Get PJ Media on your Apple

Putin’s Next Steps: Why He Does Not Fear NATO

His Russian psyche guides him; his accurate assessment of NATO emboldens him.

by
Bob Krumm

Bio

March 28, 2014 - 12:08 am
Page 1 of 3  Next ->   View as Single Page

First: Russia is not a country, it is an empire.

Exactly 300 years ago, Russian forces first took Latvia and Estonia and called them their own. Seven years later, Peter the Great officially proclaimed Russia an empire and himself its emperor. Today, the Russian Federation contains 83 federated states, 23 of which are nominally autonomous constitutional republics.

Historically, countries were kingdoms, and kings were appointed by God. And emperors told kings what to do. Even when constitutionally prevented from being Russia’s prime minister from 2008 to 2012, Vladimir Putin still directed Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev’s actions. Putin is, in his mind, Russia’s emperor.

Second: Russia has a love-hate relationship with Europe. It considers itself European, but hates that Europe doesn’t see it that way. Geographically, Europe is indistinct from Asia. It is a single landmass whose only boundary is a cultural one that exists along an amorphous line drawn somewhere between the Vistula River and the Ural Mountains. Just last month, you saw evidence of this continental divide during the Olympics: Russia considers the Caucasus, the mountain chain that played host to the Winter Games, to contain Europe’s highest peak, Mount Elbrus. Yet most Western Europeans consider Mont Blanc, on the French-Italian border, to be Europe’s tallest mountain, even though it is nearly three-thousand feet shorter than its Russian cousin.

Simultaneously being excluded from Europe in the minds of many Europeans, while recognizing that Europe’s cultural traditions are often superior to its own, Russia has cultivated a long-running inferiority complex. The further west the Russian Empire pushes its boundary, the more indisputable its claim that Russia is a European power and the greater it is able to demonstrate Russian superiority to Europeans.

Third: for much of the last century, Western Europe was incidental in a global contest between Moscow and Washington. Germany, France, and England, even if united, were all underlings incapable of self-protection without American might. The Soviet Union could easily have dominated Europe (or so they thought) were it not for those pesky Americans.

NATO, therefore, has always been a sore spot for Russia: it is the one entity that has been able to keep together the formerly warring West European tribes for more than sixty years. They still see the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as its first secretary general did — a means of keeping “The Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” And since Germany was allowed into NATO in 1955, only the first two of its original three goals of NATO still remain.

This means that if America is out, Russia is in. Or at least, that’s the hope of Moscow. NATO has to die if Russia is to take its rightful place as a major European power. And, furthermore, if without NATO, Berlin, Paris, and London resume their triangulating ways, imperial Russians believe that Moscow becomes Europe’s preeminent power. NATO is the immediate obstacle to the Russian Empire’s long-hoped for subjugation of Europe.

Do not mistake that to mean Russia intends to conquer Europe militarily. Better than any other country, Russia understands the tyranny of distance, and knows that it can no more hope for a successful military conquest of the Continent than could Napoleon or Hitler hope to hold Moscow. Imperial Russia simply wants to call the shots, just as Putin told Medvedev what to do for four years.

Since NATO stands in the way of the Russian Empire, Putin has spent much of his reign chipping away at it. With the 2008 invasion of Georgia, he effectively stopped NATO’s growth. Between 1989 and 2009, NATO grew from 16 to 28 countries, with six of its new members coming from the former Warsaw Pact, and three (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) coming from the former USSR itself. When in 2008 Georgia was promised future membership, it portended NATO’s deepest penetration yet into the Russian sphere of influence.

While Putin viewed that expansion as a threat, he also saw it as an opportunity. The South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions of Georgia are ethnically Russian and nominally Georgian. Militarily, taking it would be easy — especially since one of Georgia’s five infantry brigades (and its best trained one) was then engaged in the Iraq War. Putin recognized that the ethnically Russian provinces offered an opportunity for Russia to be seen as liberators at home while portraying NATO abroad as unwilling to support its friends and future members.

Ukraine took notice. The traditional “bread basket” of Russia was on its way to being the next new NATO member after Georgia. A year-and-a-half after NATO’s non-response to the Russian invasion of Georgia, Ukraine — which had been on the verge of kicking the Russian Navy out of Crimea — signed a 25-year lease allowing the Russian Black Sea Fleet to base in its country.

While the treaty was narrowly ratified with 52% of the vote in the Ukrainian parliament, it was proof that NATO’s promises carried less weight than Russia’s threats. Four years later, NATO has continued its non-response to the Russian re-aggregation of ethnically Russian exclaves.

So what’s next?

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
A lot of americans were saying the same thing in 1938. We all know what happened after that.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
can't believe everybody is missing the ever so obvious and easy way to stop Russian aggression. all we need to do is wrap obama, pelosi, reid and all their 'wonderful' programs up with a really big bow, leave it at the Ukrainian border and run like hel!. leave a tag on it saying 'you will have to open it to see what's in it'. imagine the looks on the soldier's faces when Pelosi jumps out in a bikini greeting the invaders.

talk about your mass post traumatic stress syndrome.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (36)
All Comments   (36)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
That is, "we cannot ALLOW ANY OTHER COUNTRY TO CHALLENGE THE U.S. EMPIRE"!
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
We cannot ANY other country to challenge the U.S. Empire.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Many good points, but I must take exception to his characterization of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and even Transdnistria as "ethnically Russian." These areas are not ethnically Russian in the slightest, except perhaps for the Russian citizens who run them. They have, however, been coopted into seeing Russia as their best hope, with the possible exception of Abkhazia, where there is a strong urge for true "independence" rather than the current state of affairs.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Russia is by nature thuggish, so the smart way to out-thug the Russian thug is to turn another thug against Russia.
That thug is China.
America should recognize China's historical claim to Siberia (matters not that it's untrue) and will support China's efforts to retake it.
Russia without Siberia would be Ukraine with vodka.
That would get Russia's attention.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
So where do you come up with this generalization,"Russia is by nature thuggish"?
OK, the U.S. is by nature IMPERIALIST!
Maybe Russia is just reacting to being ringed by nuclear missiles eve. r since the Cold War. Maybe they've gotten tired of it
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
That would also start WWIII!!! What are you thinking?
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Non-military support will start WWIII?
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
The question begs:
Western Europe has more people and a greater cumulative GDP than does the U.S., so why has it not developed a commensurate military?
Europe has gone Swiss and Swedish, leaving the sacrifice to America.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
It certainly does beg. It begs why don't Americans point this out?
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Frankly I'm tired of people claiming America is responsible for any European nation defending itself. There is no justification the obligation should come from the pockets of our tax money and on the shoulders of our men and woman. It's just wrong. If Europeans are unwilling to spend the money and make the sacrifice with their own citizens to defend themselves, with combined resources that dwarf Russian, then they can go to hell.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
A lot of americans were saying the same thing in 1938. We all know what happened after that.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
That is his point.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
So Germans will spend their own money to build their economy and lifestyle, feel superior to Americans, and we have money extracted from our paychecks and send our finest young over there, ready to defend them?
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Russia is a Trader Nation, not a Rule-of-Law Nation. Putin has moved it into Theft Mode. History suggests Theft Mode is open-ended.

As Putin saber-rattles over the horribly mistreated Great Russian minority in Estonia and NATO turns to slop, Estonia could still have a chance. From the Estonian embassy in DC, a person with their constitution in hand and a report on the recent election and the results of a plebiscite which could be done in a day, would go to the US House of Representatives and ask that Estonia be seated as a Category III or IV Territory in the US Commonwealth.

Authoritarians acting in vast edifices of Deductive reasoning (Putin) are frightened by ambiguity and by shape-shifting in reality. This move would create more uproar than Putin could keep up with, for a while.

If that looks like it would not work, Estonia could reformat itself as a new suburb of Helsinki.

17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
If one can think in Russian context, one realises that the European Union is a legitimate descendant of Napoleon's Continental System, NATO becing the Grand Armee Russia still remembers the burning of Moscow. Up until 1914, on Christmas Day, the Russian Church sang a solemn Te Deum in thanksgiving for her delivery from France and its allies.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Pretty good analysis, but it begs the question: Why is any of this America's problem?

Strip it all down to brass tacks and essentially, Russia wants a relation to Europe similar to the relationship that the U.S. has to the rest of the Western Hemisphere. Is that REALLY an existential threat to the U.S.? Is it really worth our blood and treasure to prevent it?

Those are questions we haven't seriously asked since 1947. We should be asking them now.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wanting to be the preminent power in an area is one thing. Invading other nations and annexing pieces of them is another.
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
putin relies on jarrett's advise to obama
17 weeks ago
17 weeks ago Link To Comment
1 2 3 Next View All