With a war in eastern Ukraine raging since 2014, the situation has reached a new level of intensity as reports mount that Russian troops are rolling towards the Ukrainian border and there are rumors of NATO possibly sending troops into Ukraine.
The Kremlin said on Friday that any deployment of NATO troops to Ukraine would lead to further tensions near Russia’s borders and force Moscow to take extra measures to ensure its own security.
NATO voiced concern on Thursday over what it said was a big Russian military build-up near eastern Ukraine after Russia warned that a serious escalation in the conflict in Ukraine’s Donbass region could “destroy” Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday that the situation at the contact line in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatist forces was quite frightening and that multiple “provocations” were taking place there.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart, Andrii Taran, and “condemned recent escalations of Russian aggressive and provocative actions in eastern Ukraine,” the Pentagon said. (source)
Why is Putin so upset about this? I’m not defending this behavior from the US and NATO, because it is clearly militaristic, antagonistic, aggressive, and doesn’t lead anywhere good for the long term. It seems unlikely at the moment it is going to lead to a war. Naturally, one can understand that Russia would be upset about such a buildup. One can compare a similar case, but the reverse, with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1960. However, even this example does not work well because as I have pointed out, the US was not ready to call Russia’s bluff, but aggressively wanted an all-out war with Russia owing to her economic circumstances, for as CIA documents note, the US was expecting a third global conflict in the 1960s. Not only did that never happen, but the Russians in spite of their own bluffing, militarism, support of third-party proxies for fighting the US that continued to the fall of the USSR and still continues today, and claims of preparedness to fight and win a major of such conflicts, was the nation who backed off from the US, and not by much, and this is even admitted to by the Americans.
As I have said before, Russia is a master of bluffing, she makes an excellent public presentation, she is an expert in trolling and disinformation, but when it comes to facts, in spite of all the lying that the Anglosphere can put out, she fundamentally lacks the firepower, manpower, logistical systems, internal organization, finances, alliances, and health to win a war with the US. This is not to say that it would not be brutal for the US, but Russia needs at least one and preferably two major allies on the “big ten” of the world’s strongest militaries to win. Likewise, China does not count because it is highly unlikely that if the US is going to start a war with Russia, she would also start one at about the same time with China, and given the Russian distrust of China using any excuse now or in the future to justify seizing Siberia (for example, common blog posts like this one that assert that Vladivostok and the Russian Far East are ‘Chinese property”), Russian support to China will be present but only as it is needed to preserve the illusion of alliance while lacking the necessary power thereof than an alliance needs to possess for it to function. Plus, China would be consumed with fighting first India in the Himalayas, Japan in the northeast, putting down rebellions in Xinjiang/East Turkestan and southeast Asia while the US and most likely France and the UK attack from without.
Russia’s only real possible allies are Germany, Turkey, Japan, and France (in that order). If she could get one and especially two of them, the US would be forced to sit out of a major global war, not worrying about being invaded, but being unable to successfully attack, and most likely restricting overseas action to maintaining her core interests. Germany is the most important of these alliances, since a German alliance revives the Molotov-Ribbentrop concept and pulls Turkey and most of France to the Russian side, and given current geopolitics, will likely at least pacify the rest of the Slavic world enough so to allow for Russia to assert herself militarily again, compensating for her weaknesses with the strength of her new allies.
However, no matter how many alliances Russia makes with Germany, eventually the two often go to war against each other, as the agreements usually fall apart. Germany twice in the 20th century invaded Russia and the last time almost took her, and hence why the Russian victory at Volgograd/Stalingrad was so important and so costly for both sides, because the city is the gateway to the Volga basin where Russia’s historically most developed and easily accessible oil fields are located, for while she has Siberian lines, those are long and can be easily ‘interrupted’ by any number of ‘accidents’, but not so the Volga lines from the oil sands of Baku. If Germany gets those oil fields, Russia is most likely going to fall to Germany in a war.
In World War I, Germany was stopped about halfway through Ukraine while marching to the oil sands.
In World War II, Germany reached the oil sands, but was mostly distracted by the Siege, which she lost and was forced to retreat.
It is now just over a century since Word War I and approaching a century since World War II, and with US help, Germany as the main member of NATO with the Americans have politically speaking pulled all but two tiny regions in easternmost Ukraine into their orbit, and the pressure has remained constant in both Donetsk and Lugansk from them.
Russia is no fool. She knows what is happening. As I have said before, Russia functions more on illusion than reality, for she may be the second strongest military in the world and claim to be different from the US/NATO, but she rather is more like the US in most ways, with the difference being (and consistent with the lying vs. bluffing approach) that her bluff is that she is the ‘antithesis’ to the West when the reality is not so, whereas the Anglosphere simply lies outright and then admits the truth after events have passed to the point where they cannot be changed.
The fundamental point here is that Russia may be strong, but she is a lot weaker than many assess her to be, and she needs to project an image of power because it is what not only prevents the US, NATO, or even China from taking a more aggressive stance, but more importantly, it prevents rebellion from the numerous Turkic and quasi-Turkic republics in Siberia to form their own nations. It is not an accident that:
-Putin always seems to be spending time with Ramazan Kadyrov of Chechnya
-he has allowed a continual nonstop stream of Central Asian Muslim migrants into Russia
-the half-Tuvan half-Russian Sergei Shoigu was appointed head of the Russian Armed Forces
-how many Muslims will commit crimes with impunity and are generally ignored by Russian prosecutors
-Putin continually emphasizes ‘national identity’ and without aggression gently but firmly eschews any sort of firm, local cultural expressions and why the US promotes them,
-Putin has consistently emphasized, to the great frustration of many Slavic Russians, calling Russians as “Russian Nationals” (“Россияни”) as opposed to the historical term, meaning those who are a Russians of the nation as well as ethnicity (“Русские”).
All of these reasons point to what I have noted before, and many others, that Russia’s dangers are mostly internal, and that the Kremlin functions as a sort of “pressure cap” keeping peoples and areas that historically and naturally could rebel and form their own nations as one solid unit.
A war with the US and Russia is, as I have said many times, a bad thing for all. However, it is also a reality that could happen again. With Europe and Germany wanting to rise again, the US does not want to lose her place in the world, and contrary to the assertion (largely from Russian propaganda outlets such as the Strategic Culture Foundation) that the US does not want a ‘multi-polar world’, she had not said much about this but her actions all point to an acceptance of this- it is just that she wants the ‘multi-polar’ nations to be her post-World War II allies of England, France, Germany, Turkey, Japan, and other ones that she likes, and neither China nor Russia. This is not a question of who is objectively ‘better’, but rather, which gang gets to rule over the other gangs.
Since the US knows that, to use the example of Germany, that the Teutonic nation could potentially switch to Russia, why risk losing her investment and instead, help Germany realize her historical desires with US help and in an American-friendly context? No matter what the amount of gas or oil that Russia can send Germany, even for free or possibly paying Germany to take it from them, it would be difficult given Germany’s history of empire and aggression for her to favor that instead of a chance of realizing her dream of a “Great Empire” all under her rule that she has strove for since the days of ancient Rome but never could realize to the fullness and magnitude that she always wanted to. The US gets to be ‘king’ over Central and South America and hold her overseas interests, Germany gets to be ‘king’ of Europe, France and the UK get their empires back in Africa and parts of Asia, Japan gets to be ‘king’ of the Pacific again, and everybody helps each other.
If this sounds like Gladio and NATO, it is, just in a modernized context balanced to different needs. This is also one of Russia’s great weaknesses, because love or hate Russia or NATO or both, it is a fact that the Western world and those nations under their economic influence prospered, while those under the Soviet bloc or influence languished miserably. People like money and easy living- they always have. If past actions are the best indicator of future trends, why does one want to support- speaking strictly from an economic viewpoint -a nation whose empire generally brought poverty, misery, stagnation, and frustration, while the other one brought in more money than one had before, a generally better living standard, and easy access to neat toys and foods?
It reminds me of a story that Walid once told, during the First World War when the Palestinian peoples were forced by the Ottomans to fight for them. Not only were they forced, but they were given almost no food, and if they did not fight well enough, the Ottomans would kill them. Naturally, many simply escaped when they could, but when the British came, they mass defected because while they certainly had their problems, not only did the British not blatantly threaten them with death, but they gave them chocolate, tea, and support.
This is the real threat to Russia- it is the coming to fruition of her own self-made problems that she has not and still refuses to correct as evidenced by her behaviors, that for good or ill, people remember and respond to as such.
It is unlikely there is going to be a conflict now, for as noted, there are more events that likely would need to happen. But the fact that Russia reacted as harshly to talk about a military troop buildup and with the US and NATO potentially responding to it with their own troops is not a historically new thing, except Russia is weaker than before, she knows it, and it will become more important but harder than ever to maintain the image of order and strength as she seeks to prevent natural problems from blowing up into inevitable chaos.