Russia and the West

Vivendi

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Ukraine has been hit by a “massive” cyber-attack, with the websites of several government departments including the ministry of foreign affairs and the education ministry knocked out.

Officials said it was too early to draw any conclusions but they pointed to a “long record” of Russian cyber assaults against Ukraine, with the attack coming after security talks between Moscow and the US and its allies this week ended in stalemate.
Sweden’s foreign minister, Ann Linde, said the west must stand up to any Russian aggression. “We have to be very firm in our messages to Russia, that if there are attacks against Ukraine, we will be very harsh and very strong and robust in our response,” she said. Sweden stood in solidarity with Kyiv, she added.
Ukraine hit by ‘massive’ cyber-attack on government websites | Ukraine | The Guardian

Interesting that non-NATO country Sweden is so clearly communicating their position now.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov described Moscow’s demands that NATO will neither expand nor deploy forces to Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations as essential for the progress of diplomatic efforts to defuse soaring tensions over Ukraine.

He argued that the deployment of NATO forces and weapons near Russia’s borders poses a security challenge that must be addressed immediately.
What is the urgency? It will take a very long time before Ukraine will be allowed into NATO, if it ever happens. Russia has not made clear what is so threatening right now that this demands immediate resolution.

The Russian Defence Ministry said on Friday that troops stationed in eastern Siberia and the far east region have been scrambled for movement across the country as part of snap drills to check their “readiness to perform their tasks after redeployment to a large distance”.

The ministry noted that “special attention will be given to the assessment of the country’s transport infrastructure to ensure the movement of troops”, adding that the troops will conduct drills involving firing live ammunition after the redeployment.
Russia demands US, NATO response next week on Ukraine | NATO News | Al Jazeera

More Russian troops need training, and in spite of being largest country on this planet I am sure that these troops from eastern Siberia and far east must train very close to eastern Europe, and most likely close to Ukraine, and this must happen now, when there are already 100,000 Russian soldiers there. Funny coincidence.

I am still hoping that the West can convince Russia to return to diplomacy. Hopefully we will get positive news next week. It does not look very promising right now, unfortunately.
 

Vivendi

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Feanor

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The US and Ukraine claim they have intel indicating that Russia is planning a false flag operation in Ukraine, to justify a Russian attack. The operation is said to include sabotage and disinformation campaigns.



US claims Russia planning ‘false-flag’ operation to justify Ukraine invasion | Russia | The Guardian
I'd take all these with a grain of salt, until something more substantial comes out. Russia definitely has operatives inside Ukraine, and they can definitely be used in this manner, but both sides have made claims that a false flag operation is planned by the other side. For example Russia claimed that western private contractors have brought chemical substances to Ukraine for a potential false flag. Realistically if Ukraine launches an attack to reclaim the rebel areas it will be much bigger then any potential false flag. So it should be possible to separate a Russian response to an all out Ukrainian assault, or at least a major offensive, from a false flag being used as a pretense for Russian military action.
 

ngatimozart

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I'd take all these with a grain of salt, until something more substantial comes out. Russia definitely has operatives inside Ukraine, and they can definitely be used in this manner, but both sides have made claims that a false flag operation is planned by the other side. For example Russia claimed that western private contractors have brought chemical substances to Ukraine for a potential false flag. Realistically if Ukraine launches an attack to reclaim the rebel areas it will be much bigger then any potential false flag. So it should be possible to separate a Russian response to an all out Ukrainian assault, or at least a major offensive, from a false flag being used as a pretense for Russian military action.
The Ukrainians do have legal grounds for any kind of military action to reclaim the rebel areas for they will be attempts to re-establish sovereignty and the rule of law with those areas. When the Russians intervene, as they will, they will be contravening international law and be rightly accused of aggressive war against another country, which BTW their annexation of the Crimea was.

There are also the historical Russian imperial ambitions which still are evident in modern day Russia. Those ambitions never died with the Romanovs, but were inherited and actioned by the CPSU and Stalin, a Georgian, was the greatest proponent of Russian imperialism, expanding the empire the furthest west and east that it ever went. If he'd got his way he'd gone further south with the investment of Iran during or immediately after WW2. Fortunately he was otherwise engaged. Today Putin and others still hanker for the spatial boundaries of the old USSR and there are those who actively push for the reunification of the old Soviet Republics under Moscow's rule.

Putin is first and foremost an old KGB Major who has made it to the top and old habits die hard. He doesn't work for the glory of the CPSU and Marxist Leninist utopia anymore because he knows the fallacy of that. He's branched out into private enterprise and works for himself first and Holy Russia second. Recently he's cracked down more on independent media, political opposition, and any opposition to his rule. It appears that his attitude is hardening and becoming more authoritarian as time goes by. I am wondering if he's working to a timetable and if so, what is the timetable for?
 

Feanor

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The Ukrainians do have legal grounds for any kind of military action to reclaim the rebel areas for they will be attempts to re-establish sovereignty and the rule of law with those areas. When the Russians intervene, as they will, they will be contravening international law and be rightly accused of aggressive war against another country, which BTW their annexation of the Crimea was.
More or less true, ignoring the whole self-determination angle vis-a-vis Crimea. But it's also irrelevant to my point. There is a binding international agreement, the second Minsk accords. In principle Ukraine is bound by it, and has for all practical purposes refused to implement it. There is a de facto status quo, which is a mostly frozen conflict in the Donbass, two rebel provinces with functional governments and uniformed militaries, and a front line separating them and Ukraine, regularly observed by OSCE personnel. Breaking this status quo by Ukraine would produce a reaction from Russia. Withdrawing openly from Minsk 2 would produce a reaction from Russia (not necessarily a military one, it would likely depend on context). It makes sense to analytically distinguish a Russian reaction to a Ukrainian move aimed at changing the status quo from a proactive Russian move to alter the status quo. Value judgements are a separate conversation entirely. However it seems to me that western media and political discussions often conflate a Russian move to gain ground in Donbass, or even take over Ukraine, with a Russian response to a Ukrainian attempt to crush the rebels by force. These scenarios are not the same and imply different things, and involve different decision makers.

There are also the historical Russian imperial ambitions which still are evident in modern day Russia. Those ambitions never died with the Romanovs, but were inherited and actioned by the CPSU and Stalin, a Georgian, was the greatest proponent of Russian imperialism, expanding the empire the furthest west and east that it ever went. If he'd got his way he'd gone further south with the investment of Iran during or immediately after WW2. Fortunately he was otherwise engaged. Today Putin and others still hanker for the spatial boundaries of the old USSR and there are those who actively push for the reunification of the old Soviet Republics under Moscow's rule.
Stalin definitely didn't extend the boundries of the empire the furthest. The furthest extent was under Nicholas II, when Russia held most of modern day Poland, all of modern day Finland, and the currently Chinese province of Manchuria (there was even a settlement project for "Yellow Russia" to resettle Manchuria with Russian and Ukrainian peasants).

Putin is first and foremost an old KGB Major who has made it to the top and old habits die hard. He doesn't work for the glory of the CPSU and Marxist Leninist utopia anymore because he knows the fallacy of that. He's branched out into private enterprise and works for himself first and Holy Russia second. Recently he's cracked down more on independent media, political opposition, and any opposition to his rule. It appears that his attitude is hardening and becoming more authoritarian as time goes by. I am wondering if he's working to a timetable and if so, what is the timetable for?
I'm honestly not sure. I get the feeling that Putin somewhat painted himself into a corner with his moves in eastern Ukraine back in 2014-15, and tried to break out of that corner by several means, including shifting Russian economic alignment heavily away from the West, making moves in the Middle East that among other things forced many western countries to re-open dialogue with Russia (it also accomplished other things), and now once again he's trying to engage with the West on some sort of framework. I suspect he would be satisfied with a situation where the ex-USSR consists of either friendly or neutral (including neutral-hostile) countries, as long as it 1) doesn't host any NATO/US bases, and 2) doesn't have any NATO/EU member states. This was the conclusion drawn by the RAND corporation in their paper on Russian grand strategy as well. I also suspect that arguments along the lines of "independent countries get to make their own decisions" will hold no water with him or others in Russian leadership. And remember the future of Ukraine is being decided in a discussion between the US and Russia, while Zelenskiy is shut out. If this isn't an effective admission by the US that Ukraine doesn't decide it's own future, I don't know what is.
 

STURM

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What makes you say Russia is interested in diplomacy?
What makes you so sure it's not? What makes you so sure that the talks are a ruse and are intended by Russia to fail; in order to be able to justify why it has to resort to certain measures later? Just because Russia made a number of demands which NATO apparently wouldn't accept; doesn't necessarily mean Russia refuses to budge an inch; to scale back or tone down its demands.....

No their presence is not "directed" at Russia. And numbers do matter. Such a small number of soldiers cannot be "directed" or be a "threat" to Russia. It's physically impossible.
Well then; if it's not directed at Russia; pray tell; who then? Also; the actual numbers are not what rattled the Russians but the highly poltiically significant move of having troops and assets there and the ability to move more in should there be a need.

Note that I'm not suggesting Russia is blameless; far from it. What I'm disputing is the commonly held simplistic one sided narrative that it Russia at fault and Russia alone. That everything NATO/the West does is to preserve peace and deter aggression; unlike Russia which is always confrontational/belligerent. One would think that it's only NATO/the West which has security concerns.

Syrian dictator invited Russia to assist, why cannot Ukraine invite NATO?
Fair enough but that's assuming that NATO has the political will to be in a conflict with Russia [at the moment this will is lacking]. How far is NATO willing to actually go? Also it does set a precedent in that in the future NATO might be 'invited' in by another country [non NATO country] which sees itself threatened.

You keep ignoring that after the collapse of the USSR and the end of the Russia empire, NATO reduced it's military capacities, very significantly
You seem to keep ignoring the fact that there are 2 sides to the narrative. NATO indeed scaled back as part of the so call post Cold War peace dividends but Russia entered into an era of instability and weakness. The Yeltsin era was seen by many in the West as a period when Russia 'behaved' and cooperated in arms reduction talks; kept largely silent about NATO expansion eastwards, etc. The problem is that era is seen
by many Russians as an era when the West took advantage of a Russia which was weak and could not focus on external issues.

However Russia then did two things: they gradually rebuilt their military, and they started a very aggressive expansionist politics
I'm sorry but isn't Russia allowed to rebuild its military which went into a steep period of decline in the post Cold War era?

they started a very aggressive expansionist politics
I see it as Russia doing what it felt was absolutely necessary to safeguard its core interests in areas importance to it; in response to moves undertaken by others which Russia perceived to be detrimental or even threatening to its interests.

I am still hoping that the West can convince Russia to return to diplomacy.
As far as I know diplomacy has not failed yet; per see. Both sides are still committed to further talks...

Also; I have no idea about 'convincing' but I know it works both ways; both sides have to make certain compromises to make the talks succeed. Unless of course one adopts the belief that Russia intended for the talks to fail and has long made the decision to invade the Ukraine.
 
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Big_Zucchini

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I see it as Russia doing what it felt was absolutely necessary to safeguard its core interests in areas importance to it; in response to moves undertaken by others which Russia perceived to be detrimental or even threatening to its interests.
There are other ways to do things. Russia's methods are aggressive, unnecessary, and frankly just have some significant downsides that prevent others from pursuing a similar path, at least today.
Russia cannot woo others economically and politically, whether if it's its own fault or not, and it likely will never be able to do so while positioning itself as an opponent to the wealthier, free-er west, especially in the age of the internet where everyone can see the relatively much better life in the west.
But then, its decision to reject a western lifestyle and prevent its citizens from having that, is still, in the end, its own decision, and the consequences are quite clear - political entities in the global arena will be more polarized, and its "allies" will be more puppets than actual allies that feel truly compelled to help in times of need. It and its allies will also be less capable of helping one another because of the isolation from the wealthy west.

Countries of importance to Russia will either fear it and join it as puppets, or will be drawn closer to the west out of a notion they can deter Russia with some help.

So although Russia's strategy to reoccupy the former Soviet Union states is logical, its endgame strategy isn't. And the former is a result of the latter.

Bottom line is Russia does not do what's absolutely necessary vis a vis Ukraine. Neither with Georgia, Belarus, Moldova, Kazakhstan, etc. A more peaceful approach would almost certainly yield far better results, even without the aspect of relieving Russia from economical sanctions. Its long shared history, familial bonds, and cultural bonds, can certainly keep the former allies tethered to it, as well as the benefits of geographical proximity, large population (customers) and abundance of natural resources. To do that, Russia may need to westernize, but everything we see today is the result of its decision not to do so.
 

ngatimozart

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More or less true, ignoring the whole self-determination angle vis-a-vis Crimea. But it's also irrelevant to my point. There is a binding international agreement, the second Minsk accords. In principle Ukraine is bound by it, and has for all practical purposes refused to implement it. There is a de facto status quo, which is a mostly frozen conflict in the Donbass, two rebel provinces with functional governments and uniformed militaries, and a front line separating them and Ukraine, regularly observed by OSCE personnel. Breaking this status quo by Ukraine would produce a reaction from Russia. Withdrawing openly from Minsk 2 would produce a reaction from Russia (not necessarily a military one, it would likely depend on context). It makes sense to analytically distinguish a Russian reaction to a Ukrainian move aimed at changing the status quo from a proactive Russian move to alter the status quo. Value judgements are a separate conversation entirely. However it seems to me that western media and political discussions often conflate a Russian move to gain ground in Donbass, or even take over Ukraine, with a Russian response to a Ukrainian attempt to crush the rebels by force. These scenarios are not the same and imply different things, and involve different decision makers.
Oops my bad. I had forgotten about the Minsk Accords.

However even then the rebels are still on sovereign Ukraine territory and Putin's green men running around on Ukrainian territory stirring up the locals against the government in Minsk is tantamount to an act of war, as is his annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. If he has special forces (probably Spetznaz) in there now ready to undertake a special maskirovka mission, as is claimed by some, then he's fomenting another act of war if it occurs.
Stalin definitely didn't extend the boundries of the empire the furthest. The furthest extent was under Nicholas II, when Russia held most of modern day Poland, all of modern day Finland, and the currently Chinese province of Manchuria (there was even a settlement project for "Yellow Russia" to resettle Manchuria with Russian and Ukrainian peasants).
I was including the areas liberated during the Great Patriotic War from the Hitlerites and their toadies in Eastern Europe, who were held under Soviet domination until the collapse of the USSR in 1990. It's not like any of them had the freedom to walk away. Hungary in 1956, and Czechoslovakia in 1968 tried for a little independence and that didn't work out to well for them. The Elbe River is significantly further west than Poland too. Tsar Nicholas also lost his territories in Manchuria and Korea to the Japanese. The Russo-Japanese war of 1905 / 06 didn't work out to well for him. Losing a fleet in the Straits of Tsushima wasn't a good look either.
I'm honestly not sure. I get the feeling that Putin somewhat painted himself into a corner with his moves in eastern Ukraine back in 2014-15, and tried to break out of that corner by several means, including shifting Russian economic alignment heavily away from the West, making moves in the Middle East that among other things forced many western countries to re-open dialogue with Russia (it also accomplished other things), and now once again he's trying to engage with the West on some sort of framework. I suspect he would be satisfied with a situation where the ex-USSR consists of either friendly or neutral (including neutral-hostile) countries, as long as it 1) doesn't host any NATO/US bases, and 2) doesn't have any NATO/EU member states. This was the conclusion drawn by the RAND corporation in their paper on Russian grand strategy as well. I also suspect that arguments along the lines of "independent countries get to make their own decisions" will hold no water with him or others in Russian leadership. And remember the future of Ukraine is being decided in a discussion between the US and Russia, while Zelenskiy is shut out. If this isn't an effective admission by the US that Ukraine doesn't decide it's own future, I don't know what is.
I would suspect that one reason Zelenskiy wasn't included by the Americans is because they may have reason to believe that the RF-SVR may have penetrated his organisation and government fairly thoroughly. I also wouldn't be surprised if the PRC-MSS have penetrated it pretty well to. I also agree with your last sentence and it has overtones of the 1938 Munich agreement.[/QUOTE]
 

STURM

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I was including the areas liberated during the Great Patriotic War from the Hitlerites and their toadies in Eastern Europe, who were held under Soviet domination until the collapse of the USSR in 1990.
That would include East Prussia, Silesia and Pomerenia which went to the Soviets and Poland. The Soviet Union's borders shifted west into Poland and as compensation Poland received parts of Prussia and other areas. There was also a realignment of borders in other parts of Europe; agreed upon at Postdam.

There are other ways to do things. Russia's methods are aggressive, unnecessary, and frankly just have some significant downsides that prevent others from pursuing a similar path, at least today.
Then some way has to be found to reach common ground with Russia; in order for NATO/the West to safeguard its interests and for Russia to do the same without both sides continuing to being odds with each other.

So although Russia's strategy to reoccupy the former Soviet Union states is logical, its endgame strategy isn't. And the former is a result of the latter.
Is it really Russia's ultimate goal to ''to reoccupy the former Soviet Union states'' or is it its goal to ensure those states remain as non NATO or non aligned states as buffers to NATO and as places where Russia can exert its influence in line with its interests?

A more peaceful approach would almost certainly yield far better results, even without the aspect of relieving Russia from economical sanctions. Its long shared history, familial bonds, and cultural bonds, can certainly keep the former allies tethered to it
I'm basing my assumptions on the premise that Russia does not want war but that it has reached its limit with regards to what it sees as NATO expansion and spreading of its influence in areas which have long been Russia's backyard; something which it sees as intolerable and something it's willing to go to war over if left with no choice.

 
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Big_Zucchini

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Then some way has to be found to reach common ground with Russia; in order for NATO/the West to safeguard its interests and for Russia to do the same without both sides continuing to being odds with each other.
That's impossible as long as Russia rejects westernism.

Is it really Russia's ultimate goal to ''to reoccupy the former Soviet Union states'' or is it its goal to ensure those states remain as non NATO or non aligned states as buffers to NATO and as places where Russia can exert its influence in line with its interests?
Its goal could be to have both vassals and keep NATO away. It's not too difficult to see how both are beneficial to Russia's strategy. But this would breed hate for Russia in the vassal states, so it's not really sustainable unless Russia is willing to invest in cracking down on protests.
If the west just ignores this conflict and allows Russia to have Ukraine because "we have to meet them halfway", then that just ignores tens of millions of people who live there whose purpose is to be cannon fodders, and in whom Russia will never invest.

I'm basing my assumptions on the premise that Russia does not want war but that it has reached its limit with regards to what it sees as NATO expansion and spreading of its influence in areas which have long been Russia's backyard; something which it sees as intolerable and something it's willing to go to war over if left with no choice.
There's always the option of Russia just abandoning the 2nd cold war and joining the west in some capacity. This option is not too un-realistic. When Putin's rein ends, we could see a political change. By then, today's youth will be the adults, and their voice will have some value.
Russia's also not exactly guilt-free of expansion. Its campaign in Syria, coziness with Iran, China, and North Korea, its ties with Venezuela and Cuba, its territory in Poland and war in Georgia, and its influence in countries like Armenia and Azerbaijan, and its rule over neighbors like Kazakhstan and Belarus.
Russia's playing the exact same game it accuses the west of playing, and it makes sense if we think of Russia as one interested in the glory days of the soviet union and who must under any circumstances oppose the west.

But we can't expect every nation's leadership to make the absolutely best decisions for the country's sake. For example we have theocracies beheading homosexuals for literally no reason. The Soviet Union based its economy on 50 shades of unstable models (socialism mostly), despite knowing full well they cannot sustain it in the long term, especially when it comes to growth.
Right now Russia is taking the same approach of unstable situation with its neighbors and vassals, as a long term solution. After all, Ukraine's wishes to join the EU and NATO, didn't come from those organizations. It came from Ukraine.
 

STURM

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That's impossible as long as Russia rejects westernism.
Simple as that? Russia adopting Western values, norms and governance and it all will fall into place?

I don't see it [a mutual agreement] as 'impossible'' if both sides have genuine desire to compromise and fully understand what makes each other do what they do....

There's always the option of Russia just abandoning the 2nd cold war and joining the west in some capacity. This option is not too un-realistic.
Russia's 'Cold War' ways are driven by what it sees as threatening and aggressive moves on the part of NATO. How Russia continues to behave will be driven by what NATO does and vice versa...

Its campaign in Syria, coziness with Iran, China, and North Korea, its ties with Venezuela and Cuba, its territory in Poland and war in Georgia, and its influence in countries like Armenia and Azerbaijan, and its rule over neighbors like Kazakhstan and Belarus.
All those are in line with what it sees as its legitimate interests; just like how the U.S. - despite it stance on human rights and democracy - cozies up to certain countries [some which are allies] which don't even have elected governments.... Also; so what if it has ties with the likes of Iran and Cuba; is it supposed not to merely because both countries happen to be in the bad books of Uncle Sam or part of the so called 'Axis of Evil'?

Also; Russia's campaign in Syria played a big part in the rolling back of IS [like it or not Iran did the same in Iraq]; although we tend to hear less of this and more of how Russia saved Assad from being overthrown.

When Putin's rein ends, we could see a political change.
Don't assume that a future democratic Russia will be eager to ingratiate itself with the West and be a subservient or compliant partner. It might be even more aggressive and assertive in standing up for its interests. Just like how a future China not ruled by the Chinese Communist Party might be even more aggressive or assertive in standing up for its interests; whether in the South China Sea or elsewhere.

After all, Ukraine's wishes to join the EU and NATO, didn't come from those organizations. It came from Ukraine.
Every ex Warsaw Pact or communist country which joined NATO was eager and all of them I'm sure made enquiries on membership. We saw how from 1999 onwards NATO kept steadily expanding closer and closer to Russia's borders; yet Russia was supposed to keep quiet?
 

Big_Zucchini

Well-Known Member
I'm not interested in a repeat of "everyone is equally responsible and to blame", so I will summarize my opinion:
Russian policy towards former Soviet states didn't keep NATO away, it achieved the opposite effect - Russia pushed its neighbors into NATO, and is now dealing with the consequences of its policies.
 
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swerve

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The fable of the north wind & the sun. I'm still surprised that after over 2500 years there are still people who don't understand it.
 

Feanor

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There are other ways to do things. Russia's methods are aggressive, unnecessary, and frankly just have some significant downsides that prevent others from pursuing a similar path, at least today.
Russia cannot woo others economically and politically, whether if it's its own fault or not, and it likely will never be able to do so while positioning itself as an opponent to the wealthier, free-er west, especially in the age of the internet where everyone can see the relatively much better life in the west.
But then, its decision to reject a western lifestyle and prevent its citizens from having that, is still, in the end, its own decision, and the consequences are quite clear - political entities in the global arena will be more polarized, and its "allies" will be more puppets than actual allies that feel truly compelled to help in times of need. It and its allies will also be less capable of helping one another because of the isolation from the wealthy west.

Countries of importance to Russia will either fear it and join it as puppets, or will be drawn closer to the west out of a notion they can deter Russia with some help.

So although Russia's strategy to reoccupy the former Soviet Union states is logical, its endgame strategy isn't. And the former is a result of the latter.

Bottom line is Russia does not do what's absolutely necessary vis a vis Ukraine. Neither with Georgia, Belarus, Moldova, Kazakhstan, etc. A more peaceful approach would almost certainly yield far better results, even without the aspect of relieving Russia from economical sanctions. Its long shared history, familial bonds, and cultural bonds, can certainly keep the former allies tethered to it, as well as the benefits of geographical proximity, large population (customers) and abundance of natural resources. To do that, Russia may need to westernize, but everything we see today is the result of its decision not to do so.
I think you're mistaken on several points.

In principle Russia doesn't reject the "western lifestyle". Russia today is a capitalist country by any reasonable definition. However lifestyle requires economic prosperity, and in a way so does democracy. This is where some issues stem from. The closest Russia got to a middle class demanding democratization as a group were the 2012 protests against Putin's 3rd term. Note how limited in geography and scale they were. (on a side note I think Putin made a mistake going for a third term, I think he should have remained prime minister or even stepped into some grandfatherly role like head of the Security Council)

Russia also does offer economic incentives to friends and allies, including beneficial trade arrangements and even major discounts on the prices of oil and natural gas. The Belarussian economy, largely unremarkable, has done so much better than Ukraine in part due to the discount on oil and has it enjoyed for many years. Today consider the price for gas Serbia with it's pro-Russian leadership enjoys vs. Poland. However in the case of the Baltic States, or Ukraine, I don't believe any Russia that isn't weak and divided would be anything but a potential threat to the political elites in those countries. Ukraine in particular is still run by the same kinds of robber-baron oligarchs that ran Russia in the 90's. To them the problem isn't Russian aggression. It's that any stable and prosperous Russia is a bad precedent for their own rule. The one thing they fear, and have feared since the early 2000s, is that either the Putin or a home-grown Putin will take over and put an end to their oligarchical clans, or at least severely reign them in. This is why Ukraine is willing to go against economic common sense, against a large chunk of its own population, and certainly against public opinion (consider polling data on the language question in Ukraine and compare it with the government stance). Ukraine's elites have effectively nothing to offer their own people and they know it. Which means that unless they can build a highly anti-Russian ideological framework, they always run the risk of either a domestic pro-Russian strong-man, or actual Russia, ousting them.

Georgia is a separate situation where an existing, internationally recognized conflict in the country, based on ethnic cleansing committed by multiple sides but initially started mostly at the prompting of Gamsakhurdia, brought the country to the brink of a Yugoslavia-style dissolution. In the mid-90s the arrival of Russian peacekeepers had a lot to do with keeping Georgia together as a country. And it's mostly the rise of nationalism, and Saakashvili specifically that led the country down a road to war. Remember Saakashvili's relations with Putin only soured after he swallowed up Adzharia and broken promises that he made. Had he allowed the Adzhars to keep the autonomy that was negotiated, he likely would have been allowed to re-absorb South Ossetia as well (though I suspect Abkhazia would be far more resistant to this).

I believe Russia very much wanted to be part of the collective west in the late 90s and early 2000s. However what Russia was thoroughly unsatisfied with is the role of a colder Saudi Arabia with nukes. Russia saw many countries enjoying spheres of political and economic influence (France in West Africa, or the USA all over the world) and believed it should have one too, for the obvious political and even more so economic reasons. There was still some lingering mistrust of western intentions, and NATO itself had been an adversary for such a long time that seeing them as anything but was challenging. NATO actions in Yugoslavia, without a UN mandate (including encouraging the Chetniks in Croatia) and US actions against Iraq, were all seen as precedents by Russian leadership and elites. And some of the lessons they took away were that if Russia were ever in a Yugoslavia-like situation vis-a-vis the North Caucuses (for example) and didn't have a credible nuclear deterrent, it's entirely conceivable (to them) that a US-led NATO force could intervene on the ground, and bomb Russian cities as part of a campaign to force a political resolution favorable to the west. Despite this not entirely irrational fear, I believe there was still a genuine desire to integrate with the west, but only on terms of equality. And this is where friction began in large part between the doctrine of US exceptionalism, as the sole surviving super power, and Russian insistence of a complete absence of any US exceptionalism, except such as is codified in existing international structures (UN Security Council membership for example). In other words, if America is allowed to invade Iraq on a fictional pretense of WMDs, and engage in whole sale regime change, why isn't Russia allowed to do something similar? If America is allowed to fund political movements aimed at promoting US agendas in other countries, what's wrong if Russia does it? Why is it that when the US does it it's "democracy promotion" and when Russia does it it's "meddling in the affairs of a sovereign state"? In my opinion this is where distrust of the US, and US-led institutions such as NATO grew steadily throughout the 2000s. The BMD discussions did nothing to help the situation and the attempt by western media to portray the 2008 war as just a Russian aggression didn't help either. You'll notice during this time that Russian relations with individual European NATO members differed wildly from Russia fear of NATO as an institution, and Russian friction with the US.
 

Feanor

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  • #155
I think things went from bad to worse in the wake of the crisis in Ukraine, where Russia reached a compromise with the EU, involving Yanukovich remaining in office. It was called the February accords. However shortly after that a violent coup d'etat occurred, and instead of condemning it, the West simply pretended like Turchinov and Yatsenyuk were now the legitimate government of Ukraine, despite being marginal right wing nationalists that couldn't win an election to save their lives. The duplicitous stance on the anti-Maydan protests also soured relations badly. When pro-western protests, with open western political support lead to a violent coup d'etat toppling an elected government, it's all fine, and the police and the government suppressing the protests are demonized. When protests erupt against the coup, and are similarly violently suppressed, it's ignored by western media and politicians, or worse simply written off as Russian meddling. The reality is that Ukraine is a divided country, and western actors pretending that this wasn't the case, and that Russian concerns or Russia's position had no legitimacy, likely had a lot to do with Russian moves in Crimea. Even then I suspect that this was at least party an attempt to force Ukrainian leadership to the negotiating table (it also had a lot to do with preserving Russian military bases in Sevastopol). Since then Russia has been trying to regain it's footing with western Europe whom Russia rightly sees as important trading partners and would like some sort of agreement with on grounds of equality, all while opposing the US whom Russia for reasons listed above sees as an adversary, and arguably correctly so.

I would like to emphasize that this is my opinion, on why Russian leadership has acted the way it did, and where their apprehensions and fears come from. I also think it's useful to separate Russian relations with individual NATO members, including much of Western Europe, from it's relationship to NATO as a whole, and it's relations with the US. Remember as late as Russian operations in Syria, Spain provided logistical support for the VMF (and I suspect only stopped this due to the political stink raised in the media). Russia also wanted the CSTO involved in policing the cease-fire in Eastern Ukraine, because one lesson they took away from the Georgian war is that international observers can provide a measure of objectivity in reporting the situation on the ground.
 

Feanor

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  • #156
Oops my bad. I had forgotten about the Minsk Accords.

However even then the rebels are still on sovereign Ukraine territory and Putin's green men running around on Ukrainian territory stirring up the locals against the government in Minsk is tantamount to an act of war, as is his annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. If he has special forces (probably Spetznaz) in there now ready to undertake a special maskirovka mission, as is claimed by some, then he's fomenting another act of war if it occurs.
So we have to separate several aspects of this situation.

First there were the anti-Maydan protests. They didn't involve little green men, and were largely a reaction of the greater Ukrainian south-east to the coup d'etat in Kiev. Remember Yanukovich won an election primarily due to his support from these regions.

Second was the annexation of Crimea. This is where the so called little green men showed up. They weren't stirring up the locals, the locals were already stirred up. In some cases they did use crowds of angry locals to disarm local military units, but let's remember that the majority of Ukraine's troops in Crimea ended up serving in the Russian military. The numbers I recall off the top of my head were ~14 000 out of ~17 500.

Third is the current Russian involvement with the rebels in the east. Russia maintains a small but basically permanent military presence there. It likely (though hard to confirm for obvious reasons) includes an SoF or SpN element, and it definitely involves Russian military advisers at the higher levels of rebel leadership. I suspect every brigade has Russian advisers attached. It also involves Russian logistical support without which the rebels would have long since been defeated.

Could these be considered a casus belli by Ukraine. Of course. And Ukraine has repeatedly stated that they are at war or under attack by Russia. But they haven't declared war on Russia and certainly don't act like they're at war with Russia. Hell, they still buy Russian gas to heat themselves every winter. Which brings us to the question - what's the significance of this being legally a cause for war, if Ukraine is obviously not interested in going to war with Russia?

I was including the areas liberated during the Great Patriotic War from the Hitlerites and their toadies in Eastern Europe, who were held under Soviet domination until the collapse of the USSR in 1990. It's not like any of them had the freedom to walk away. Hungary in 1956, and Czechoslovakia in 1968 tried for a little independence and that didn't work out to well for them. The Elbe River is significantly further west than Poland too. Tsar Nicholas also lost his territories in Manchuria and Korea to the Japanese. The Russo-Japanese war of 1905 / 06 didn't work out to well for him. Losing a fleet in the Straits of Tsushima wasn't a good look either.
The Russian Imperial Navy in 1905 was in an absolutely horrible state. Warships are more technologically complex and require more technical skills then pretty much any other aspect of warfare, and the lack of an educated officer class (they had officers but many were so incompetent as to be harmful), extremely poor gunnery training, brutal conditions for the enlisted personnel, and the smug incompetence of higher leadership who completely failed to understand the nature of the threat they faced made defeat, catastrophic defeat, all but inevitable.

I would suspect that one reason Zelenskiy wasn't included by the Americans is because they may have reason to believe that the RF-SVR may have penetrated his organisation and government fairly thoroughly. I also wouldn't be surprised if the PRC-MSS have penetrated it pretty well to. I also agree with your last sentence and it has overtones of the 1938 Munich agreement.
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Maybe. But I suspect that the US has also finally heard Russia's position, which is that Ukraine's leadership is de-facto beholden to the US. Whether true or not in fact, this may be a reaction to that.

Personally I don't think comparisons to 1930s Germany for modern day Russia are accurate. I think it's a false analogy. Hitler was a young leader and Germany was a relatively new power looking to expand and establish itself. Russia is an old power that has lost much of its territory and population, and is trying to prevent further encroachment on its former domain. It's much less likely to be deterred, but also much less likely to attend to push beyond certain limits.
 

Feanor

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  • #157
One more thought in general on the topic of this situation. I don't think any amount of friendliness from Russia would have prevented the east-ward expansion of the Euro-Atlantic political and economic space. Belonging to the EU and NATO were seen as signs of belonging to the prosperous west and the desire to join these institutions was in my opinion more connected to this then it was to fear of Russia, though fear of Russia certainly helped, and made for a convenient narrative.
 

cdxbow

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One more thought in general on the topic of this situation. I don't think any amount of friendliness from Russia would have prevented the east-ward expansion of the Euro-Atlantic political and economic space. Belonging to the EU and NATO were seen as signs of belonging to the prosperous west and the desire to join these institutions was in my opinion more connected to this then it was to fear of Russia, though fear of Russia certainly helped, and made for a convenient narrative.
Feanor, underlying much of this seems to be a believe that Russia is at risk of invasion from "the West". However It's a nonsense. I don't believe there is anybody in 'the west' who seriously envisages invading Russia. We all saw how that went for Hitler and Napoleon, who commanded armies that had dominated Europe but failed dismally in Russia. So it's written in western DNA - do not invade Russia. In no circumstances invade Russia. So do Russians really believe the west is going to invade?

I appreciate the difference between fear of invasion and fear of a diminishing spheres of influence, however as earlier posters have pointed out, much of Russian behaviour has been counter productive by pushing ex soviet countries towards Europe for safety, because they have become concerned for their survival. I accept your points about the hypocrisy of the West regards the very foolish second Iraq war, the unexpected consequences of that war reverberating still today. I am reminded of the old saying 'Two wrongs don't make a right. I also find there is a very strong thread of victimhood in the Russian narrative. Its always someone else's fault.
 

STURM

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I'm not interested in a repeat of "everyone is equally responsible and to blame", so I will summarize my opinion:
Russian policy towards didn't keep NATO away, it achieved the opposite effect - Russia pushed its neighbors into NATO, and is now dealing with the consequences of its policies.
I'm also not interested in emphasising things over and over again. I will say however that there are 2 two sides to every narrative; that adopting the position that one side is solely or largely to blame and viewing things mainly from the narrow lens of one particular side provides a very convenient and appealing narrative but one which is distorted, inaccurate and simplistic.

You want to talk about policy; NATO's policy of slowly expanding closer and closer to Russia's border's and sphere of interests have not worked. It has not created a more stable Europe and has not deterred Russia - it has had the opposite effect. It has created a very annoyed and insecure Russia and that has consequences as Russia is reacting the way it knows how; in a way which it feels works for it.; in ways which I suspect NATO/the West are not really sure how to respond to apart from doing what they've long been doing.

What is NATOs/the West's ultimate solution to this problem? More rhetoric about how Russia is a ''threat''; is ''expansionist'' and ''destabilising''; followed by more sanctions and exercises to ''show resolve in the face of aggression''? If that does not work what next? Enlarge NATO even further? If Russia still misbehaves what next; any answers? Either NATO/the West maintains the present course or it genuinely makes an attempt to reach some level of common ground with the Russians. Then again some adopt the position that this is impossible because Russia is not willing to budge at all and that it wants the talks to fail in order to be able to justify a later invasion of the Ukraine.
 
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