by Rostislav Ichshenko

translated by Evgenia


Chess is an ancient game that reproduces military actions with enviable accuracy. The development of the computer technology allowed for the creation of colorful strategic computer games, in the best of which the victory is arrived at by balancing multiple parameters (including the economy, natural resources, etc). Nevertheless, none came close to replicating the real strategic situation at the level achievable in an ordinary chess game.

Even the development of the theory of the chess game is identical to the development of the military thought. The games of the grate chess players and famous champions played two-three hundred years ago often impress by their simplicity, and their discoveries are well known to any beginner chess player. Similarly, strategic and tactical finds of Miltiades and Epaminondas, Cyrus the Great and Alexander the Great, Hannibal and Cesar are known today to every graduate not only of a military academy but, likely, even of the Suvorov Military School.

However, this does not result in larger number of great military leaders or great chess players. It has been noted a long time ago, and not by us, that strict adherence to the rules of the game both in chess and military activity always results in the victory over a weaker opponent, but leads to a stalemate (famous positional impasse of the First World war or endless nonsensical maneuvers of the European armies in 18th century) in a conflict with an opponent with comparable resources and similar theoretical training.

Really great victories, victories when weaker or equal forces crushed the enemy, are only achieved by breaking the rules. In this sense, both chess and military theory could be described in one sentence: “One who does not take risks does not drink Champaign”. The higher the risk, the more complete the victory, but if the enemy turns out to be more talented (or simply more lucky), then your defeat will be devastating.

In order to win, it is necessary to open the position at the right time and then constantly outpace the opponent by making faster and more consistent decisions. A great chess player, as a great military commander, can find the right moment when the planned ahead positional standoff needs to be transitioned into the unknown that cannot be precisely calculated. Confidence in the first three steps, fast tempo and intuition bring victory. However, a person playing such a game needs to be completely sure of himself and his resources.

Let us recall now that a war is an extension of the politics by different means. Actually, it is politics in its pure, concentrated undisguised by diplomatic conventions and media disinformation form. States are not people. People could be sincere friends. States, even when friendly, still are destined to fight for dominance (or for better conditions for their citizens). Today’s ally is tomorrow’s competitor (or vise versa).

That is, the basics of the military (or chess) strategy are applicable to the description of routine every day global practice. It is important to keep in mind, though, that a chess player has only a limited number of pieces that can make a limited number of possible combinations. A military commander at a battlefront deals with many more factors he has to take into account and calculate, in addition to unknown and unpredictable factors. There are also tens and hundreds of thousands, perhaps, millions of subjective opinions and individual wills of his subordinates as well as unexpected occurrences such as rapid weather changes or landscape features not marked on maps, etc. Nevertheless, in general the military commander also deals with finite number of combinations, which could be calculated more or less accurately (although chance in this case plays a significant role).

In politics, only tendencies could be calculated. The results of actions planned and executed by you or the opponent could only be appreciated in terms of probabilities, since billions of free wills of the humankind, as well as unpredictable individual qualities and possible reactions to this or that stimulus of tens of thousands of politicians and public servants, who determine the implementation of each action, move the results of your decisions onto the realm of something desired rather than guaranteed. This requires continuous correction of plans and actions in accordance with constantly changing circumstances.

That is why in politics, in contrast with the game of chess or military action, stretching the opponent’s resources and distracting his attentions from the strategically important, critical goal plays a much more important role. Furthermore, in politics even the most insignificant point can become critical and strategic.

What do you do in chess game if you find yourself in a difficult situation when the position of your opponent is clearly stronger? You attempt to find a move that would result in a threat to him in a different place on the board that is growing faster than he is able to capitalize on his advantageous position. However, your positions could be calculated, and in most cases it is possible to say who is winning and who is losing assuming basically correct moves.

A military commander, who finds himself with a crisis on his hands and no resources to respond to it, behaves similarly. He tries to create for his opponent a difficulty in a different area, thereby ether achieving victory, if he manages to outpace the enemy, or forcing the opponent to halt his successful operation in order to use the resources to cope with the newly created problem. In most cases of this kind, it is impossible to predict a winner. When the resources are more or less comparable, too many unknown factors contribute to the final outcome. That is why in a war risks are not taken unless absolutely necessary, and first order of business is usually to stabilize the situation before thinking about continuing the operation or preparing for a new one.

In politics, similar actions are taken. However, there are hardly any known factors here. As has been already said above, all that is known are tendencies and dynamic of the processes. It is clear who is going down, who is climbing up, and where the intersection point will be if the vectors and dynamics remain stable. The rest is unknown. That is why wise state politicians try not to provoke other states, since at some point the events could spin out of control engulfing the politicians that initiated them. Besides, not just the possibility of uncontrollable development of the situation is alarming but also the unpredictability of the exact moment of the loss of control. Furthermore, at any time during a political crisis it is impossible to say whether the political leaders still retain control over the events or it is just a delusion (their own as much as anybody else’s).

Therefore, the more critical points exist for the interests of the key players to collide, the more active their attempts to stretch each other’s resources become, the more dangerous the whole situation gets, and the fewer chances remain to retain adequate control over the events. Also, the right to make strategic decision progressively shifts to lower hierarchical levels (often without informing the nominal leaders).

This is the condition we find the world in today. Consistently losing in each crisis, the US created crisis after crisis in order to distract attention and stretch resources of its opponents.

I understand that many would say that the US has won in most crises. And they would give examples: Hussein in Iraq was deposed; so was Kaddafi in Libya; in Ukraine the Nazi regime that came to power with the help of the US controls most of the country’s territory. More examples could be given, and everything seems good. There is, however, a problem. Any action usually has a goal, which does not necessarily the same as apparent results.

The US most certainly did not depose Hussein and Kaddafi to give the power in these countries rich in oil deposits to islamists. They also did not bring Nazis to power in Ukraine because they were concerned about their (Nazis’) wellbeing. All these actions were undertaken with one and only purpose in mind – to alter the world’s geopolitical trends of the US and EU weakening, but Russia, China, and BRICS countries (and others less visible but similarly developing economies) getting stronger.

The end of economic dominance of the West was visible and could easily be calculated within the framework of the contemporary global model. However, the US possessed the overwhelming political and military advantage. Using this trump card, the US attempted to create the situation when the resources of its actual and potential geopolitical opponents would be spent faster than its own. Ideally, the US resources should even increase at the expense of its opponents. In such scenario, all US problems would be solved. However, in almost all crisis areas America failed to induce its opponents to overextend their resources, whereas the US itself incurred expenses supporting regimes it brought to power. Therefore, coups are all nice and good – on the surface everything is fine, but the strategic objective has not been reached. Furthermore, the more spectacular the success appears, the worse the actual situation (higher expenses) is and the closer comes the final defeat.

This is similar to what happened to Napoleon in 1918. He is advancing, Russians are in retreat, but not only there is no victory, but the further the Great Army moves in the depth of Russia, the worse its strategic position becomes. Finally, Napoleon enters Moscow. In all appearances, victory is achieved. He immediately sends Lauriston to negotiate with Kutuzov and Alexander I with the instructions to conclude peace at any cost (the key words “at any cost”). And he was right. In October, he was forced to start retreating from Moscow, and by December the Great Army seized to exist.

Ukraine is the only region where the US enjoyed a relative success. As a result of the civil war, Russia is forced to spend certain resources to provide humanitarian, political, and diplomatic support for Donbass, as well as prepare for further aggravation of the political and military situation on its south-western border. Such preparedness also consumes resources. Nevertheless, even in Ukraine the US spends more to prop the Kiev regime than Russia expends to support the republics of Donbass. Additionally, the US failed to completely draw the EU into the conflict. Furthermore, since in the last couple of months Europe is trying to gradually distance itself from the US, then, considering the number of expensive conflicts, the Washington’s position is not exactly enviable.

Nevertheless, it can hardly be said that the general geopolitical situation gives reason to feel optimistic.

First, the fact that the US promoted the civil wars in Libya, Syria, and Iraq shows that it has chosen to burn the area it unable to keep. Washington concluded that the fire costs nothing and could even be profitable if handled correctly. So far, though, the burning regions still require expenditures on the part of the US, but these expenses are lower than would be required to maintain conditionally stable (the key word “conditionally”) pro-American regimes.

Second, by promoting the creation of the Nazi state in Ukraine, the US entered into a direct confrontation with Russia. Regardless of what the officials in Moscow are saying, this is war. A very real war of destruction, so far without the direct contact of the armies of the superpowers (the key word “so far”). This as if in Mexico Russia brought to power (via an armed coup) and actively supported forces that declared as their main goal the return of all territories Mexico lost as a result of the America-Mexico war of 1846-1848, as well as acquisition for Mexico all Spanish possessions in Florida. We can hope that this war will stay as a new type war, but the US actions are pushing the situation out of control (out of their control, when whoever sits in the White House and whatever he thinks about it, the war will have to be fought, and the US will have to initiate the Armageddon).

The third point proves this. Losing the situation in Ukraine (remember, the expend more resources on Kiev than Russian expends on Donetsk, although the plan was to achieve the opposite), the US started to prepare for a new move in the game aimed at shifting Russia’s attention from the points where the US is vulnerable towards new dangers in other directions.

Since it is already obvious that the expenditure of resources in the conflict zones created by the US will not allow the US to win the resource competition, the only winning move (since a draw is impossible in this situation) would be to destroy Russia. That is, for the US to retain the global dominance for some time, Russia has to disappear (at the very least, in the form it currently exists). The only way to bring about such result (except the mutually assured destruction) is to blow up the country from the inside. Lately, a number of steps are obviously being taken to achieve that objective. Specifically:

  1. The attempts to discredit the Russian leadership continue.

  2. The street activity of any kind (non necessarily “white ribbon”) that could bring about complete or partial loss of control by the country leadership over the events in one or several regions (for starters, one large city would be enough but the events should develop exponentially) is promoted.

  3. The feasibility of destabilizing Russia’s allies in EAEU is being probed (the first targets – Armenia, Belorussia, Kazakhstan).

  4. Attempts are made to create conflict zone at the Russian borders (Baltic states) or in the regions with Russian presence (Transnistria).

  5. Direct military provocations (including terrorist acts) against Russian territories (Crimea, Krasnodar region, regions bordering Ukraine, Kaliningrad region) conducted from the territories of neighboring countries, with direct or indirect (instructors) participation of the military personnel of the US and some other NATO countries, cannot be excluded.

Russia is in the position to parry such threats. But the US knows that. Therefore, for the game to be successful it should be played in foul territory. That is, Moscow will be put in the situations when it will be unable to calculate whether the measures to defend its sovereignty would lead to a military response by the US or this is all just bluff. But what is the most dangerous it that Washington itself will not know that.

First, because in politics bluff succeeds only if you yourself is not quite sure whether you are indeed bluffing and are ready at any moment to step outside of the narrow confines of bluff.

Second, in political struggle bluffing politicians are always under pressure from the opponents attempting to make them admit the bluff and lose votes in the next elections.

All this means only one thing: The US is bound to keep raising the stakes in the game. This is due not only to economic or foreign policy interests but also because of the nature of the internal power struggle in the US.

That is, the political situation has reached the point when each individual politician, no matter how powerful and influential, cannot claim that he controls the events. The processes are developing according to their own logic. It is still possible to bring them under control via coordinated effort of most interested parties. However, for this to happen, it is necessary that China and Russia are joined in their effort by Europe, at the very least (even if without Britain).

It is important to understand that the notion of time trouble (Zeitnot) is applicable not only to the game of chess. It interferes much more dramatically with the military activity or politics. Now then, we are on the verge of Zeitnot. Let us hope it will not align with Zugzwang (compulsion to move).

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