A Dangerous Inter-Regnum

No matter the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election on November 8th, the world will enter a more dangerous period until the inauguration of the new president on January 20th and likely for some months afterwards. As an example, Vladimir Putin could use this period to further expand into the former Soviet controlled states by replicating his annexation of Crimea and intrusion into Ukraine. In each of these cases he began with increased military exercises on their borders, followed by incursion of the “little green men”, soldiers of the Russian Army without insignia.

The reaction of the West to these takeovers was strong denunciation of the acts by Western diplomats and later imposition of increased sanctions. But nothing else happened. It was a Russian fait accompli. Estonia, with 25% of its population ethnic Russian, and bordering on Russia, is a particularly enticing target. Estonia ranks as one of the most advanced countries in the world. No doubt that with any such Russian activities, the Baltic States would immediately call on the NATO countries to live up to their contractual commitments to come to their aid. The reaction of the US would be crucial. Direct military involvement could be considered an act of war against Russia. The Obama Administration would be loath to make such major decisions before the inauguration of the new president.

The other critical decision would be from neighboring Germany, but any overt military action would probably be met by the Russians shutting off the supplies of natural gas. The prospect of a cold Christmas would not be welcomed by German electorate.

Of course, it would be a gamble for President Putin, but he has proved to be an excellent poker player and has as a very strong hand. During the Inter-Regnum, other countries, including China, might also use this period to increase their expansion activities. In short, the inter-regnum beginning tomorrow until a new administration has settled in could be a dangerous time.

Byron K Varme
Executive Director