Like all dictators, Russian “president” Vladimir Putin is the paranoid type. In the Caucasus, the Crimea and now the Ukraine he operates outside of international norms, and one must question the stability of his thought processes, not to mention his personality. These lands are no “threat” to Russia itself, given that Russia is the “bully” on the block and always has been. The question in regard to Putin has always been whether he can be trusted to be a “good” neighbor, with shared goals with the European Union nations.
That is now put into question with those mysterious submarines in Swedish waters, intercepts with U.S. and NATO aircraft, plans to send possibly nuclear-armed long-range bombers to “patrol” the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico—neither places where Russia has any strategic interest, save for bald-faced intimidation purposes.
It is clear by these actions that Russia is a country not to be trusted, at least not with the power-mad Putin as its leader. Putin claims that he is acting the way he is because of “growing international resentment” against Russia. Oh really? Does he believe that his own actions have played no part in that? I understand that the U.S. doesn’t have a great deal of moral capital in this; after all, it “intervenes” where it is generally not wanted rather frequently in the Middle East. But attacking or undermining one’s neighbors for little or no provocation as Russia has done is quite another matter. The West does not want “conflict” with Russia, but neither does it want an out-of-control Russia that clearly has designs in opposition to the West’s interests. And Putin has shown no interest in “negotiating” in good faith with the West.
Some analysts claim that Putin believes that the West can be “forced” to come to ”friendly” terms with Russia by threatening it with its offensive or “preemptive” military capabilities, in response to “unfriendly” NATO efforts to bolster its own members’ defenses against potential acts of “intervention” by Russia. This may work, if German Chancellor Angela Merkel is any example, who views actions against Russia as a domestic economic issue; perhaps also may be the fact that Germany has little margin to lecture Russia on “neighborly” international behavior.
Putin has, of course, provided other rationalizations for his actions. He believes that Russia should return to its “proper” status on the international scene—meaning not as a “partner” with other European nations, because that would suggest playing by the rules of equals—but as a “super power” who can bully as it likes. Putin also justifies his actions by claiming that the Ukraine’s borders were “unnaturally” drawn, although his claim that this is due to the deliberate “Russification” of the Ukraine by settling more ethnic Russians into the eastern region does not delegitimize the Ukraine’s “natural” borders, which Putin and his separatist stand-ins are violating. On the other hand, his claim that this is also true of Poland is true in principle but not in the way he claims; Poland’s natural borders once extended far into what is Belarus today.
Fortunately for Putin (and unfortunately for the Ukraine), there is obviously some ennui in the West on the subject of the Ukraine. It is far from stable politically or economically, it’s military barely holding its own against the Russian separatists. The so-called ceasefire back in September was a farce from the start, and with Russian troops and equipment apparently pouring into separatist-held territory in recent days, it is unlikely that anything the West can do now will stop Putin now, since current sanctions haven’t even made him blink, thanks to oil revenue.
It is obvious now that there is a new “cold war” underway. Putin intends to “win” it by threatening the West with its military demonstrations, forcing it to back away from its “unfriendly” actions. The problem, of course, is that Putin has repeatedly demonstrated that he can’t be trusted. Have people already forgotten about the downed Malaysian civilian airliner in which hundreds of innocent people were killed, apparently by the separatists with a Russian-supplied anti-aircraft missile? After Putin repeatedly claimed that Russia is not supplying any support, either in “advisers,” fifth columnists, weapons or troops, to separatists?
Putin is the former KGB man who thinks nothing of sacrificing hundreds of his own people in botched assaults by his security forces against Chechen rebels: in fact more Russians have been killed by Russian security forces than by Chechen “terrorists.” He is also a man who apparently has no moral or ethical scruples worth speaking of. Lying and deception is just part of the game. In the Ukraine he did what comes natural to the spy: He infiltrates the targeted country, surreptitiously supplies various means to initiate and support a “coup,” and when found out lies about it.
And he can’t stop lying no matter how obvious the lie is; it is just part of his nature. He attempts to “justify” the action even as he continues to deceive that he has had nothing to do with it. And finally like a petulant child who has no adult understanding of moral or ethical principles, he can only respond to those who “annoy” him by attempting to intimidate those who demand adherence to civilized standards before they agree to truck with him as an “equal.”