For more than a decade — after he replaced Boris Yeltsin in the Kremlin and even during the time he had to serve as prime minister under his protege,
First, Putin orchestrated a comprehensive buildup in the Russian armed forces, using the growing revenue from the country's energy resources, primarily natural gas and crude oil. For most of the 1990s, Russian policymakers were overwhelmingly preoccupied with political and economic survival, and the defense establishment was one of the main sectors that suffered. Salaries were not paid, bases in the former Soviet republics were abandoned, training was scarce, critical equipment was left to rust and operational preparedness reached an all-time low. Since the early 2000s, when Putin first took office as president, however, Russia's military budget has tripled and, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, it currently constitutes 4.4% of Russia's GDP, or more than $90 billion.
Second, Putin was able to use a number of institutional platforms to frustrate and foil U.S. initiatives he considered harmful to Russian interests. In 2003, before the
Third, Putin crafted an association of states that share his basic anti-American strategic vision for the international system. China has become Russia's chief ally in frustrating Obama's foreign policy goals. Whether it is Iran or Syria, the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Summit or the global economic crisis, Beijing and Moscow see eye to eye when it comes to the United States. Russia and China are devoted to a multipolar global power configuration that essentially means the erosion of American hyper-power and political predominance.
Putin has also exploited diplomatic friction between the U.S. and its allies. For example, in 2003, during the Iraq war, he met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac numerous times to coordinate their antiwar moves within and outside the United Nations.
In the beginning of his presidency, Obama sought to "reset" relations between Washington and Moscow. He even revised some controversial plans to deploy missile systems in Eastern Europe as a trust-building measure designed to appease Putin. Yet the fundamental objectives of the Putin Doctrine made these American gestures ineffective and, in fact, only bolstered Putin's determination and tenacity.
Putin believes that the U.S. is economically and politically declining and that it is socially degenerating. Indeed, Putin sees the wariness among the American people and their political representatives in the case of Syria and thinks that this is more proof of U.S. weakness and indecisiveness amid Russia's growing power and influence.
Regardless of the prospects of the Russian proposal to dismantle the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile — an initiative some observers believe is designed to split the
The Cold War ended more than two decades ago, but Putin has revived some traits of the Soviet empire, and his doctrine is the key to his success. The Obama administration should realize that Putin's objectives are diametrically opposed to most American interests and come up with a doctrine of its own to deal with him if it wishes to maintain U.S. national interests over time.