Those that think the age of empires has passed are apparently unaware of what is happening before their very eyes. As Iran lays the foundations for a modern Persia, China seeks domination of the Asia and ISIS dreams of a new Muslim Caliphate, the world is becoming besieged with empire seekers. One of the most active of those seeking dominion over others is a reemerging Russia.
Born of conflict, Russia was built on conquest. From the Czars to the Soviet Premiers, Russians have always sought new lands to conquer. Truth be told, empire seems to be written into the Russian DNA. Their history glorifies it, the citizenry relish in it and its loss is scar on the Russian national identity. Putin especially has expressed the deep sense of loss at seeing the Soviet Union dissolved. For the first time in hundreds of years, Russia found itself without territories to rule over. A situation that Putin has set out to rectify.
Having already added to the Russian fold through coercion, blackmail and even bribery, he now looks to those lands who have rebuffed his advances. Presently, that means bread basket of Eastern Europe, Ukraine. Those who see Russian ambitions in Ukraine as limited in scope are fooling themselves. James Meek, writer for the Asian Times, answers his own question in regards to Ukraine. In a piece aptly titled What Does Russia Want, he answers simply they want it all. Truthfully, Russia would of preferred a quiet takeover via a puppet Ukrainian leadership, but that failed. For Russia, Ukraine is one of the jewels in its imperial crown, to let it go its own way is unconscionable. Stalin, when faced with a rising independence movement, crushed it by starving 1/4 to 1/3 of the Ukrainian population. Tanks and troops kept the Ukrainians in line ofter that. Many of the Children of Stalin’s soldiers stayed and are now carrying on with what their fathers started.
This is not to say Russia seeks war with the West, it likely does not (at least for the time being) Today Russia is playing a new game, one it learned from the likes of North Korea and Iran. To get what you want from the west a slow process of belligerency and artificial capitulation can often get out of the West what direct confrontation can not. To this end, force feeding weapons and advisers to ethnic Russians while claiming a desire for peace serves Russia’s new Czar well. His agreement to a cease fire to forestall calls to send arms to the Ukrainian Army was merely a ruse. The forces under his control have not spared any bullets as they used the agreement to take even more land.
For the west, the choice now is either to arm the Ukrainians and risk a bigger war (an unlikely even if plausible outcome) or let Russia take the country piece by piece. This could of been stopped early if a leader with some backbone had confronted the rising bear. History has long proven that weakness, in the face of a Russian imperialist, is like a red cape to a bull. In this case, the red cape in question is called Barack Obama.
Many fear, if Russia is not stopped, that the Baltic states could be next. The Baltic states, like Ukraine, have a large population of ethnic Russians that could be called on to start trouble. Lithuania in particular has had issues with Russian heavy handedness and a troublesome Russian populous. While all of this makes a Russian Baltic invasion a possibility, it is still unlikely (at least in the short term). It is the Balkan, not the Baltic, states he has his eye on. Much Russian blood was spilled in an effort to snatch Southeastern Europe from the Ottomans.. Even today, the battles fought there ring in the ears of Russian school children, and monuments to Russian dead dot the Balkan landscape to an extent found nowhere else outside of Russia itself.
For Russia, the Ukraine is the gateway to the Balkans and the reestablishment of the Russian Empire. To that end, the current trouble being stirred in Hungary should raise concerns. The increasingly totalitarian state there has been cozying up to Russia, and making back door deals. This despite protest from Hungarians. All signs are that Hungary is the next step in Putin’s plan. If successful there, Serbia will run into Russian arms and the rest of the Balkans will fall like dominoes. After that, all bets are off.
The day when the West, and the U.S. in particular, could of easily stopped Putin in his tracks has past. As Britain’s House of Loads so aptly put it, the West has sleep walked into this crisis. Obama, for his part, has been to interested in “resetting” relations and being “more flexible” to see what was going on before his eyes. Weak kneed, and uncomfortable exercising influence and power, President Obama has been putty in Putin’s diminutive hands. What is worse, the time when something can be done to stop the Russian advance is quickly fading as well.
As with ISIS, China’s preparations for war and Iran’s less than hidden regional ambitions, Obama”s ideology blinds him to the danger poised by Russia. What Obama clearly has never understood, is the U.S has been the world’s anchor. A stabilizing force in the stormy seas of human ambition. When America doesn’t stand up, either no one else will or no one else can. This is especially true when it comes to a prowling bear in need of countries to devour.
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