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Thursday, September 04, 2014

Russian President Putin created his own paradox - strengthened NATO

It's impossible to understand what Russian President Putin was thinking (or was he?) when he decided to raise the Eastern European ante and invade the Ukraine, just because he could.  

In fact, by acting a like an Axis warrior of the Cold War, Putin provided oxygen to NATO, an alliance that might have been on political life support if left to its own demise. Now, as a result of the Russian take over of the Crimea and in an abitious military move to create access to this new appendage through the Ukraine, Putin has given a medicinal dose of adrenalin to NATO. 

Now, Putin is in real trouble. 

By strengthening NATO, Putin has no choice but to act like a grown up and stop creating trouble with Europe.  Russia's economy can't sustain escalating military costs, anyway.

A Christian Science Monitor article by Howard LaFranci reports that after a decade of NATO hand-wringing, deep thinks about the Atlantic Alliance’s purpose in a peaceful Europe, and experimenting with “out-of-area” missions like Afghanistan, the organization that anchored the United States in postwar Europe once again seems confident about its 21st century existence.

That restored sense of purpose – which just six months ago seemed too much to hope for at NATO's summit in Wales with President Obama attending– can be attributed to Vladimir Putin, himself.

By sending its troops over an internationally recognized border and annexing a piece of a neighboring country, Mr. Putin’s Russia has reminded Europe and the 28-member Alliance that NATO’s original purpose – underpinning security and stability in Europe – is still necessary.

“NATO should thank Vladimir Putin because it was really searching for its purpose, post-[Afghanistan], and it was having a fairly significant identity crisis as people were looking toward the [Wales] summit nine, 12 months ago,” says Heather Conley, director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “It has now not only been repurposed,” she adds, “it’s been reinvigorated.”

NATO is expected to approve more extensive positioning of Alliance military assets in the “frontline” Baltic states and Poland, but they are expected to be labeled rotating assets to avoid conflicting with a 1997 agreement with Russia that no “permanent” military installations would be positioned in countries bordering Russia.

But even that step was nowhere on NATO’s agenda just a few months ago, and can be attributed to events in Ukraine

A “persistent” NATO presence in the Baltic states and Poland “was never envisioned and would never have been part of the calculation were it not for Vladimir Putin’s actions,” Conley says.

So, President Putin has a paradox of his own creation. As a veteran Cold Warrier, Putin abhors NATO.  He must have seen the near disintegration of the alliance, which is a reason for his ambitious move into the Crimea and then the Eastern Ukraine.  

Nevertheless, Putin didn't pay attention to the NATO vital signs.  

A political alliance on life support is still capable of being resuscitated and Putin's arrogance, ambition and bullying tactics had the same effect on NATO as a defibrillator has on an erratic heart. Now Putin must come to terms with the new life he is responsible for creating.

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