Dr. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz – who is the current holder of the Kościuszko Chair of Polish Studies, and a recognized expert on Central and Eastern Europe (i.e. the Intermarium region) – participated in a two-day (March 23 and 24, 2015) Asymmetric Operations Working Group (AOWP) collaborative analysis at the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, MD. The topic of the analytical conference was “Assessing Russia’s Influence in the Baltic States.” The participants included US Army officers, academics, think-tank experts, and diplomats.
During the exercise, which consisted of the assessment of eight different hypotheses which might explain post-Soviet Russian behavior in the Intermarium, Dr. Chodakiewicz made several points.
He clarified that while Moscow may view itself as a “besieged fortress,” and therefore perceive its own aggressive moves as “defensive,” it is in reality acting offensively to reintegrate the post-Soviet zone under its own hegemony.
To the question of whether the Kremlin’s main aim is power retention or territorial expansion, Dr. Chodakiewicz responded that the two are not mutually exclusive: one must first capture and maintain power to implement one’s expansionist goals.
When the discussion shifted to the Russian-speaking minorities in the Baltic states – and their likely role as a pro-Moscow Fifth Column if/once the Kremlin decides to unleash the “Donbas separatist” proxy invasion scenario against Estonia, Latvia, and/or Lithuania – Dr. Chodakiewicz pointed out that it would be most accurate to refer to the “Russian minority” as a post-Soviet minority, adding that the alleged “discrimination of ethnic Russians” in the Baltics is primarily the anger of a previously privileged post-colonial elite with a suddenly “uppity” native population wishing to reestablish independent statehood (how dare they?).
Another problem was how to counter Russia’s propaganda offensive, to which Dr. Chodakiewicz proposed a three-pronged approach consisting of: public media, private media, and a supervised army of volunteer counter-trolls on the Russian internet.
He concluded that “Moscow’s influence is dangerous but elastic – sometimes waxing and sometimes waning – and therefore opportunistic and always ready to pounce.” In this context, he added, the local Central and Eastern European leaders most threatened by the Kremlin’s aggression want the US government to make its intentions in the region clear and unequivocal: if they feel they cannot rely on Washington to help defend them against Moscow, they will be tempted to bandwagon with Russia, and that would mean the loss of US allies in the Intermarium.