A Russian wind is blowing over Europe creating a chill no one has felt since the rise of the Soviet Union. While the wind isn’t as strong, it is more biting.

We, as Americans, must hope for the best for our president. He should be granted the benefit of the doubt while accountable for his actions and with as much transparency as is reasonable and secure. However, Putin is galavanting around the globe using military intervention to weave a Russian narrative that has the entire Baltic region shaking in their boots. But, the Baltics and Eastern Europe aren’t going to fold back under Russian rule so quickly. They’re willing to fight, and we would have to choose a side. (insert PEW study)

I was at a think tank event with the Lithuanian Foreign Minister, last year. He felt confident that Russia played a role in many world political developments. He went on to express concern that Russian ‘active measures’ were at play during the BREXIT debate and final vote in the UK. If the foreign minister is representative of sentiments in Eastern Europe then, they’re feeling somewhat abandoned by the West.

The Donbass, an area of Ukraine that is outside of the “Anti-Terrorism Zone,” which is what the Ukrainian government calls the separatists, has become a real no man’s land. Now, it appears that the violence will not cease. This is a concerted and nuanced method that Putin has employed in Syria, and it is replicating the process in Ukraine. Syria, for the most part, will be lauded as a victory for Russian influence. Ukraine is a critical chess piece to gain access to global power. The Russians are advancing on Europe and could spark a global conflict in the future as a result.

The Assad regime, no doubt with Russian advisors and Iranian counterparts, over time increased the severity of the violence. Each time, they paused, waited, and gauged the world’s reaction. Then, they adjusted and either escalated their act or not. Eventually, this tactic met a kind of climax when they employed chemical warfare on their people causing chaos and outrage across the world. They again, waited, gauged and saw a president back down from a “Red Line” he put in place, regardless if he should have or not. The U.S. observed Russians did not interfere with our Middle Eastern intervention during the Gulf War and then, doubled down to make the world we see, today. They, the Russians, are doing the same thing to us.

We have no idea what Russia has or has not sponsored and supported across the world. But we know they have baser desires and are willing to work for them to get what they want. They’re patient; they’re not as impetuous as the West. They’re playing multi-dimensional chess, and we think we won because we proclaimed, “King me,” when Mikhail Gorbachev tore down the Berlin Wall. But, it was just a big move to the Russians in their long-term world view. It was a setback – but it was also an opportunity to restructure, change perceptions, and not make the same mistakes. They’ve never considered themselves “out of school” it seems, and have been studying and observing ever since.

It’s important to underscore that they aren’t employing sophisticated models. These are simplistic approaches with an eye on the horizon. The long-term approach is what has always separated the Russians from the United States. But, Russia is using a kind of ad hoc playbook with strong guidance. His lieutenants are following an act and adjusting the formula. From a planning perspective it’s likely uncomplicated and learns – and on an operational view, it’s highly sophisticated and creative. Putin’s operators are doing what they’ve always wanted to do – whatever they want within reason.

Featured image courtesy of AP