprom during a semi-secret meeting in Weimar, East Germany. Perversely, they struck that deal in the very house where the German philosopher and sociologist Rudolf Steiner had penned The Philosophy of Freedom. The proprietor of this restaurant has hung a photo of their meeting above the table where they dined. A once committed GDR socialist, his pride in the Putin-Schroeder alliance goes way beyond personal marketing. Indeed, that he can market his restaurant by reference to his alliance indicates the alacrity with which local Weimarians welcome a return to what they call, without irony, “the good old days.”
Wittingly or not, Merkel has alienated many otherwise politically medial Germans from trust in their own state institutions. Her loss of control of the refugee crisis, deliberate or not, has created widespread loss of social trust among her fellow citizens. And that loss of social trust is threatening to undermine her government’s ability to conduct foreign policy.
From the vantage of HW, Merkel’s leadership failures have enriched Putin’s primary German political resource, sundry groups of constitution deniers. These groups not only question that part of their constitution that guarantees the right of asylum to refugees. They reject the legitimacy of the German constitution, along with the state institutions it authorizes, all together.
Before the refugee crisis, Putin’s primary political resources in Germany were these relatively insignificant political groupings who do not view the German constitution as the product of a sovereign nation. They view it, instead, as a legal fiction imposed by an occupying power, what they call the fascist-capitalist empire of the United States. Although extremist groups in Germany have long denied the legitimacy of the German constitution, they have not made any serious political gains, until recently. Constitution-deniers have, until recently, been composed primarily of neo-Nazis like the NSU as well as Ultras, Anarchists, Communists, a host of Leftist radical subgroups, Salafists, and Islamic extremists. All of these groups cite US and Britain military bases on German soil as evidence to support of their claim that Germany does not enjoy true sovereignty.
However, Putin’s latest IO campaign has focused on deepening constitutional doubts and is now managing to extend those doubts beyond the realm of the traditional constitutional-deniers. His latest IO campaign is managing to exacerbate a growing loss of constitutional trust and to propel more Germans down the slippery slope of the AFD, nudging them from passively distrusting a particular article of the constitution to actively declaring Germany an Unrechtstaat (an unlawful state).
Putin understands better than most Germans that German sovereignty is suspended over two unprecedented acts of political magnanimity. Gerasimov has taught Putin to seize the current political utility of this historical oddity: No other nation in Europe has ever lost sovereignty over its own home territories due to its own imperial overreach and also had their sovereignty returned to it by another conquering power. The United States and Britain twice conquered a German empire that, through its own imperial overreach, had twice lost sovereignty over its original homeland. Allied Powers magnanimously returned sovereignty to Germany, twice, WWI and WII. (Thrice, if you include the Cold War and the extension of sovereignty to East Germany through reunification, which could not have happened without the US winning the Cold War.)
By enflaming constitutional doubts, Putin’s latest IO campaign ruthlessly exploits the German sovereignty/magnanimity paradox to undermine sovereignty-supporting social trust.
The paradox of German sovereignty today being a gift of American/Allied magnanimity from yesterday has not created grave doubts in many Germans about the legitimacy of the German constitution, until recently. The pink elephant of German sovereignty being a gift of Allied Powers could be denied until now, because, until now, Germans have not faced any serious political crisis. Until recently, they have met no crisis that has potentially threatened their standard of living or compromised their feeling of personal, street-level security, let alone required them to manifest true leadership in foreign policy. Even that historical evidence is marshalled by Putin’s current IO campaign to “prove” Germany’s current lack of sovereignty. Bush’s invasion of Iraq is cited as further evidence of Germany’s vassalage to America and as the source of the current refugee crisis that is so terrifying to so many Germans.[xxii]
German denial of the paradox of sovereignty was largely enabled by the post-war, Marshall Plan, the American defence umbrella during the Cold War, and the robust economic and trade relations with the US that have driven German prosperity and funded its lush social state.[xxiii] However, until 1990, East Germany was a different story. And Putin knows it.
It is Putin’s profound understanding of the paradox of German sovereignty that has enabled his German-targeted IO campaign to stir latent doubts among a significant number of mainstream Germans about the legitimacy of their constitution. His IO war has succeeded in sowing the seeds of constitutional doubt even among less-than-extreme German demographics.
According to Putin’s credendum, the German constitution is an American legal fiction forced upon a defeated West Germany and later upon a defeated East Germany. That there has never been a referendum about whether or not to adopt the American-guided constitution and that it quietly passed from being a provisional constitution to being the law of the land at the turn of this century is cited as irrefutable evidence of Germany’s lack of sovereignty.
Well-tutored in Gerasimov’s doctrine, Putin fully comprehends that social attitudes about constitutional legitimacy are not academic debating points of political philosophy. Social attitudes toward constitutional legitimacy determine political loyalty and sovereignty-conferring social trust, especially during moments of crisis, like the current refugee situation. Putin funds emergent political parties, like AFD/PEGIDA, because they openly declare that Germany is an non-lawful state and undermine social trust among all Germans by that very declaration. All of Putin’s IO campaigns in the past four years began by attacking sovereignty through its cultural foundation in social trust.
Where groups like the AFD can point to social evidence to support their claims, they can push social mal-trust right into lawlessness. Putin’s IO campaign sedulously feeds them that social evidence. Putin’s IO credendum casts Russia as the potential liberator of Germany from Anglo-American, neo-colonial domination. Even former German Chancellor G. Schroeder, who now sits on the board of Gasprom, has been tapped for this latest IO push. He recently remarked that the deal he made with Gasprom during his chancellorship made Germany energy sufficient and liberated Germany from dependence on the Anglo-American political machine. Dependency on Russian energy is more desirable than dependency on Saudi-US energy.
In sum, Putin has exploited the paradox of German sovereignty to deepen and broaden constitutional doubts among Germans, especially in East Germany. He has been successful because he commands a detailed knowledge of the human terrain in East Germany, knows how to manipulate not only its political but also it psychological resources, especially the trauma of losing the Cold War experienced by his former KGB-STASI network, that is, the “trauma” of losing the power to inflict trauma on fellow citizens, the power to incarceration and torture ”enemies of the state,” a power that legitimate, constitution-based democracies severely curtail in state agents.
Moreover, Putin has been able to exploit the refugee crisis to promote constitution denial specifically because the German constitution legally requires the German government to grant asylum to refugees and generally because the German constitution today is a gift of now-forgotten Anglo-American magnanimity from yesterday. Germany’s “sovereignty paradox” has never been sorted out by the medial German.
The murky ambiguities of Chancellor Merkel’s leadership style have played, deliberately or not, into Putin’s IO campaign.
Syrian refugees in Germany are primarily males of war fighting age. Most are experienced urban war-fighters. What, exactly, they are doing in Germany is unknown because Berlin has not bothered to implement screening procedures wherein trained, experienced human-terrain scientists educe refugees for background information about clan affiliation, military experience, psychological disposition, and so forth. Relevant German agencies have not even managed to capture and evaluate the primary master-narratives of its Syrian refugees.
If these refugees were members of anti-Assad militias, then Putin must be quite happy about having about a million of them removed from the Syrian field of battle. If even a small percentage of them are Islamic State affiliates or sympathizers, then Putin must view them as potential agents of social maltrust, which terrorism by its very nature as symbolic communication propagates. Berlin has put the cart before the horse by emphasizing integration over evaluation, yet another failure to which Germany’s constitution-deniers can point, which broadens Putin’s political resources in Germany, because it corrodes social trust.
In short, Berlin’s lose-lose leadership predicament is now Putin’s win-win foreign policy. He has achieved yet another tactical goal of Gerasimov’s HW doctrine: Extending his foreign policy reach at the expense of German sovereignty.
Recommendations for Analysts of Germany
German specialists must dispense with the 25-year-old narrative delusion of re-unification. While that fiction may be useful to diplomats, it obscures the social, political, and economic realities of today’s Germany. If analysts do not want their analytical product to be alienated from half of German socio-political reality, then they must recognize that East Germany has largely not been integrated into West Germany. Social trust in East Germany is not derived from basic democratic cultural practices common in West Germany, practices recognizing, for example, that the dignity and rights of minority groups are protected by constitutional law. East Germany is still burdened by high-levels of homosocial reproduction that covertly propagate, at the local level, the socially-toxic political structures of the GDR. East Germany contains numerous social groups now truculently anti-Western and anti-Democratic. These groups represent increasingly powerful political resources for Putin.
Analysts should be closely observing them, studying the ramifications of their networks, and watching closely for how Berlin responds to all species of constitution-deniers. They may well represent Germany’s political near future.
Educated in Gerasimov’s doctrine, Putin understands the full political potential of undermining social trust in a target state. As a countermeasure, we must adopt social trust as a frame of political analysis. Deploy social-science tools to estimate levels of social trust among the general population in both East and West Germany. Use these estimations to locate structures of feeling correlating to constitution denial and its attendant argument that Germany is an un-sovereign, Unrechtstaat. Offer our NATO partner IO recommendations for channelling these emergent structures of feeling (contagious social mal-trust) into legitimate political expressions of constitutional pride.
Realistic assessment of the strength of the German state and its reliability as a NATO partner requires us to see Germany not for what we want it to be, but for what it is. Unburdened by the narrative delusions of diplomats, Putin has been able to perceive, much more acutely than most Germans, the psychological and political sources of social mal-trust in Germany, especially in East Germany. Unchecked, his current IO campaign will continue to divide the German house against itself.
[i] Keith Otterbein, The Anthropology of War (Long Grove: Waveland Press, 2009). See also, Thomas Schelling, Arms and Influence (New Haven: Yale University Pres, 1966).
[ii] For analysis of the political implications of social trust, see Trudy Govier’s exhaustive study, Social Trust in Human Communities (Toronto: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1997); Barbara Miztal’s Trust in Modern Societies (New York: Polity, 1996); Francis Fukuyama’s Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity (New York: Free Press, 1996); Russell Hardin’s Trust (New York: Polity, 2006).
For an examination of social trust as a measurable socio-behavioural vector within a specific context, see Nadia Yamel Flores-Yeffal’s Migration Trust Networks: Social Cohesion in Mexican US-Bound Emigration (Austin: Texas A&M University Press, 2015).
[iii] For a reminder of Machiavelli’s historical significance, see Gordon Craig (ed) Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986); and Leo Strauss’s “Niccolol Machiavelli” in History of Political Philosophy (3rd ed) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987).
[iv] For a review of those tactics, CIA Manual For Psychological Operations in Guerilla Warfare (Langley: CIA, 1980s), written by Duane Clarridge.
[v] Even as that logic is this doctrine’s greatest strength, it may also be its greatest weakness, but I will not discuss that issue here. Putin faces the West upon the logic of the two-person zero sum game. For the features of that logic, see Alan Washburn’s now classic Two-Person Zero Sum Game (3rd edition) (Washington: Institute of Operations Research, 2003).
[vi] Edward Lucas, The New Cold War: Putin’s Russia and the Threat to the West (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).
[vii] Timothy Snyder, Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning (New York: Tim Duggan Books, 2015).
[viii] I provide a flyover of Merkel’s psycho-biography below.
[ix] This is not the self-protective vigilantism we witness on “La Frontera” along the US/Mexican border in which armed civilians defend themselves against better armed and better trained drug cartel henchmen. Rather, emergent German vigilantism is mob violence aimed at unarmed minorities and refugees. It smacks of 1939. It is largely perpetrated today by medial Germans.
[x] Recall, Serbian war-criminal Milosevic used weapons of mass persuasion to create fear of ethnic cleaning in Bosnian-based Serbs. He ordered his henchmen to stage massacres of Serbian villages, blame it on Bosnians, and then he broadcast the stories on Serbian radio stations. That IO effectively began the ethnic bloodshed in Yugoslavia by provoking mass panic among Serbs.
[xi] As part of his cartographic propaganda, Putin views all foreign-based Russian-speaking enclaves as HW assets. His informants keep him well-apprised of these enclaves’ local, informal, political structures and social-trust networks, which he understands as behavorial vectors.
[xii] See, Symbolism in Terrorism (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015).
[xiii] Islamic State IO assets and propagandists also locate and exploit uncertainty avoidance. The terrorist attacks in Paris were intended, in part, to increase UA among Islamic enclaves in Europe and to make European Muslims “circle their camels” against “Kuffir” backlash.
[xiv] For a stark warning of what regions in East Germany could become, see Jana Arsovska’s Decoding Albanian Organized Crime: Culture, Politics, and Globalization (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015). Arsovksa’s multi-tooled approach to this topic is, in my estimation, an ideal methodology. We should pay close attention to her career.
[xv] The only common ground among neo-Nazis, the German Left, the AFD, PEGIDA, Islamic extremists, the political mainstream is their mutual, knee-jerk hatred of America, Americans, and any form of Americanism. Putin has long been aware of and exploited knee-jerk anti-Americanism among Germans to win converts to his Ant-Western credendum. See, Edward Lucas, The Snowden Operation: Inside the West’s Greatest Intelligence Disaster (A Kindle Single Edition, 2015).
[xvi] In numerous informal interviews with East Germans, the author has learned that many STASI stringer networks remain in tact and active today. As one interviewee explained, “Most East Germans who did not move after the fall of the Wall were probably STASI informants. These people did nothing with their newly gained freedom of movement because it meant nothing to them. If an East German is still living where he lived in 1985, he was probably a STASI informant of some kind.” Somewhat like the American “Neighbourhood Watch,” these informants still monitor their neighbours’ movements, employment history, friendship circles, and so forth. They use traditional methods of street-and-house level monitoring as well as up-to-date computer surveillance, including black-hat hacking. They open snail mail. They still meet privately to share this information with each other. As informal, fully voluntary “watchers,” they represent yet another resource for Putin. The author cannot determine whether these networks do report to local Putin assets, as many interviewees assert.
[xvii] See Gary Bruce, The Firm: The Inside Story of the Stasi (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012). Bruce’s oral history is informative but suffers from its author’s psychological naiveté. He fails to spot motives for confabulation in his interviewees and does not appreciate the local power structures of today’s East Germany. Bruce writes as if the GDR past is past. It is not. Bruce is heavily invested in the myth of reunification. He’s a good historian but a mediocre sociologist.
[xviii] See, Black Earth, p. 332. Groups like the AFD and PEGIDA, who have circled their wagons out of uncertainty avoidance, define legitimate citizenship in Germany, not as a legal right protected by constitutional law, but as deriving from ethnicity. Both groups openly rehearse Putin’s “gay lobby” explanation of global decadence and economic injustice. In other words, they use a single reductive principle, ethnicity, by which to explain the entirety of a complex, multi-causal social reality.
[xix] As exploited by Putin, Gerasimov’s doctrine is currently seeking to apply the lessons of that “long-established school.”
[xx] There is a mountain of books written about the STASI and the GDR. However, until very recently, most of these studies have been written in the absence of vital archival evidence. Most of these works indulge in long flights of speculation because the evidence their authors needed has been classified, locked down under data protection. Ironically, these works have probably done more to obscure than reveal the ugliest truths about the GDR.
[xxi] See George Packer’s excellent flyover of Merkel’s career, “The Quiet German” in The New Yorker (December 1, 2014).
[xxii] Germans who came of age during the Bush Administration have been pre-programmed by rampant anti-Americanism for receptivity to Putin’s IO ploys. Obama’s legalization of homosexual marriage did win some of this generation back to Western democracy, but not many.
[xxiii] For a reminder of American magnanimity, see Charles Mee, Saving a Continent: The Untold Story of the Marshall Plan (New York: New Word City, 2015); and Greg Behrman’s The Most Noble Adventure: The Marshall Plan and How America Helped Rebuild Europe (New York: Free Press, 2008).