Vladimir Putin is nothing if not consistent. Since he began to consolidate his power during his first presidential term in 2000, he hasn’t been very subtle in stating his goals. The former KGB officer wants to bring back the glory days of Communism — with or without imposing a Communist structure on the Russian people.
It’s not ideology that drives Putin. It’s revenge. Putin, along with not a few of his comrades in the military and intelligence services, has been doing a slow burn since Communism fell and the West did a victory dance on top of the crumbling Berlin Wall. For that humiliation, the U.S. and NATO must suffer.
Over the two decades he’s been in power, Putin has slowly rebuilt the Russian military and built strategic alliances with Iran and China. To what end is only now becoming clear. Putin wants a return to a bipolar world where Russia is the equal of the U.S and America keeps its nose out of Russia’s business in Eastern Europe.
Those who believe Putin will stop at Ukraine are fooling themselves. Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia, the Baltic States — none of those countries have any illusions about what Putin’s ultimate goal is. That’s why they’ve been clamoring for 30 years to join NATO, knowing their only protection was behind the nuclear shield offered by the United States and its NATO allies.
Now, in order to pacify Putin and prevent a war, it’s likely that Joe Biden and the “original” NATO nations are going to sell out Ukraine by guaranteeing that Kyiv will never join the alliance, and they will stop delivering arms to the Ukraine government.
Poland, Hungary, and the rest of the former Soviet republics will see this exactly for what it is: a surrender. They will know that their turn is coming and will make their own peace with Putin to avoid getting the “Ukraine treatment.”
If you think this sounds like the end of NATO, you’d be wrong. NATO died at the same time the Berlin Wall fell. Its reason to exist disappeared, and what we’re seeing now are the writhings of an alliance that doesn’t know it has outlived its usefulness as a military deterrent.
Indeed, for all the talk of “unity” when it comes to a Russian invasion of Ukraine, there is plenty of wiggle room that the allies will try to find if Putin does anything short of a full-scale invasion.
Senior European diplomats, requesting anonymity, told Reuters there had been some planning for “a range of scenarios” and various contingencies, including the kind of cyberattack seen in Ukraine this week that has yet to be conclusively linked to Russia, but any coordinated response would require additional consultations.
While there is general agreement that sanctions would be ready within 48 hours of an “invasion,” discussions around what, exactly, the trigger point would be continue, they said.
“You can think of thousands of scenarios” that Russia could execute in or around Ukraine that would raise the question of whether sanctions were merited, said one senior EU official. “It is a purely and highly political discussion in the end,” the official said.
The problem is that those sanctions would hit most NATO countries almost as hard as they will hit Russia. Western politicians don’t like to cause their voters economic pain if they can help it. Look at the lengths Joe Biden is going to cushion the blow of inflation and high gas prices on the American people.
Putin is almost certainly watching the allies squirm with an enormous sense of satisfaction. This is why the Russian president is unlikely to launch an “invasion” of Ukraine. He has them dancing on the end of a string and doesn’t need to invade to get what he wants.
Biden will paper over some of the more odious Putin demands like giving Russia a veto over future NATO memberships. Surrendering without appearing to surrender is an art form perfected by liberal Democratic politicians over the years. Biden will be hailed as the great “peacemaker” and he may even travel somewhere to sign some kind of agreement with Putin that he can bring home and announce “peace in our time.”
But in truth, the U.S. and NATO have already lost. Wars are won in the will and it’s obvious to all that the will is sadly lacking in Washington and other NATO capitals.