Putin’s war on the West

[T]he contest he (Putin) insists on can no longer be dodged. It did not begin in poor Ukraine and will not end there. Prevailing will require far more resolve than Western leaders have so far mustered.

via The view from the Kremlin: Putin’s war on the West | The Economist.

Putin has held power in Russia for 15 years.  What has he gained?

From his tantrums over the Middle East to his invasion of Georgia and multiple misadventures in Ukraine, Mr Putin has sometimes seemed to stumble into accidental disputes with the West, driven by a paranoid fear of encirclement. In hindsight it seems that, given his outlook, confrontation may have been inevitable.

Putin has driven a wedge between the US and Europe over how to deal with him, and thus weakened both.

For Mr Putin the only good neighbour is a weak one; vassals are better than allies. Only the wilfully blind would think his revanchism has been sated. Sooner or later it may encompass the Baltic states—members of both the European Union and NATO, and home to Russian minorities of the kind he pledges to “protect”.

So what is the West to do?  Options include arming Ukraine,which some Americans but no Europeans want.  Putin wins.

Or, provide Ukraine with foreign aid that allows it to build a better state, which will then side with Western powers.  Putin loses.

Which way will the US and Europe chose?

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The “New” Cold War Heats Up

BBC News – Russia Baltic military actions ‘unprecedented’ – Poland.

5 September: Abduction of an Estonian security service operative

INCIDENT: Estonian security service operative captured by Russian agents on Estonian territory in a raid involving communications jamming and smoke grenades. Incident took place immediately after Obama’s assurances to the Baltic States.

CATEGORY: High Risk. Incursion into NATO member state’s territory. Had the Estonian official or his colleagues resisted, fatalities on either side would have been a catalyst for further escalation.

This and other high- risk incidents have become more common as tension over the Ukrainian situation deepens.  Most of the activity has occurred over international waters, but contact between military airplanes is increasing.

Several incidents have been reported in the region this week:

On Tuesday the Norwegian military said one of its warplanes had a “near miss” with a Russian fighter which had ventured too close, north of Norway

The Finnish air force said that there had been “unusually intense” Russian activity over the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland, with most flights involving bombers, fighters and transport planes heading between the Russian mainland and the Kaliningrad enclave, between Lithuania and Poland

Nato said on Monday the alliance’s jets intercepted Russian planes repeatedly in the Baltic, and reported more than 30 types of Russian military aircraft in the area.

What does all this activity mean?  Could be nothing, or it could be Russia testing NATO capabilities.  Time will tell.

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