Washington—Today’s Russia has become a clear and present threat to world peace. In July, President Vladimir Putin published a long Article, “About the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians,” effectively refute The legitimacy of Ukraine’s existence as an independent nation-state.
For the first time they have adopted a policy of military mobilization around the border of Ukraine. April even more intensely recent weeks, Senior officials from Ukraine and the US, including President Joe Biden Warning That Russia could launch a major ground war against Ukraine in early 2022.
Various reasons for Russia’s aggression have been suggested, but the most important have focused on Russian decline, and whether it has made the country more dangerous. Does Putin really intend to attack Ukraine? If so, what should Ukraine and the West do about it?
,Seeing the writing on the wall, Putin may now be thinking that if Russia was going to benefit from its military might, it had better flex its muscles now, before the country’s economic foundation deteriorated further.,
The decline is obvious. Russia’s economy has been completely stable since 2014 (and mostly stable since 2009), and Putin has made it clear that he is not interested in economic growth or better living standards. In US dollar terms, Russia’s GDP fell From $2.3 trillion in 2013 to $1.5 trillion in 2020. Since Putin first invaded Ukraine and illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, Russian households have had real (inflation-adjusted) disposable income. 10% drop,
With nothing good to say about the economy, Putin has touted Russia’s large international currency reserves and minimal public debt. These statistics seem to support his quest for national “greatness”, which has become synonymous with his own strong governance.
Thus Putin aspires to create a modern Sparta – a state focused entirely on its military prowess. Since Russia’s August 2008 attack On Georgia, which revealed major military deficiencies, the Kremlin has carried out substantial military modernization, while the rest of Europe continues its post-Cold War disarmament.
But Russia’s relative military might have already reached its peak. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Russian military expenditure reached $62 billion in 2020, a year when US military spending was $778 billion and China’s was $252 billion. Even India surpassed Russia with its military budget of $73 billion.
time to strike
Seeing the writing on the wall, Putin may now be thinking that if Russia was going to benefit from its military might, it had better flex its muscles now, before the country’s economic foundation deteriorated further. In addition, this year’s surge in commodity prices (especially in energy BRN00,
and metal GC00,
) has strengthened the Kremlin’s incentive to strike when the iron is hot.
Like a corner beast, dwindling powers are often the most dangerous. As Graham Ellison of Harvard University reminds us: destined for warIt was a dwindling power, Austria-Hungary, which began World War I by declaring war on Serbia. In the present context, the Russians seem to be Plan a tank and artillery campaign reminiscent of World War II; If so, his war machine is as old as Putin’s view of Ukraine.
A contemporary, peace-loving Western reader may wonder why Putin wants to start a war.
Certainly he is familiar with the legacy of Russian Interior Minister Vyacheslav von Plehve, who, in 1904, famously argued that, “one to avoid” Revolution, we need a short, victorious war!” Soon after, von Plehwe was assassinated by a revolutionary. Nevertheless, the 1904–05 Russo-Japanese War broke out. That conflict was neither short nor victorious – and This catalysed the revolution of 1905.
Putin is likely to focus more on his short, successful wars in Georgia in 2008 and Crimea in 2014, which led to his supreme approval rating sometimes. Since then, his acceptance has reached new levels, and with public discontent building up, he has escalated political repression to the level that his hero, the late Soviet leader Yuri Andropov, was in power (1982–84). Haven’t seen since.
To justify his increasingly extreme repression, Putin has raised the Kremlin’s propaganda apparatus to Soviet levels. But anti-Western messages will not persuade the public to support him. For this he needs another hugely successful war. And since Russia has no chance of a major war against the whole of the West, it needs a more limited struggle. Hence, Putin’s choice of Ukraine, which they call a western vassals,
But even a short, victorious war is not possible in Ukraine. As the new Defense Minister of Ukraine, Oleksiy Reznikov, recently Told,
“The human cost to Ukraine will be catastrophic, but Ukrainians will not grieve alone. Russia will also suffer huge losses. Images of coffins returning to Russia from the front lines in Ukraine will spread like a virus on social media and soon to Kremlin censors. would prove to be too much. A major war in Ukraine would put the whole of Europe in peril.”
US intelligence agencies to warn That Russia is mobilizing about 175,000 troops near its border with Ukraine. But a force of that size would not be enough. Ukraine’s active military forces include 250,000 soldiers, many with substantial combat experience, who would defend their homeland against soldiers who could have no greater goal than to collect their salaries.
Russia’s fault in 1904 was that it did not take Japan seriously as a military power. When Japan emerged victorious, the Tsar’s power was largely weakened, allowing the revolution that followed. The Russo-Ukrainian war of 2022 could prove to be an even greater folly, for which Putin is unlikely to survive.
In the meantime, the Kremlin should not be allowed a domestic advantage by its saber-rattling. The West has responded with only limited sanctions following Putin’s previous aggression against Georgia and Ukraine. He should learn from those mistakes and stand by Ukraine as a whole.
In addition to providing military supplies and training for Ukraine, the West must impose truly disastrous sanctions against Russia. Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have made similar promises. He and America’s European allies will now have to comply.
Anders Islund, Senior Fellow of the Stockholm Free World Forum is the author of “Russia’s crony capitalism: the path from market economy to kleptocracy,,
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