Ever wondered what Vladimir Putin is up to infiltrating the US elections? Surprisingly, there is an answer to that.
In 1997, a Russian political scientist named Aleksandr Dugin and a serving Russian General named Nikolai Klokotov sat down and wrote a text that would become the foundation of Russian geopolitical strategy over the next 20 years. It was called "Foundations of Geopolitics" and it was all about how Russia could reassert itself in the world.
Chillingly, the book now reads like to-do list for Putin's behaviour on the world stage.
Perhaps surprisingly, the document is not a secret. It has long been known to observers of Russian foreign policy, and has served as a text book among a generation of military strategists. But with the scandal over Russian influence in the US elections growing the by the day, it's surprising how little coverage this important text has been given.
The book starts out by saying that the shrewd thing for Russia to do is to steer clear of direct military confrontation. The book counsels Russian leaders instead to favour political stealth. It emphasises the need for the infiltration of Western institutions, and the use of soft power to shape the world in Russia's favour. Sound familiar yet? We haven't even got to the good stuff.
The text then goes into a very specific list of to-dos, about Russia's posture towards almost every nation on earth.
Let's start close to Russia. The book argues that Ukraine should - surprise, surprise - be annexed by Russia. "Ukraine as a state has no geopolitical meaning, no particular cultural import or universal significance, no geographic uniqueness, no ethnic exclusiveness, its certain territorial ambitions represents an enormous danger for all of Eurasia and, without resolving the Ukrainian problem, it is in general senseless to speak about continental politics." It goes on to argue that the only use for an independent Ukraine would be to provide a barrier to Europe, but that it's not necessary.
Next, it turns to Britain. The book's authors say Russia's should encourage Britain to leave the European Union, and thus weaken it. That's right. Russian strategists were openly arguing in favour of Brexit in 1997, when it was still just a glimmer in Nigel Farage's eye's.
Score so far, Putin: 2, Rest of World: 0.
How about the rest of the world? It identifies Iran as a key ally for Russia, and recommends that Turkey should receive a series of "geopolitics shocks" using Kurds and Armenians to keep it off-balance. I'd give that Putin: 4, Rest of World: 0.
The document even mentions Australia, if only in its relation to China. It says that China should be encouraged to have its geopolitical posture aligned to its south - Indo-China (except Vietnam), the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia - so that Russia can remain predominant on the "Eurasian" mainland. It also talks about making Germany and France the predominant powers in the European Union, in order to unbalance that alliance, and encourage an anti-Atlantic sentiment on the continent. Score so far is Putin: 6, Rest of World: 0.
But perhaps most amazing part of the book is when it calls for Russia to "introduce geopolitical disorder into internal American activity, encouraging all kinds of separatism and ethnic, social and racial conflicts, actively supporting all dissident movements - extremist, racist, and sectarian groups, thus destabilising internal political processes in the U.S. It would also make sense simultaneously to support isolationist tendencies in American politics." If that reads like an accurate description of Trump's inner-circle, again remember that this text was written twenty years ago.
Like Putin, Dugin and Klokotov saw the collapse of the Soviet state as humiliating. They believed that the West had hacked infiltrated their institutions in the late-1980s, and weakened the Soviet state from within. They therefore sought revenge in kind - influencing the institutions of other countries, to return Russia to what they considered its rightful place as a superpower.
It's now clear to everyone but Sean Spicer that Trump's campaign was in communication with the Kremlin for a year leading up to his election victory. The revelation on Thursday that about Jeff Sessions means that this is the story that will dominate Trump's first term. Putin: 7, Rest of World: 0.
Of course, every nation has influential strategic thinkers who help leaders shape their thinking, but the Foundations of Geopolitics has had an outsizes influence since it's publication 20 years ago. By some accounts, the book has been used to teach a generation of military officers in Russia, while Dugin himself continues to be considered a member of Putin's inner circle.
There are many factors that go into geopolitics - and it can be easy to overstate Putin's influence in what are tendencies that may have arisen anyway. But reading through the document, it is hard to escape the conclusion that much of Russia's foreign policy has been shaped by Dugin and Klokotov's thinking - and that that is in turn, shaping the way the world is heading.
And that should be a concern to us all. Their thinking breaks with many of the central tenets that underpin our politics. It rejects democracy, and places nationalism at the heart of how geopolitics should operate. It is essentially a wholesale rejection of the globalisation that Western economies have engaged in during the past four decades.
The question for the US intelligence community and the Congress leaders who are looking into Russian influence in the US election now becomes, what will Putin do next? Was his mission in assisting Trump's election simply to pay back the USA in kind for the collapse of the Soviet Union? Or is it to simply weaken the US, so that his own Eurasian Union - a hierarchical, anti-democratic alliance of countries with Russia at its head - can become a superpower? Who knows, but in the same way that the USA felt they had a friend in the Kremlin when President Gorbachev was in power, Putin clearly has a friend in the White House. If I were Putin, I'd be playing that card for as long as it lasts.