NATO seems to be getting at least semi-serious about defending its newest members to the East, while Russian eyes look West:
On Tuesday morning, an aide to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia played down but did not deny a report that Mr. Putin had told José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, “if I want, I will take Kiev in two weeks.”
The comments came as Mr. Barroso asked Mr. Putin about Russian troops in Ukraine. Mr. Putin, who has repeatedly denied having any troops there, then turned “to threats,” Mr. Barroso told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
Yuri V. Ushakov, an aide to Mr. Putin, said Mr. Barroso’s recounting of a private conversation was “inappropriate.”
“Whether these words were said or not, in my viewpoint, this quote given is taken out of context and it had absolutely different sense,” Mr. Ushakov said.
On a nationally televised call-in show in April, Mr. Putin said, “When the infrastructure of a military bloc approaches our borders, we have grounds for certain apprehensions and questions.”
Apprehensions is the right word, and I’m not being an apologist for Vladimir Putin, who is and will remain a nasty demagogue. But we do need to look at this from the Russian point of view.
In 1941, starting from what would today be about the eastern borders of Poland and Romania, German — western — armies marched to the gates of Moscow before Christmas, taking millions of Soviet Army prisoner, killing untold numbers of soldiers and civilians, and setting the stage for the biggest and bloodiest ground campaigns in history. It was a very near-run thing, too, and could easily have gone against the Russians.
Today, NATO “owns” everything Hitler did in the East, plus the Baltic States, and has made moves towards “taking” Ukraine, too.
Given their history, that would be unacceptable for any Russian leader, much less a man like Putin.