How far west does Russia's border need to be for their paranoia to subside? Really?
[In] Russia, many claim that while Russia is willing to recognize Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity (with the exception of Crimea), Moscow will demand no less than any other great power would on its border. Security on its western frontier requires a special relationship with Ukraine and a degree of deference expected in major powers’ spheres of influence. More specifically, Russia’s establishment sentiment holds that the country can never be secure if Ukraine joins NATO or becomes a part of a hostile Euro-Atlantic community. From their perspective, this makes Ukraine’s nonadversarial status a nonnegotiable demand for any Russia powerful enough to defend its national-security interests.
Yet many in Russia claim that Ukraine isn't even a real country at all. So let's set aside that recognition of sovereignty claptrap right now. Russia recognizes the territorial integrity of Ukraine's control of territory that Russia cannot yet seize.
As for any great power demanding deference from neighbors, do I have to mention our toleration of Cuba for so many years?
And the USSR did have to live with NATO Norway and Turkey on their actual land borders.
Along with living with an Iran under the Shah that was our ally until the Islamic Revolution.
And successor state Russia has lived with the Baltic states in NATO on their borders.
Yet we're to believe that Ukraine must be deferential to Russia. So what about Latvia? Lithuania? Estonia? Belarus?
What about Poland?
Is Sweden naturally expected to defer? Is Finland supposed to know their place?
And who believes that Russia thinks that even owning all of Ukraine would provide enough security on their western border when the Red Army sitting in East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary wasn't sufficiently to the west for Russia to believe that their successful defense could rest on something less ambitious than a lunge to the Rhine River?
Face it, if Russia got Ukraine, suddenly having a deferential Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland would be something that Russia would naturally (as any great power would!) expect.
That's the way it works. If Russia gets a buffer that protects their territory, before long that buffer is their territory that itself needs a buffer to protect it.
Lather, rinse, repeat, and pretty soon Russia is worrying about Britain across the English Channel and figuring that Hadrian's Wall would be a nice buffer line.
Hey! It's what a great power has the right to expect!
For real laughs, how deferential is bordering China supposed to be to Russia? It seems to me that Russia has gotten used to that deference thing in rather a different way than these (admittedly learned, I assume they've forgotten more about Russia than I learned--but maybe that's the problem) authors suggest is natural.
Hell, how deferential are we supposed to be with Alaska a stone's throw away from Russia?
Look, I think it would be folly for either America or Russia to fight each other.
And I wouldn't go to war over non-NATO Ukraine (although I would help train and arm Ukraine as long as Ukrainians are willing to fight for their sovereignty and territorial integrity).
So thinking about how to prevent a crisis with Russia from spiraling into a war is a welcome warning, especially given that we both have nuclear weapons (but if it is fair to ask whether we will trade New York City for Riga, isn't it fair to ask if Russia is willing to trade Moscow for Riga?). The lack of calm rationality in interpreting the other side's actions in a crisis is all too true and potentially catastrophic given that great wars not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier have been fought.
But that said, I don't think that rationalizing Russia's aggression is the way to prevent a war between us.
Sure, humiliating a nuclear Russia is risky. But does that mean we have to retreat before Russia's advances?
It may be possible to use diplomacy to fix this crisis that we don't want to escalate to nuclear war between America and Russia.
UPDATE: Finland doesn't appear to be in the mood to let the Russians do as they please:
Finland's navy has dropped depth charges in waters near Helsinki as a warning to a suspected submarine.
An unidentified object was spotted on Monday within Finnish territorial waters. It was detected again early on Tuesday, the navy said.
It might not be Russian. Heck, it might not be a submarine. But the "depth charges" were not weapons either--just noise makers designed to get the attention of a sub crew rather than attack a sub.