As the future comes roaring toward us, there’s a common line of reasoning about the long-term strategic threats facing the United States. The term used is “four plus one.”
As with everything in government, most such terms are created by a swamp dweller somewhere in one of the agencies. For what it’s worth, the military consistently comes up with the best ones. In this case, the “four” represents China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. The standalone “one” represents terrorism, which is a non-state player and too murky to label as clearly as a country.
This is slightly deceptive in a strict sense, because it puts all four named countries on the same level. It’s certain that China represents the larger threat and should probably stand alone. With that in mind, it would be more accurate in “governmentese” to describe the threats as “one plus three plus one”—China being the greater threat among equals, followed by Iran, North Korea, and Russia as the “three,” and of course, terrorism as the final “one.”
I’m by no means suggesting North Korea or the others are not a threat. But North Korea’s nuclear weapons capabilities are nothing compared to China’s and would almost certainly not exist if it weren’t for China’s overall support. In fact, the argument could be made that North Korea would not exist at all if it weren’t for China.
Iran is apparently not yet a nuclear power (thankfully), but has an economy that’s shrinking and, again, also depends heavily on support from China. There’s a clear pattern of China being the larger threat here.
Russia, on the other hand, is always up to something, but much different than what we see from China.
Running propaganda campaigns in the classic tradition of the KGB is standard fare. Russian President Vladimir Putin cut his teeth as an intelligence officer in the KGB (now split into two parts: FSB and SVR) and seems to have a soft spot for these old-fashioned disinformation campaigns.
As a former intelligence officer myself, the study of the motives of any individual is integral to understanding likely future responses. In the case of Putin, let’s talk money.
Generally, Jeff Bezos is considered to be the richest man in the world, worth around $122 billion, with Bill Gates close behind, worth about $106 billion. The estimates you can find in the public domain for Putin’s personal net worth place it somewhere between $70 billion and $200 billion.
As a professional career intelligence officer with unfettered access to all of the resources of the Russian government, it’s child’s play for Putin to conceal his true net worth. Let’s just say the higher estimate of $200 billion is likely more accurate, and that Putin is very likely the richest man on earth. While Putin didn’t earn his billions, he put a lot of time and effort to into getting all that money, and he does spend it on lavish homes and anything else he can think of. This is not a man looking for a major conflict.
We started at four plus one, but the world evolved a bit, and more accurately, it should be one plus three plus one, which even using the new math still equals five. The problem is that lately, the world has changed once again and in ways not beneficial to U.S. national security. Enter Turkey.
There was a coup attempt against the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, three years ago nearly to the day. Erdogan blamed a group led by Fethullah Gulen, which describes itself as a social movement based on moral values, education, civil society, tolerance, and peace. The movement doesn’t have a formal name but is generally called the Gulenist movement. Gulen and his followers have suggested the coup attempt was a ruse carried out by Erdogan himself.
Whatever the truth, the plain fact is that following the coup, Erdogan consolidated his power. The mass arrests included tens of thousands of soldiers, judges, teachers, and every government ministry. More than 77,000 were arrested and charged, and more than 160,000 were fired. Several hundred thousand Turks fled the country in fear and are spread around the world in exile. Erdogan claimed that all of these people were linked to the Gulen movement.
Since consolidating his power, Erdogan has been quite clear that he intends to reestablish unquestioned Turkish influence in the areas that were previously under Ottoman Empire rule, which means the reconquest of parts of Europe, at a minimum. He has absorbed a preexisting group called the Grey Wolves, which are similar to the Brownshirts of Nazi Germany and are large, organized, and active in Europe. Erdogan is also now the largest supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, which shares the goal of establishing a caliphate. Turkey is a member of NATO and has negotiated in the past to become a member of the European Union. In short, Turkey has openly gone over to the dark side and they are perfectly positioned to be a serious problem.
The math shifts again and we need to pay attention. It’s now one plus four plus one. If my calculations are correct, that equals six.
Brad Johnson is a retired CIA senior operations officer and a former chief of station. He is president of Americans for Intelligence Reform.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.