How to Thwart Putin's 'Evil Empire' 2.0

How to Thwart Putin's 'Evil Empire' 2.0

Vladimir Putin is claiming that his invasion of parts of Ukraine is required because there are Russians in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, just as Adolf Hitler came to the “rescue” of Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia.

He seems intent, however, on bringing all of the Ukraine to heel, as his predecessors in the Kremlin did with Hungary and Czechoslovakia during the Cold War. What is in prospect makes the sort of aggression Putin previously engaged in with Georgia in 2008 pale by comparison.

In fact, Putin’s goal seems to be to reconstitute as much as possible of the old Soviet Union, whose collapse he once called “the greatest calamity of the 20th Century.” This statement, of course, speaks volumes about this former KGB colonel given the competition for that dubious distinction – including World Wars I and II and the genocides perpetrated by the Nazis and assorted Communist regimes.

President Obama has responded to this renascent threat to the free world in characteristic fashion: empty rhetoric about the will of the “international community” being flouted and unspecified costs that will be incurred if the Russians cross some ill-defined red-line. It would appear that they had already crossed it in Crimea even before Mr. Obama warned them not to.

Thus far, Team Obama’s most concrete idea of how to respond to Putin’s aggression in the Ukraine – and, presumably, that in prospect elsewhere in the Russian littorals he menacingly calls “the near abroad” – is to boycott the next spectacle in Sochi, this summer’s G-8 meeting. It is hard to imagine that such a penalty would even register as a cost in the calculations of the megalomaniac in the Kremlin.

What might just give Vladimir Putin pause, and perhaps spare the world another generation of Moscow-directed repression and imperialism, or worse, would be the adoption by President Obama and the rest of the Free World of a strategy modeled after the one Ronald Reagan used to end the last “Evil Empire.” It was articulated in a top-secret presidential directive known as National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 75.

Today, the key elements of such a strategy should be:

  • A clear objective: To use NSDD 75’s formulation, we must work to “contain and over time reverse” Putin’s threatening geostrategic ambitions.
  • Information warfare: President Reagan understood that at the core of his NSDD 75 strategy had to be a robust assertion of the superiority of our constitutional republic and civilization – and a concomitant effort to delegitimate and undermine our enemies’ totalitarian form of government and repressive ideology. A similar foundation is essential for countering Russia’s renascent hegemonism. Every instrument of the U.S. government – especially a reconstituted and state-of-the-art information warfare capability at least as effective as that brought to bear at the height of the Cold War by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – must be utilized to wrest information dominance from Putin and his puppets and apologists.
  • Political Warfare: Directing our support, legitimization, and outreach efforts to the Ukrainians and others threatened by Putin, while denying it to the Kremlin, is an indispensable ingredient in our struggle against the Russian regime. In addition, others who lend support to Moscow must be regarded as part of the problem, not as allies.
  • Intelligence Operations: We must take a page from the playbook developed during the Reagan administration by then-Director of Central Intelligence William Casey and use covert means wherever possible to counter, divide, and undermine our adversaries. To the traditional intelligence techniques should be added aggressive use of psyops, cyberwarfare, and special operations.
  • As with the Reagan strategy, there must be a central economic and financial warfare component. This would entail, for example, constricting the principal source of revenue for the Russians – namely, the vast petrodollar transfers from Western nations to the Kremlin’s state-owned or state-controlled enterprises. Make no mistake: Such funds are used to bankroll Putin’s military buildup and expansionism. Burgeoning North American energy resources and the possibilities for fuel-choice in this country’s transportation sector (e.g., in addition to gasoline, using methanol derived from our abundant natural gas deposits) offer opportunities for leverage that can be used as Reagan did to constrict our adversaries’ cash-flow.
  • Reestablish as America’s national security policy “Peace through Strength”: Just as President Reagan did in in his day, the contemporary hollowing out of the U.S. military must be reversed as a matter of the utmost priority. The perception of American weakness it bespeaks is only reinforcing the sense shared by Putin and other enemies of liberty that the time has come for intensifying their aggressive behavior. As a result, restoring and enhancing the power-projection capabilities of our armed forces is not only necessary to ensure we have the range of capabilities necessary to address some of those threats. It is also vital if we are to minimize the chances we will have to needlessly fight wars that might otherwise be deterred.
  • Finally, the American people must be mobilized to comprehend the perilous state we are in globally and the necessity for concerted action to correct it. By adopting and implementing an updated version of National Security Decision Directive 75, we can clarify for the public the adversaries we confront; address the various forms of ideological, political, economic and financial underpinnings that animate and sustain them; and adopt the comprehensive steps necessary to counter those underpinnings.

An NSDD 75 2.0 formula is our best bet for preventing Vladimir Putin from realizing his goal of what would amount to an Evil Empire 2.0, a terrible defeat for the Free World and an ominous advance for its enemies worldwide.

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. formerly acted as an Assistant Secretary of Defense under President Reagan. He is President of the Center for Security Policy (, a columnist for Breitbart News Network, and host of the nationally syndicated program Secure Freedom Radio.


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