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by
Bryan Preston

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March 3, 2014 - 2:20 pm

Forget the Budapest Memorandum, and definitely forget President Obama’s latest, and very forgettable, comments on Ukraine. Russia is not standing on the “wrong side of history.” That doesn’t mean anything at the moment, it’s just more fanciful thinking from our celebrity president.

Before Obama declares which side of history is “right” or “wrong,” he would be wise to make sure to be on the winning side. Thus far, he has done very little to ensure that.

The West needs to look at events from Putin’s perspective, just to understand what Putin may be thinking and determine what he may do next. What are his aims? What goal may he be pursuing by seizing Crimea?

NATO has been expanding east ever since the end of the Cold War. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Europe’s former East Bloc and Soviet satellite states have mostly sought to distance themselves from Moscow and align with Washington and NATO. Poland and the Baltic States, Romania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are all nations that suffered Soviet domination and have since aligned with the West. They’re all NATO and EU members now.

The EU is primarily an economic union. NATO was formed as a defensive alliance to counter the Soviet Union’s expansionism after the end of World War II. The US and 11 European allies formed the defensive North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949; the USSR created the Warsaw Pact as a rival alliance in 1955. Those two alliances dominated Europe for the next 45 years until the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact.

But post-Soviet Russia, and in particular, Vladimir Putin, does not see NATO as defensive at all. He sees NATO as an expansionist alliance, dominated by Washington, built to destroy the USSR and now maintained to pin Russia back to limit its influence. Putin also sees the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th Century. He has sought to build the Eurasian Union as a Moscow-centered alliance to counter NATO. It is set to come into fullness in 2015. Its full purpose may be to resurrect the Warsaw Pact.

Putin’s opinion that NATO survives to pin Russia back is not entirely inaccurate. NATO’s purpose is defensive. But its main purpose continues to be to defend Europe from Russia. That’s why the freed East Bloc countries have mostly joined NATO, Belarus and Ukraine being among the exceptions. As the freed Warsaw Pact countries have joined NATO, NATO’s “borders” have moved east — toward Russia.

Ukraine’s majority has signaled its desire to join both NATO and the EU. For Putin, Ukraine and Belarus are two countries on its border that it does not want to see join what it regards as an offensive alliance aimed at Moscow. Belarus is a fairly reliable Russian ally, but Ukraine is not. Putin appears to find potential Ukraine membership in NATO and the EU totally unacceptable.

Ukraine’s history with the Soviet Union is bitter. Stalin intentionally starved millions of Ukrainians to death in the 1930s famine. The Soviets were hostile to Ukrainian language, history and culture. A Ukrainian rebellion fought against both the Nazis and the Soviets during World War II. Ethnic Ukrainians want nothing to do with Russia, but Ukraine is not a singular ethnic polity. Its ethnic Ukrainian majority dominates in the western part of the country, and it has a sizable Russian minority. In the east and Crimea, ethnic Russians make up a majority, and they still identify with Russia.

Now, in the context of Russian paranoia about NATO’s expansion, how should we expect Putin to have received news that US Ambassador Victoria Nuland turned up in Ukraine handing out treats to Ukrainian anti-Russian protesters at the beginning of the Maidan protests in December 2013?

Should we be surprised that Russia is treating the protests as if they were orchestrated by Washington to topple a Russia-aligned Ukrainian government and replace it with one that would look west again? Or at least, that Russia is pushing that storyline as part of its propaganda?

Should we be surprised that Russia bugged Nuland’s phone and released a recording that could have pushed the US and the EU apart?

Should we be surprised that Russia used the Sochi Olympics to present its softer side, but once the games were over, Putin was back to his old KGB self?

Given Russia’s history of subjugating Ukraine and using it as a buffer against Europe, and given Putin’s aim to build a Eurasian Union as another counter to NATO, and given Russia’s historic paranoia toward the West, should we be confident that Putin merely wants Crimea, and not all of Ukraine, and after that, the Baltic States north of Belarus too?

The Baltic States are NATO allies with the US. An attack on one NATO ally is an attack on all of them, according to the treaty. Knowing this, Putin is measuring Obama, NATO, the EU — all of his adversaries — via his invasion of Crimea. What is he learning?

Bryan Preston has been a leading conservative blogger and opinionator since founding his first blog in 2001. Bryan is a military veteran, worked for NASA, was a founding blogger and producer at Hot Air, was producer of the Laura Ingraham Show and, most recently before joining PJM, was Communications Director of the Republican Party of Texas.

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Top Rated Comments   
He's learning the full definition of "flexibility"
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (18)
All Comments   (18)
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Sorry. The Wkipedia links I posted didn't come through. Don't know why. They're easy to look up.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The West needs to look at events from Putin’s perspective." And just what is that, exactly?

Sorry, but I don't think for a second that Putin is so obtuse that he really thinks NATO could possibly be on the military offensive in any way.  He knows damn well we could have taken it to the USSR after Japan surrendered, or, for that matter, any time before they had a deliverable bomb (>1949).  All he has had to do is keep up with Jane's, which I'm sure he has (as has all their leaders at least since Brezhnev). 

The simple fact that the "powers that were" pulled the Western Allies up short of Berlin to allow the Red Army to take it says it all.  Apologies to author Diana West, but we could have taken it and kept marching East. Period.  If we had had the will to keep the logistics going we could have secured (at least) the Western part of Poland, set up AF (JABOs were wonderful things) and artillery picket lines and at least kept the Soviets out of Germany, or drained them so badly they couldn't have kept marching. We kept them from taking all of Germany.  Just move that line further East.

This is territorial expansion, plain, simple, raw and naked. He has no one to fear whatsoever and he will keep going (at least incrementally, whatever that may mean) until it becomes unprofitable.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
If NATO is a strictly defensive alliance, how do we explain the NATO intrusion during the troubles in Yugoslavia? Yugoslavia had not attacked any NATO country. If the alliance was strictly defensive in nature, the USA and NATO had no legitimate reason to enter the conflict. This entry, however, was a war against Serbia, a long-time Russian client, dating back into the late 19th century. At the time, Russia was going through the post-Soviet and Yeltsin periods and could not protect her client. Further, at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Reich, Poppy Bush gave formal assurance that NATO would not be exapended eastward. Again, Bubba Bubba decided to meddle, followed by Dubya with his Polish missile bases.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Let me expand a bit on my last statement:

Forgetting historical allusions, here are some plain and simple behavioral facts which apply not only to individuals (people as well as animals) but also to groups. (BTW, any brush-up needed by readers of the basic principles of operant behavioral conditioning -Skinnerian, not Pavlovian, can find it here or here [using this link scroll down to 1.2, Skinners] )

Simply put, Putin will continue as long as he is rewarded (reinforced) in some manner which exceed the actual OR perceived punishment OR he receives NO more reinforcement for his actions.

That is how thing simply are.  There is no morality to it at all.  It is an inbred, hard-wired machine which simply works that way.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Putin is going to keep Crimea. The only question now is if Obama and the EU are capable of deterring him from doing the same thing to even more provinces along Ukraine's eastern border with Russia and eventually the Baltic states. My confidence is not exactly high.

28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Putin will keep the Crimea. He will also take the whole region south of Kharkov to make sure he has access. He is not best pleased with the isolated location of Koenigsberg/Kaliningrad. Bimeby, he may wish to corret that anomaly.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Rest of the world is probably rootin' for Putin. Never mattered who's president of the USA, it's the USA.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
The author makes some valid points. I never liked the willy-nilly expansion of NATO because it always seemed to me like we were writing some potentially big checks that we might not have the funds to cash when push comes to shove. Is it really and truly in the U.S. interest to give an existential guarantee of mutual defense to countries that far east? Isn't that how WWII started, with Britain making promises to Poland that it couldn't afford to keep and couldn't afford to ignore? How did that end up working out for the Brits?

The U.S. should have extricated itself from NATO as NATO expanded and let the Euros handle their own security. It would have been less provocative to Russia and a lot better for us.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Isn't that how WWII started, with Britain making promises to Poland that it couldn't afford to keep and couldn't afford to ignore? How did that end up working out for the Brits?

More to the point, how did that end up working out for Poland? The Molotov/Ribbentrop pact was signed on August 23 1939. Poland was invaded by Germany just 8 days later and Germany had occupied Poland as far as the Bug River a few weeks later; then the Soviets invaded Poland from the east and took the rest of Poland. Both the German and Soviet-occupied areas were ruthlessly purged. The Soviets took something like 40,000 members of the Polish military and intelligentsia to the Soviet Union and massacred them in 1940 near the Katyn Forest (and other sites in the vicinity). On June 22 1941, Germany and its allies attacked the Soviet Union along a huge front. Eventually, after staggering losses, the Red Army was able to get on its feet and drive the Germans out, a fight that did a lot of further damage to Poland, particularly during the Warsaw Uprising when the Red Army was just across the Vistula River from Warsaw yet did nothing to help. Then they occupied Poland for another 45 years, a time the Poles do not recall fondly.

Is it any wonder the Poles have called for an emergency meeting of NATO? Just imagine the anguish on the part of Poles, wondering if Putin will stop with Crimea or if he's just going to keep coming and possibly try to retake Poland. I wonder how confident they are that the NATO umbrella will protect them, now that they are members? Or have they seen the declarations of their American (and western European) allies that no military action is anticipated or even contemplated? If I were Polish, I'd be feeling distinctly uneasy and wondering just what my NATO membership was worth if I couldn't count on my allies coming to my aid in the event of Russian aggression.

It must be an even unhappier time to be Ukrainian. They're not even members of NATO and they can't have much confidence left that the Budapest Memorandum is going to give them much security as the signatories show they will ignore its provisions.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Samantha Power and Vitaly Churkin went at each other at the UN today. Consider, for a moment, Churkin's career.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitaly_Churkin#Career_timeline

Now, consider Power's career.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samantha_Power#Life_and_career

Why do I feel as if we have a Glen of Imaal Terrier going up against a Moscow Watchdog?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wheaten_glen_of_imaal.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Moscowwatchdog.jpg
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
a warm water port has long been the apple of Russia's eye. in winter (Nov. - Mar.) the mass of the Russian army has always been ice bound and physically contained w/in its borders pretty much. not so much now. and don't forget, they have landed warships in cuba, and have plans for more in other socialist latin-amerikan countries.

remember when mr. transparency got accidentally caught on an open mike telling the Russians he would have a lot more leniency to make deals after the next election? based on his own words, shouldn't we rightly assume now that deals have been struck, whatever they might be? all for our own good of course.

there are hundreds of e.o.'s he immediately signed into law, many taking away our rights and our ability to defend ourselves from our own government during times of emergency (martial law). odd how we never needed, or wanted them before. all for our own good one might guess, eh?

internal armies formed of mostly 'his people', and armed to the teeth since his election, just what he said he needed to enforce his agenda. all for our own good again?

the most powerful military the world has ever known financially neutered and honorable generals replaced by his worshippers.

an economy on the brink of collapse due to his borrowing, spending and excessive printing of paper $$, for our own good I'm sure.

the fly in the ointment? November (winter) '14 is likely to bring in a senate and house filled w/ new fresh faces. faces who just might actually want real and truthful answers to recent deadly offenses committed in our name.

the stage is set. the actors primed to perform. the only thing lacking is an 'event' to start the fireworks. whether it be a natural event or a planned (staged) event, there will need to be an event, a spark, to light the fire commies have been planning for us since ... well, since they first started having parades and dancing around a may pole to celebrate.

think about it. if it isn't true, then we certainly have a boatload of coincidences suggesting a future first spoken of/promised before our first warrior 'n chief was ever elected.

personally, too many coincidences make me nervous.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
He's learning the full definition of "flexibility"
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
What is he learning? He's learning that he's up against a tree hugging liberal pussy in Mom Jeans that has never run so much as a lemonade stand prior to becoming the "most powerful man in the world".

And like Hitler when dealing with Chamberlain, he's claiming "protection" of Russian nationals requires him to invade.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Putin is measuring Obama, NATO, the EU — all of his adversaries — via his invasion of Crimea. What is he learning?"

To keep pushing, because there's really nothing there pushing back.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
I seem to recall a couple of German chaps "learning" the same lesson early in the last century. It did not work out very well for them (or anyone else).
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Those German chaps didn't have nukes that made them untouchable.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Those Germans also had an adversary of the character of Churchill. Unfortunately, if we have someone of that caliber on our side today, he/she hasn't yet come to light. He certainly isn't the current occupant of the White House.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nor did they have good buddies with their own nukes.
28 weeks ago
28 weeks ago Link To Comment
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