Just know, that if I sound like I’m repeating myself from previous posts, I probably am. I’m human, and despite my best efforts, I retread. That said, I try to keep it fresh.
And if not?
Putin’s behavior, best I can tell, is not of one who feels aggressive, but threatened. The West may not feel much threatened by him these days, but he does feel threatened by us. I think he probably feels very statesmanlike announcing he’s ready to launch tripartite talks withe the West over Ukraine, but he doesn’t get it.
Putin’s last-year offer to the Ukraine carried not just a bigger loan-carrot, but also a bigger military stick, and yet he lost totally to the West in terms of influence, and must now resort to coercion. The EU won without even managing to match Putin’s terms, and that says volumes.
Putin’s coercion is a sign of weakness, folks.
Putin may be able to carve a buffer area out of neighboring states, but he’s doing it at an increasing cost to his international stature, even as he whines to his aides about how he’s not “respected.” Well, if he wanted our respect, he’s sure not trying hard, is he?
The real problem is that Putin sees Russia as an equal to the West, whereas the West sees Russia as just another Great Power that has yet to be absorbed in the trans-national mesh of mutual treaty obligations, and its refusal to do so is what’s causing tensions.
China is a bigger threat to the West than Russia, if you want to go there, but Russia makes a worse mess because not only does it resist enmeshment, it actively works against the smaller countries that are willing. China is at least acting with growing self-confidence, preventing it from lashing out in a rash way even as it flexes its muscles in the South China Sea, but it cannot be said of Russia.
Russsia doesn’t want to become a Western sattellite, so it’s trying to compete via creating its own satellites, but it’s competing with gravity by way of electromagnetism, which is a huge power drain. Yes, electromagnetism is strong force, and gravity weak, but in the long run, staying power wins, and while Russian elites may fear becoming the West’s satellite, they fear becoming China’s also.
Putin is stridently avoiding having to choose because he doesn’t want to, but I truly think he’s postponing reality. Sooner or later, Russia’s going to have to make nice with its neighbors, just like another Great Power on the European periphery is, namely Turkey, over Armenia and Cyprus.
By the time Russia does, though, how big a mess will he have left?