The Kremlin, apparently is seriously considering the scenario of a military conflict with the West, and also it might spark off the armed conflict in the Baltic States.
I came to this conclusion after an alarming number of danger signals over the last few days.
First of all, the recent statement of the Chairman of the Council of Federation Valentina Matviyenko. According to her, Russia just cannot stand still, and see the affliction of Russian people in several former Soviet republics, and it will defend its compatriots abroad.
Matviyenko called Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine and (surprisingly) Belarus. She also made it clear that there are other states in the post-Soviet space, where ethnic Russian must be protected.
It turns out that earlier Russia calmly tolerated all the oppression, but now things are changing, and Russia will defend those Russian people that are far from its borders. Let us recall that for many years, the Kremlin has been using political propaganda methods it in the Baltic countries. So now, we might suppose that this time it will use the methods of power, as it happened with Crimea.
A pretext for military activity in Crimea was the same: alleged threat to ethnic Russians justified Putin’s actions.
Valentina Matvienko is the third person in the state (after the President and Prime Minister), who heads the body that gives the president constitutional permission to conduct military operations outside the Russian borders. The recent examples are the annexation of Crimea and the beginning of Russian military action in Syria. At the same time, this woman is not an independent political figure, and she just clearly voices the thoughts and intentions of Putin and Putin's entourage.
In addition, the pro-Kremlin propagandists, adepts of "Russian Spring" excitedly repeat that if the Russian military had not taken Crimea under its control, two weeks later this territory would have been under the NATO forces.
The first time in my adult life, I have heard something like this in 1968, after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. The same argument was used in Afghanistan in 1979, when the Soviet Union sent its "limited contingent" and eliminated the troops of President Amin, who was retroactively declared "CIA agent."
The first Deputy Chairman of the Russian Federation Council upper house Defense and Security Committee Franz Klintsevich states that NATO is allegedly preparing a bridgehead for a military strike against Russia. It sounds like the beginning of a “preventive” military propaganda of Russian special services.
Indeed, now NATO military training takes place in Latvia. Its purpose is practicing interaction of different types of troops in case of a possible Russian aggression. The number of troops and equipment involved in these exercises is not comparable with the grouping, deployed on the territory of Russia near the Latvian border.
The Chief of Defence of the Republic of Latvia Lieutenant General Raimonds Graube stated that 30-50 thousand Russian military are involved in similar exercises. According to him, 26 km from the Latvian border 70-80 Russia helicopters are based. Finally, Latvian senior military commander mentioned about "Iskander" missiles situated near the borders of Latvia.
"Iskander" missiles were in the sensational documentary “World War Three: Inside the War Room” shown in February of this year. The film dramatized what might happen in real life should war break out. According to the filmmakers, the conflict breaks out due to the pro-Russian separatists in Daugavpils, as it used to be in Crimea and Donbas.
Russian tactical nuclear warhead over the Baltic Sea destroys two warships - the American and the British. the Kremlin immediately begins to apologize, assuring that the commander, who gave the order to launch missiles, will be punished.
Long before this film, I have personally heard this version from the Western diplomats. Thus, the West will face a diabolical alternative: to ignore the Moscow’s excuses and retaliate (the conflict might escalate to a third world war) or to retreat, abandoning Article 5 of the NATO charter regarding collective defense and leaving the allies to the mercy of Russia.
Today the Kremlin is claiming that it is not going to tolerate the violations of the rights of Russians in Estonia and Latvia. It is like saying to the West: thanks for the tip, now we know how to act.
However, the most alarming signal is a well-known episode, reported by many Russian media. During the recent meeting of the Economic Council, Putin himself got into polemics with his “court liberal” Alexei Kudrin about the foreign policy priorities.
Kudrin called on Putin to reduce the level of geopolitical tensions, give up confrontation with Europe and America, because sustainable development is impossible in terms of technological backwardness of Russia and in the absence of Western investments. Putin made it clear that he will never "sell Russia’s sovereignty" and would not apologize for the conflicts. He also promised to protect the independence of Russian till (sic!) the end of his life.
Putin lives in captivity of his ambitions and phobias; the enemies are always impinging on the independence and sovereignty of Russia. Serious reforms are impossible without political liberalization. The Kremlin knows it. The only alternative is tightening the screws, tightening of police measures, and adoption of new repressive laws.
Military confrontation with the West is becoming more real; especially in the Baltic States.
But there might be even more exotic scenarios. Valentina Matvienko has hinted that ethnic Russian inhabiting the former Soviet Union and other countries might need to be protected.
I think, first of all, she is talking about Kazakhstan; the situation is destabilized there.
In May, the most numerous in the entire post-Soviet history of Kazakhstan opposition speeches took place in Alma-Ata. After that the riots happened in Aktobe (formerly Aktyubinsk); they were inspired by Islamic radicals. It is very close to the Russian border. And it is a great chance to protect Russians from the Islamists. Or, from the "colorful" revolutionaries of the Kazakh origin.
Even more interesting is the fact that Matvienko referred to Belarus in her statement. Although it is difficult to accuse Nazarbayev of Russophobia, he still builds the Kazakh national state. In these terms, Russian-speaking citizens might face some problems. But accusing Belarusian authorities of the oppression of the ethnic Russian would seem absurd.
Lukashenko and Nazarbayev quite clearly expressed dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in the Customs Union and other joint projects with Russia. They persistently resist Moscow's attempts to create these supranational bodies, do not recognize the Russian annexation of the Crimea, and do not support Moscow's position on other issues related to Ukraine.
It looks like someone is creating a number of serious problems to Nazarbayev and Lukashenko. the Kremlin is trying, to recall who is the former Soviet boss, and what can happen to the rebellious leaders if they misbehave. Russian intervention in distant Kazakhstan or in the birthplace of the "last dictator of Europe" will not cause such a painful reaction, as the military actions in the Baltic States.
We are talking about exotic scenario. While challenging Latvia’s and Estonia's security (to a lesser extent Lithuania, where a percentage of ethnic Russian is very small) is the harsh reality.
However, the famous British journalist Edward Lucas, who was the first to speak about Western security threatened by the Putin regime, said that the main goal of Russia is to achieve its purposes without the full-scale war.
Edward Lucas thinks that today a subversion of the Russian special services in Europe is a much greater threat to the West. Western intelligence is involved in routine collection of information, while the Russian security services organize murder, blackmail, and bribe the right people.
These "active measures" are designed to destabilize European governments. We should not underestimate Putin’s regime and its threats to the world.
Strictly dosed saber-rattling, a method of intimidation of some European leaders, is gradually moving into the habit. Sooner or later, the loaded gun shots.
You do not believe me? But look at the celebrations in honor of the victory over Nazi Germany: people, who have nothing to do with this victory, confidently say: "We can repeat it again".
Oh, it looks like the end of the 30's! The great catastrophe of 1941 year came after. Do you want to repeat?