Expert: Warning West about Russian threat, East Europeans were right

BhqJIgoCQAAt9TyA British expert on Russian problems Edward Lucas spoke about unchanging character of the age-old aggressive Russia. In his article in Politico, he wrote:

“During the Cold War, Eastern Europe comprised the captive nations of the Soviet empire. Some of them resented the “eastern” tag (Prague, the Czechoslovak capital, is hundreds of miles west of “Western” capitals such as Helsinki, Vienna or Athens).

Some felt abandoned after the West acceded to the surrender of Eastern Europe at Yalta and did nothing to counter the Soviet invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

When the Berlin Wall came down, the worries changed. How quickly would “new Europe” integrate into “old Europe”? Would democracy take root and capitalism flourish?

First, because it was clear that the “transition economies” of the “east” had weathered the storm rather well: Poland, the largest of them, was the only country in the European Union that did not experience a recession at all. And, second, because it was clear that the biggest problems were elsewhere: in Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and Cyprus.

But now there are new concerns – verging from mere worries to outright fears of a new generation of abandonment by the West provoked by Russia’s land-grab in Ukraine and the Western weakness it has exposed. The old assumptions of NATO and EU solidarity, in the eyes of the countries most at risk, are being tested as never before.

Some are privately wondering about new regional security relationships and arrangements to deal with the Russian threat. The existing Nordic defense cooperation, Nordefco, is gaining weight; it includes Sweden and Finland which are not NATO members.

The Baltic states and Poland are eyeing it closely, and it also enjoys American and British backing. Russia by contrast regards this with deep disfavor.

The countries of the region between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea have never been sanguine about Russia. Even during the Yeltsin era in the 1990s, when the Kremlin was ostensibly a friend and partner for the United States and Western Europe, these countries fretted.

They noted the subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle tricks of Russian diplomacy. They noticed that Russian spies were numerous, active and all too effective.

Western countries tended to patronize and ignore the easterners. Russia was nothing like the threat of the Soviet Union, or so went the line in Brussels, London, Paris, Berlin and Washington. It was silly to pretend otherwise. The West thought the east Europeans – particularly the Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles and Czechs — were traumatized by their historical experience and prone to scaremongering.

That continued during much of the Putin era. Europe’s territorial defense as an issue was not just a non-subject; it was a career-killer. The conventional wisdom crystalized around the idea that Russia was not and would not be a threat.

Even as Vladimir Putin adopted a more confrontational stance, NATO and the EU insisted that all was well.

American policymakers failed to see that the planned missile-defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic, though directed against a putative Iranian threat, were of vital importance as a symbol of continuing American commitment to the region. When the Obama administration cancelled those plans — clumsily and abruptly on the anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939 — it seemed not to realize that the “reset” of relations with Russia needed to be coupled with a big dose of reassurance to its most loyal European allies.

Western policy-makers are now reluctantly facing up to the fact that the people who knew the Russians best, those scaremongering Eastern Europeans, have been right about them all along.

Russia has sent its military spending soaring – nearly doubling it in real terms in ten years.

The economy, for all its corruption, bottlenecks and narrow base on natural-resources, has proved remarkably resilient. Russia has bought allies and influence in the West, and promoted economic interdependence, to the point that implementing serious sanctions is difficult”.

It is to be mentioned in this connection that Kavkaz Center has been writing about the Russian threat for 15 years already. And the first president of independent Chechnya, who was murdered by the Russians, Dzhokhar Dudayev, warned about it in 1991, but world democracy leaders arrogantly ignored his warning, considering Mr Dudayev’s statements as meaningless political rhetoric.

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