Sunday, September 21, 2014

Why Is Russia's Mental Illness Our Problem?

I enjoy reading Stratfor analysis. But sometimes I just shake my head.

This piece is a case in point.

First off, I just don't buy the idea that our wars in the Greater Middle East after 9/11 allowed China to create a military threat in the western Pacific to challenge our dominance of the region.

One, it assumes we didn't need to fight in the Middle East and could afford to ignore the problems to focus on China.

Two, it assumes that we were distracted by the Middle East wars so much that our inattention let China's power grow.

Three (or perhaps instead of two), it assumes that our military power in the Pacific would have been greater absent the wars in the Middle East.

I think all those assumptions are false.

But I'm digressing. What gets me is the geographic determinism of the analysis concerning Russia and Ukraine.

There's this justification for Putin's aggression:

Russian President Vladimir Putin may not be comparable to Adolf Hitler, but he will, nevertheless, keep pushing westwards until he is stopped. Putin's goal, as has been said, is not the recreation of the Warsaw Pact. The Warsaw Pact, because it was both too time consuming and too expensive for Moscow to maintain, did not work. No, Putin desires instead a more traditional and softer zone of influence in Europe, given that Russia over the course of the centuries has been invaded from the west not only by the French and Germans, but also by the Swedes, Lithuanians and Poles.

Well, obviously Putin is justified in snatching territory from Ukraine and demanding Ukraine fall into Russia's orbit! I mean, my goodness, friggin' Lithuania invaded Russia before! Watch out! Their single ground combat brigade could roll east at any moment!

Yet apparently, Putin knows it is all BS:

As for NATO and its decision to strengthen rapid reaction forces in Eastern Europe, Putin knows that NATO's ultimate power is a reflection of the size of the defense budgets of its member-states. And with a few exceptions, NATO member-states are not even willing to have their defense budgets equal 2 percent of their gross domestic products. Europe remains a semi-pacifistic geopolitical space, in other words, which by definition therefore is no threat to Russia.

Regarding the United States, as President Obama has indicated, it will neither send troops to Ukraine nor bomb pro-Russian separatists from the air. Furthermore, its assistance to the Ukrainian military has been measured. The American public is less willing to defend Europe against Russia than it was willing to defend Europe against the old Soviet Union. Indeed, the Cold War represented both a tailpiece of World War II and an existential ideological and geopolitical challenge: that is not the case anymore. Putin knows all of this.

So ... what? Is Russia justified in pushing west out of fear of invasion?

Or are the Russians just nuts and better served by worrying about taking their Lithium than in Lithuania's offensive threat?