Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Do Not Become Confused

The idea that Russia is right to fear that the near-toothless Europeans pose a threat to Russia is nonsense.

Here's one such nonsensical defense of Russia that rests on a foundation of pure nonsense:

Just for once, let us try this argument with an open mind, employing arithmetic and geography and going easy on the adjectives. Two great land powers face each other. One of these powers, Russia, has given up control over 700,000 square miles of valuable territory. The other, the European Union, has gained control over 400,000 of those square miles. Which of these powers is expanding?

You have to be either really dumb or really smart to ignore the differences in those changes in territorial control in order to argue that the European Union is the real aggressor.

Russia lost that valuable territory because the people in that territory did not want to be part of Russia's empire. So when Soviet power wavered, they got out just as fast as the could and did not look back.

Russia has tried to make closer union with Moscow more attractive to those who were once within the Soviet Union itself, but has had no success outside of areas where Russian military power has solidified that union.

And Putin's Ukraine adventure is making even Belarus nervous about Russian intentions.

The European Union--and I'm no fan of the European Union, mind you--grew because nations have voluntarily joined (even if popular sentiment was sometimes lukewarm, elected governments did choose to enter the EU).

So the author has gone easy on the reality that requires appropriate adjectives to fully describe.

And unless the EU gets its own army, as the EU Commission president wants, EU members are free to leave the European Union:

"A joint EU army would show the world that there would never again be a war between EU countries," Juncker told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. "Such an army would also help us to form common foreign and security policies and allow Europe to take on responsibility in the world."

The EU doesn't see NATO as its armed wing, I guess, as the above nonsensical case has it.

And this is humorous, in a are-you-freaking-seriously-arguing-this sort of way:

There is no obvious need for an adversarial system in post-Soviet Europe. Even if Russia wanted to reconquer its lost empire, as some believe (a belief for which there is no serious evidence), it is too weak and too poor to do this. So why not invite Russia to join the great western alliances? Alas, it is obvious to everyone, but never stated, that Russia cannot ever join either Nato or the EU, for if it did so it would unbalance them both by its sheer size. There are many possible ways of dealing with this. One would be an adult recognition of the limits of human power, combined with an understanding of Russia’s repeated experience of invasions and its lack of defensible borders.

This alone inclines me to the really stupid side of the explanatory spectrum.

NATO has been weakening since the Soviet Union collapsed and spent more effort trying to fight in Afghanistan--continuing the battle against jihadis that the Soviets lost--than it did in expanding military capabilities in new eastern European NATO members. Yet that caused the adversarial system developing?

The idea that Russia is too weak to reconquer its lost empire surely indicates that the author doesn't really believe that the USSR's loss of all that valuable territory was because  of the EU "conquest" of some of it.

And the claim that there is no evidence that Russia wants to reclaim their empire is nonsense as well.

Putin has said the fall of the USSR was a tragedy, has claimed special interest in ethnic Russians and in their "near abroad" (that would be foreign and sovereign members of the UN, to you and me), has sought to pull the former members of their empire into a closer union with Russia (gosh, no real interest there), and has used growing military power to regain bits of "lost" territory where they could, in Chechnya, Georgia, and now Ukraine.

And Russia continues to rebuild their military power.

Further, the idea of expanding NATO to include Russia is nonsense. If NATO is unwilling to see Russia's threat to Europe as a reason to have sufficient military power, is NATO really going to commit itself to defending Russia's control of their Far East against potential Chinese claims of losing valuable territory to Czarist Russia when China was weak?

And once again, I'll ask, just where would the boundary of Russia lie if the goal is to make Russia feel territorially secure? The Rhine River? The English Channel? Long Island?

I'm sorry Russia has experienced repeated invasions. But Sweden, Poland, France, and Germany don't have enough military power to invade Russia. America doesn't have that military power, for that matter.

And Mongolia is no longer a threat, too, if we're to maintain the fiction that once someone was a military threat to Russia it always will be.

(Say, how come Russia's more recent military threat to Western Europe doesn't allow us to worry about invasion if Russia gets to worry about more distant invasions? Doesn't a lack of defensible borders work in both directions?)

The ability of some Westerners to excuse any aggression as somehow understandable and justified, while dismissing our own security worries, is just amazing.

Do not become confused. Russia under the paranoid Putin is a growing threat to Europe and we should be grateful that NATO has extended itself as far east as it has.

And if the author's real beef is with the EU? Well, I'll share that hope that the EU dies.

UPDATE: Strategypage notes that Russia has had more success in getting their "near abroad" to integrate a little more closely than I remembered:

[In] 2014 Russia also agreed to provide Kyrgyzstan with half a billion dollars in economic aid in order to get Kyrgyzstan to join the Eurasian Economic Union. Earlier in 2014 Belarus and Kazakhstan were persuaded to join this new economic union with Russia. Armenia later joined as well. The Eurasian Economic Union became effective in 2015 and allows goods to move freely in all member countries (containing 176 million people and $4 trillion in GDP) without customs levies. Several other nations are also considering joining.

Kazakhstan has also agreed to become part of a unified multi-national air defense system sponsored by Russia. Belarus has also agreed to join and Armenia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are also expected to sign on as well. All this is more than helping out a neighbor with their defense needs. This is the less violent Russian approach to rebuilding their empire. For over a decade Russia has been proposing things like customs unions, military cooperation and rebuilding the old Soviet air defense system that used to defend everyone in the empire.

But I doubt Russia will find that they can leverage arms supplies and low tariffs to political control. Who would take that risk now?