There’s a lot that I agree with in former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on the challenges that Russian President V. Putin presents to the West. For example his list of Russia’s particular grievances is pretty good:
His list of grievances is long and was on full display in his March 18 speech announcing the annexation of Crimea by Russia. He is bitter about what he sees as Russia’s humiliations in the 1990s—economic collapse; the expansion of NATO to include members of the U.S.S.R.’s own “alliance,” the Warsaw Pact; Russia’s agreement to the treaty limiting conventional forces in Europe, or as he calls it, “the colonial treaty”; the West’s perceived dismissal of Russian interests in Serbia and elsewhere; attempts to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO and the European Union; and Western governments, businessmen and scholars all telling Russia how to conduct its affairs at home and abroad.
I also completely endorse something that’s written between the lines of the op-ed but from which, unfortunately, he steps away. It’s not merely President Putin we have to worry about. He is merely an expression of what most Russians believe:
The only way to counter Mr. Putin’s aspirations on Russia’s periphery is for the West also to play a strategic long game. That means to take actions that unambiguously demonstrate to Russians that his worldview and goals—and his means of achieving them—over time will dramatically weaken and isolate Russia.
No one wants a new Cold War, much less a military confrontation. We want Russia to be a partner, but that is now self-evidently not possible under Mr. Putin’s leadership. He has thrown down a gauntlet that is not limited to Crimea or even Ukraine. His actions challenge the entire post-Cold War order including, above all, the right of independent states to align themselves and do business with whomever they choose.
Let me suggest something that may not have occurred to you. The largest problem in the crisis in the Ukraine isn’t Putin or Russia or Ukrainian right-wing extremists or weakness in U. S. policy. It’s Germany.
As with so many other European crises over the last twenty years the crisis in the Ukraine was fomented by Germany and is insoluble without German cooperation which so far has not been forthcoming. The reason that Germany was divided after World War II wasn’t to protect Germany from Russia. It was to protect the Europeans including Russians from Germany. Recently, some commenters here have expressed discomfort with Germany’s shouldering the cost of its own defense on the grounds of the dangers of an armed Germany. Why is a Europe dominated militarily by Germany unacceptable while a Europe dominated economically and politically by Germany is acceptable?