In an interview with the Italian website Corriere della Sera, Russian president Vladimir Putin made revealing statements regarding his stance on NATO.
In the West, Putin’s Russia is largely seen as acting downright aggressively towards Ukraine and Crimea, causing many eastern European countries to bolster their defence programs and act cautiously in regards to Russia.
Putin made it clear in this interview that he thought it was NATO and the US that the world ought to fear.
“US military spending is higher than that of all countries in the world taken together,” Putin told the Italian news website. “The aggregate military spending of NATO countries is 10 times, note — 10 times higher than that of the Russian Federation.”
He stressed that Russia has virtually no military bases abroad, and that they have been happy to disarm and disband his foreign holdings while the US has maintained theirs: “We have dismantled our bases in various regions of the world, including Cuba, Vietnam, and so on. This means that our policy in this respect is not global, offensive or aggressive.”
Putin contests that Russia’s increasingly provocative behaviour is defensive, saying: “Everything we do is just a response to the threats emerging against us.”
It seems that NATO’s expansion is what really irks Putin: “We are not expanding anywhere; it is NATO infrastructure, including military infrastructure, that is moving towards our borders.”
Putin has even described Ukraine’s military as a proxy arm of NATO.
“This is not the army, per se, this is a foreign proxy, in this case a foreign NATO legion, which, of course, doesn’t pursue the objective of national interests of Ukraine,” Putin said at the end of January. “They have entirely different goals, and they are tied with the achievement of the geopolitical goals of containing Russia.”
While some of the above statements are demonstrably true — the US has maintained military outposts, and NATO is expanding — Putin’s comments speak to Russia’s real interest in Ukraine.
Having Ukraine become a NATO ally would mean that the force Putin sees as his enemy would be resting comfortably at his front door, so manifesting Russian loyalists in this border state becomes very important to his cause.
The Ukrainian conflict is just the current venue for a bigger struggle going on in Europe. As more and more nations seek to fall in line with the prosperity and freedoms enjoyed in the @est, Russia is reluctant to give up influence in a region that was once under its thumb.
And it’s his fear of NATO and the West that makes Putin so dangerous. With Putin acting erratically, and grasping at straws to maintain his regional clout, he becomes more and more aggressive.
“Expanding NATO further into post-Soviet space is a red line with Russia, and the US is frankly not in a position to challenge it without running a huge risk,” Greg Scoblete of RealClearWorld told Forbes in 2014.
“Put bluntly, Russia will be able to invade eastern Ukraine faster than the West could admit Ukraine into NATO to deter Russian aggression.”
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