The Russian bounty scandal shouldn’t surprise anyone

But those are the strategic reasons. What is Putin’s policy objective in this case, for offering bounties for the killing of American soldiers?

Putin is a revisionist leader, meaning that his chief priority is to undermine the goals of the status quo power—the United States.

The Afghanistan war has been America’s longest war. For the past two decades, victory has been around the corner but never achieved. The Trump administration is seeking an honorable departure from Afghanistan—at least honorable in their own minds—and Putin wants to prevent this.

If the United States were to leave Afghanistan, we would have more resources available for deployment elsewhere—perhaps in contravention of Russian interests.

Putin would be happy to have America remain entangled in Afghanistan indefinitely. And he would also be happy to have America pull out precipitously, without having arranged a deal that turns Afghanistan into a permanent U.S. ally. Either of those outcomes weakens America’s standing as the status quo power, and amping up the American death toll is helpful to both potentialities.

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