The West should stop playing nice with the Kremlin

Author : Andreas Umland

19:07, 16 May 2016

The West should stop playing nice with the Kremlin

Author : Andreas Umland

'Predictable' Western response is playing straight into the Kremlin’s hand - Andreas Umland

19:07, 16 May 2016

Read the original text at NV.UA.

Brian Adcock

In recent months, the Kremlin has managed to put most of the Western elite under its "reflexive control" - the Soviet strategy is aimed at provoking the enemy into a hasty reaction. Moscow has convinced many politicians, journalists, soldiers, intellectuals and diplomats around the world that Russia is a serious military threat, and it is ready to go to war with NATO. As a result, Western political and military leaders are searching for answers to threats that are largely ephemeral. On the other hand, Brussels and Washington are paying close attention and are ready to respond adequately to challenges in Eastern Europe.

The West’s predictable response is playing straight into the Kremlin’s hand. And this will continue to reduce security in Eastern Europe.

Related: RFE/RL: 'Russian aggression' on agenda as Obama hosts Nordic leaders

NATO and its member states are too nervous to respond to the new Russian aggression – rhetorically, militarily, and politically. Western politicians are almost daily sending Moscow messages in response to its military provocations along Russia’s western borders and the Kremlin's subversive activities in the EU. NATO troops are moving in an eastern direction. Military budgets of Western and Eastern Europe are increasing sharply. There is a possibility of a new NATO enlargement within the EU, i.e. inclusion of Finland and/or Sweden.

But we must remember that Russia is not the USSR. Russia is much weaker than the Soviet Union. In contrast to the former communist government in Moscow and autarchic planned Soviet industry, the new ruling elite of Russia and its oil economy is deeply integrated with the West.

Although Moscow is trying to create an image of a Eurasian hegemon, Russia is neither a revived USSR or an East European China or the modern equivalent of Nazi Germany. Russia is well armed and has a political system, and a manipulated population. This, in turn, allows Putin to act quickly, decisively, and radically. However, the Kremlin’s target is often those states and organizations on which the Russian economy depends. 

Related: Obama: Russian aggression in Ukraine threatens Europe’s freedom and security

Brussels can pressure Russia, but Moscow directs the agenda in the relationship between Russia and the EU. Despite its high dependence on western markets, investment and cooperation, Russia is gradually drawn into the Euro-Atlantic community. This stabilizes Putin’s kleptocracy, and goes against the fundamental interests of the West.

The West should refocus its attention on Eastern Europe, where there are real military challenges. The hypothetical attack Russia can launch on Baltic countries will immediately cause devastating economic sanctions or even an external full blockade of Russia across the Western world.  The EU has more tools and mechanisms to protect Estonia, Latvia, and Poland, than NATO and all its ultramodern weapons. However, as the wars in Eastern Europe over the past 25 years have demonstrated, such countries as Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova, cannot count on EU’s economic and financial levers to wield influence over Russia. Therefore, these countries need some military assistance, equipment, and training to deter Russia.

Related: UK signed new defense treaty to help Ukraine counter Russian aggression

Moscow will try to continue to monitor the different reflexes of the West by military means, and thereby maintain the power on the international arena. It will continue to provoke Brussels and Washington and try to break European unity. For the sake of its own interests, the West should stop playing nice with the Kremlin. 

Related: Russia had been planning aggression in Ukraine since the breakup of USSR, - intelligence

Related: Impact of Russian aggression estimates at billions of dollars, - Abromavicius

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