Russian adventurism in the Ukraine has taken a darker turn. There are 45,000 Russian troops massed along the Ukraine border, and Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, wants to deploy them into the war-torn country as ‘humanitarian’ and ‘peacekeeping’ forces. The United States has turned its eyes and attention away from the Ukraine and focused on the Islamic States’ destruction of Iraq and Prime Minister al-Maliki’s coup attempt, giving Russia the prime opportunity to invade the Ukraine under the guise of saving it from itself.
Even more disturbing, Andrey Piontkovsky, a Russian commentator and political scientist, believes that the invasion of the Ukraine is just the next step in an overall Russian strategy of regaining its lost territory and splitting NATO. Crimea was the first step, now the Ukraine, and next could be Estonia or Latvia.
The difference being that Latvia and Estonia are members of NATO, whereas Crimea and the Ukraine are not. The NATO charter is, at heart, a defensive treaty:
“The principle of collective defence is at the very heart of NATO’s founding treaty. It remains a unique and enduring principle that binds its members together, committing them to protect each other and setting a spirit of solidarity within the Alliance.”
But, as we have seen before, not all members of NATO give the same weight to their defensive commitments as others. Piontkovsky points out that, “even the most modest practical realization of [Putin’s] idea of ‘assembling the Russian lands’ requires changes of state borders at least of two NATO member countries, Latvia and Estonia.”
Of course, it gets worse. Even if only an exercise in logic, Piontkovsky argues that Putin is considering the use of a limited Nuclear Response to intimidate NATO and achieve his goals. If a nuclear strike could be carried out without fear of escalation, it would change the dynamics of world politics. Responding in kind would be unthinkable, but not responding would allow the Russians under Putin to realize the dream that the Soviets never could.
If Russian ‘peacekeepers’ enter the Ukraine and stabilize the country by bringing it back under the Russian umbrella, much like the situation in Crimea was resolved, what would NATO’s reaction be when the same issues sprang up in Latvia? Would the citizens of member-states like Germany, Great Britain, the United States or Canada want to risk their troops and, let’s be honest, money, to defend a country that was a Soviet satellite until 24 years ago? Especially if those member-states were dealing with a head of state like Putin?
If the NATO members refuse to come to the aid of countries like Latvia or Estonia, it would split NATO. If the organization would not uphold its terms with its weakest members, even the stronger partners would not be able to rely on it for mutual protection. Once NATO was split, Russia would have no international body to stop them.
If this is Putin’s plan, the West is in trouble. We are weary of war and our attention is divided with watching Iraq, Syria and the rest of the Middle East. Wondering what China intends to do. Concerned about our own place on the world stage with our economy a mess and a standard of living that has fallen faster than anyone could have imagined. We are not paying close enough attention to what is going on and we may end up paying the price for it.
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