The year 2014, marks the end of an era, the end of the Post-Cold War period. Gone are the heady days of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the days of optimism and hope that Russia would some day be integrated into the world community.
There is a north wind blowing putting a chill on the relations between Russia and the rest of the world. Russia’s move into the Crimea has cast a pall over that part of the world.
Putin’s actions did not result from the weakness of the west but rather it came from the idea that the west was forever encroaching upon their sphere of influence, thereby increasing Putin and Russia’s sense of isolation and insecurity. His view could also be a result of Putin’s wish to expand Russia’s borders. Also his ego could be part of the problem as well. You can be in power for too long.
The Winter Olympics and Russia’s assertion of its national interests into the Syrian question are examples of Russia reminding the world that they have not gone anywhere, that Russia is still a power to be reckoned with. Although the west may wish to view Russia as a regional power, Putin is stoking the nationalistic fervor of his own people. He has clearly decided to go his own way.
It is a key moment in world history when a leader such as Putin, decides to go it alone irrespective of what the world thinks. Nuclear Brinksmanship is not a place where any of us should want to go.
Russia need not have chosen its current path, but Putin did. He may choose to push further into the Ukraine but would he gain from that? It is much easier to start a war than to stop one.
The knee-jerk reaction of the neo-cons is to ascribe the Russian action to weakness on our part on how we should use military force. History does not have any history of success on the question of how to with with Russian aggression. One need not go back any further than when President Eisenhower was President and the Hungarian Revolution occurred. Eisenhower knew a thing or two about war, and did not do anything to stop the Russian tanks from doing their damage against a very courageous people.
Containment was a key strategy formulated by George F. Kennan and used by Truman successfully at the start of the Cold War. Containment may be a strategy that we may need to bring out of mothballs to deal with currrent Russian problem.
When you are dealing with a nuclear power capable of destroying the planet, there is not much we can do other than punish the aggressor with economic consequences and seek to contain their expansion through the use of Nato. It would be like stopping the United States from attacking Iraq. Good luck with that one! It would be wiser to convince Putin that the benefits of gaining the Crimea would be outweighed by the long-term consequences to the Russian people and to Putin himself.
If you scratch underneath the surface, maybe Putin is nothing more than the former KGB agent that he was. That thought is probably much too simplistic. The question comes to mind as to what degree, Russia’s long term historical suffering and patterns of savagery have impacted his world view. But at a minimum there can be no doubt that power corrupts and when you have been in power as long as Putin has, it does corrupt a person’s view and their opinion of themselves, absolutely.