Washington endured the dangers of the Cold War because it refused to recognize Moscow’s right to build its security on the insecurity of its neighbors. It shouldn’t start turning now.Actually, Washington – in practice – accepted the right of the Soviet Union to dominate its neighbours. The presence of the Soviet Army in Eastern Europe tilted the strategic landscape, making it a hard, uphill trek toward Moscow in the event of a war. American inaction in during the Soviet invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia indicated an acceptance of the political status quo.
Earlier in his column, Lewis adopts the approach of appealing to the words of great men, in this case George Kennan, to suggest that Russia requires instability on its borders and the specter of a foreign threat to maintain the legitimacy of its political regime.
I would argue that a large part of the Russian elite, as well as the general population, believe that Russia’s territorial dismemberment or its reduction to an “Upper Volta with nuclear missiles” – one open for business with western hydrocarbon and mining concerns – is the goal of American foreign policy.
The acceptance of USSR’s domination of Eastern Europe and Russia’s concern over Nato eastward expansion recognised Russian security fears or if you prefer: paranoia. Since then we could say that we have initiated a period reminiscent of a security dilemma.
Putin’s actions in Georgia and especially in Crimea amount to a violation of the fundamental basis for the post-Cold War settlement, the abandonment of force as a means of turning Central and Eastern Europe into vassal states. That means the West is back in the business of containing Moscow. You can say this isn’t a new Cold War, but it’s hard to see what else a return to containment means.The original basis for the Soviet withdrawal from Eastern and Central Europe was the promise that with the exception of East Germany, Nato would not expand to include any of the former Warsaw Pact states. Russia’s invasion and subsequent annexation of Crimea clearly violates the basic rules of the post – WWII international order. Russia’s efforts to destabilise East Ukraine are consistent with actual practice in world politics however offensive they may be when we oppose the political objective being pursued.
Putin will try to isolate weaker states like Latvia, while trying to encourage others like Germany to remain neutral...........a central focus of Putin’s foreign policy is trying to pry Berlin away from the trans-Atlantic alliance.What can Putin do to Latvia? The Baltic states have integrated into Nato and the EU, going as far as having adopted the Euro. The Russian minorities are seen as a source of vulnerability yet given their relative prosperity; the benefits of being a citizen of an EU member: Why would these people want to risk a Donbass scenario? The abduction of an Estonian intelligence official is the kind of limited pressure that is likely to be applied to the Baltics.
The central question of Nato since the end of the Cold War has been the rational for its continuing existence. With the exception of Poland and the Baltics I don’t think there are any other Nato member states that regard their membership as vital to securing them from potential Russian aggression.
Responding to Russia’s aggression and its efforts to intimidate its neighbours represents a classic collective action problem. Who benefits enough to take on the burden of action?
The Russians clearly believe that the majority of Nato members don’t want a war for distant places that they know little about – and might not even consider to be truly part of Europe. I am guessing that the Russians believe that while the outcome of its aggression against Ukraine is Kiev government that more pro-west than any in its history it does not mean that the west itself (read: German) is any more interested in expanding Nato and establishing a Cold War like frontier with Russia.
Furthermore, should a formula for de-escalation be discovered in East Ukraine, there will be a strongly lobbying effort from German business to scale back most of the sanctions imposed during the crisis.