Thursday, December 22, 2016

Why is Russia intent on a New Cold War?

The New Cold War continues to ramp with NATO's deployment of four multi-national battalion in the Baltic, one each in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland, as well as shoring up its existing military presence in Romania and Poland.
Not that this escalation is NATO's fault: it comes in direct response to Russia's expansionist ambitions and its own escalation, both in its unilateral annexation of Crimea in 2014 (and the ongoing support of pro-Russian militants in easterm Ukraine, which continues to destabilize that country), and also in the unwarranted increase in its military presence along its eastern borders, adjoining Poland and the Baltic states, and including medium-range nuclear-ready Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad.
So, Russian diplomats are being more than a little disingenuous when they call NATO's moves unwarranted, aggressive and a diversion of much-needed military resources needed to fight the much more important fight against Islamic terrorism (as though Russia's operations in the Middle East are doing much in that respect - their support of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, including their continuing despoiling of Aleppo, is largely for their own political and strategic ends and is having little or no effect in combatting Islamic jihadism).
I thought the Latvian ambassador to Canada's response to Russian complaints about Canada's contribution to the NATO force in Latvia was worded well:
"Deterrence is showing backbone; showing backbone is not the same thing as showing a fist. The backbone inspires respect. Respect facilitates dialogue."
I am not usually a big fan of this kind of fighting talk, but I do see that the West has to stand up to Russia in the only terms it seems to understand, otherwise the imperial ambitions of Valdimir Putin will ride roughshod over the minor powers of Eastern Europe.
As for why Putin feels the need to expand his power base, I must confess to being  a complete loss. Russia is already the largest country in the world, and already too large and unwieldy to govern well. Why add to that burden with the addition of other tiny pockets of unwilling territory, which will always be a thorn in the side and a constant provocation to the rest of the non-Russian world. It makes no sense to me, and I literally do not understand the psychology (not to mention the politics) that underpins it.
Just in case there was any doubt about the lurch towards a New Cold War, just look at two headlines on today's BBC website: "Russia 'stronger than any addressor' - President Putin", and "Donald Trump: US must greatly expand nuclear capabilities".

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