Russia is on a bit of a roll reputation-wise. But we should not panic at the Russian aggression or about the cost of resisting Russia. Russia right now is weak and faces limits with large chunks of their empire stripped away:
But Russia is not the Soviet Union, this is not the Cold War, and Moscow is not looking for world domination. Putin’s goal is limited to reducing U.S. influence while ensuring Russia’s vital interests, and the power he can project is still limited by a weak economy and a global reach that pales in comparison to that of the United States.But Russia can get stronger by taking resources if we don't exploit Russia's weakness to stop them now.
He can’t act anywhere he wants, he can’t do it alone, and a lot still depends on whether and how far President-elect Donald Trump decides to go along with him.
If Russia manages to divide the West, Russia does not need to be stronger than the West to win. All Putin needs is a Russia stronger than any single target or group of targets that band together.
And for all the talk of America not defending NATO allies who don't defend themselves sufficiently, remember that Europe is as much an objective to be fought over as it is a source of allies--whether strong or weak.
It has long been our policy to keep the enormous demographic, scientific, and military potential of the continent from being dominated by one hostile entity. So we fought--hot and cold--a kaiser, a Fuhrer, and a series of comrade Soviet rulers to stop that from happening.
Which makes our formal support for the European Union proto-empire seem odd to me.
So if Russia manages to pick off weak and nearby victims, eventually Russia could control enough of Europe to forcibly mobilize the demographic, scientific, and military potential to be capable of taking on larger portions of the West in Europe.
And perhaps that strength convinces the remaining "free" West to appease Russia and eject America from Europe.
But for now, Russia weak. We must strengthen NATO--both militarily (including intelligence and low end of the spectrum forces) and socially (including information war against the appeal of despotism) with a confidence in the superiority of the West's societies--to resist a Russian attack whether from the shadows or with massed armor; build up the infrastructure to allow NATO forces to fight in eastern NATO's new members; and prepare the distant NATO states to reinforce the east and drive the invaders back.
Oh, and when victims of Russia want to fight Russian aggression, we should quietly help those victims kill Russian soldiers who are attacking these states unfortunate enough to border Russia; and publicize the "heroic" sacrifice of those young men for the greater glory of Putin.
Russians like the glory of foreign adventures, but unlike the Russia of World War II, Russians are no longer willing to sacrifice many young men in a demographically weakening Slavic Russia to get that glory.
Bleeding Russia as far east as possible for as long as possible will protect NATO better than having Russia on the borders of NATO from Norway to Romania, and everything between.
A strong NATO--strong both physically and morally--will keep Belarus, perhaps the most important territory in Europe today, from being absorbed by Russia and available as a launching pad for attacks west.
Russia is not our main enemy right now. We have China to worry about and we have terrorism to actively fight. So I don't think we should make Europe our main focus now.
But we do need to act against a hostile Putin to keep Europe from sucking up too many of our resources needed for Asia and the Middle East. Russia is still weak, so this is doable.