June 4, 2015 – Western Defeat in Ukraine
LONDON — It was not a surprise that President Vladimir Putin of Russia came out in strong support of FIFA against the “blatant attempt” of the United States “to extend its jurisdiction to other states.” Institutionalized corruption is Putin’s thing. The governing body of world soccer has become a near-perfect illustration of how such a system works, almost as good as the once-pliant Ukraine of Putin’s ousted puppet, former President Viktor Yanukovych.
American power is Putin’s obsession. He professes to see its long arm everywhere, subverting Russia and countries of its former empire. So the Justice Department’s move against FIFA fit every Russian geostrategic theory. (In addition, of course, Putin is worried about the 2018 World Cup in Russia, as he should be. To say the event will carry echoes of the Berlin Olympics of 1936 would be an exaggeration, but not a wild one.)
It is not a surprise that various Russian generals and officials have been blustering about nukes, even threatening to wipe out poor little Denmark’s navy; nor that they have made clear that they will defend the annexation of Crimea (where the extension of Russian jurisdiction was on the “blatant” side) with every weapon in their arsenal. Force is the language Putin understands better than any other. He knows how uncomfortable much of Europe has become with this lexicon.
There are in fact no more surprises. Putin has turned on the West, seeing opposition to it as the glue of his regime, rather than integration with it as the path to Russian progress. He has opted for his life’s work: buying people, compromising them, threatening them.
Perhaps it was the street protests in Moscow of late 2011. Perhaps it was a perception of Western perfidy in Libya earlier that year. Perhaps it was some inkling about a moment of American weakness. Perhaps it really was the ouster through a popular uprising of the grossly corrupt Yanukovych in Ukraine. Perhaps it was simply his inner K.G.B. officer rising to the surface, a yearning for the empire lost. In the end the reasons are secondary to the reality, which is that Putin has opted to ignite Russian nationalism by cultivating the myth of Western encirclement of the largest nation on earth by far. The G-7 will convene in a few days without him. Of course it will. The Russian president is no longer interested in the rules of that club. Controlled antagonism to it suits him better.
Some 15 months have gone by since the annexation of Crimea. A few things have become clear. On the whole, they are troubling. The first is how muted, really, the American reaction has been to Moscow’s seizure of a chunk of Ukrainian territory and Russia’s stirring-up of a little war in eastern Ukraine with its more than 6,000 dead. The United States is not even a party to the Minsk accords, the deeply flawed agreement to unwind the conflict that looks more like a means to freeze it in place.
Yes, there have been expressions of outrage from Washington. Yes, Secretary of State John Kerry was in Sochi last month for talks with Putin. But the bottom line is that Russian aggression has been met by a degree of American absence unthinkable even a decade ago. Follow-up talks to Minsk tend to find a Ukrainian official in a room with a Russian and two representatives of the breakaway areas of eastern Ukraine. One against three is not a credible formula for progress.
In America’s place has stood Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Germany. She speaks to Putin regularly. She has been frank in her condemnation of his actions. Without Germany, the sanctions in place against Russia would not have been effectively coordinated. But a fundamental problem remains. Postwar Germany is in essence a pacifist power. Mention of force is near anathema to the vast majority of the German people. Arming Ukraine to level the playing field (and so bolster the chances of diplomacy) is of course rejected by Merkel; it should not have been. Force is precisely what Putin has used to secure what he wanted: a truncated and dysfunctional Ukraine diverted from its Westernizing ambitions. This has been Moscow’s core victory and the core failure of Berlin and Washington.
The battle for Ukraine is going to be long. There are no quick fixes at this point. The shows of NATO resolve and presence in the Baltic, where three NATO states feel vulnerable with cause, have been important; they should be reinforced. The bolstering and reform of NATO to face Putin’s new threats is critical. There can be no relaxation of sanctions against Russia until Ukraine controls its borders once again. Through parties of the left and right — Syriza in Greece, the National Front in France — Putin is probing to weaken the European Union and the West where he can. Wobbling is not the answer.
June 4, 2015 – NATO Wants to Cooperate With Russia – Stoltenberg
Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg emphasized that the alliance seeks to work together with Russia, which he also accused of becoming more aggressive in recent years.
“Our aim is to cooperate with Russia,” since that is to the benefit of both sides, Stoltenberg told Norwegian radio NRK, adding that Moscow does not pose an “immediate threat” to any NATO country.
Last week, Russia’s Foreign Ministry criticized NATO for creating myths about the “threat from the East,” as well as distorting facts and making unilateral assessments.Meanwhile, over a dozen NATO members are taking part in the massive Saber Strike war-games, a US Army Europe-led security cooperation exercise primarily focused on the three Baltic States.
Over six thousand military personnel from 13 NATO member states participated in the drills that kicked off in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland on Monday.
These military drills carry an anti-Russian political message, as “NATO is trying to threaten Russia and that is not good,” Er Ali, a retired Turkish Brigadier General told Sputnik.
Additionally, several NATO members are taking part in the Adriatic Strike 2015 military exercises held in Slovenia from June 1 to June 6.In late May, Sweden, Norway and Finland hosted one of Europe’s largest fighter jet drills, dubbed the Arctic Challenge Exercise 2015 (ACE 2015). The 12-day drills, with Norway as a lead nation, included 4,000 personnel and incorporated Swiss, Dutch, British, French, German and US jets, in addition to those from Northern Europe.
Russia maintains that US and NATO military drills close to Russia’s borders threaten stability on the continent.