Staunton, VA, September 15, 2016 – If Vladimir Putin sends his forces to seize any of the former Soviet republics — including the three Baltic states which are NATO members — the Western alliance won’t do anything more than express “deep concern” because the major European governments will be led by “people loyal to Russia,” according to Andrey Illarionov.
Because ever more NATO countries appear likely to be led by such people in the near future, the commentator says, they will be ever more willing to “cooperate with the dictator from Russia” and ever less ready “to risk anything for the defense even of NATO borders not to speak of countries like Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia and others”.
As a result, “on this space, which now exists in a vacuum deprived of security will occur what Putin has often talked about, the realization of [his] program of ‘the Russian world.’” And Moscow “one way or another will seek the establishment of control by military and non-military means over a greater part of Ukraine, Belarus, Transdniestria, and part of Georgia.”
“It is thus not excluded,” Illarionov says, that Moscow will seek to gain control of “northeastern Estonia and eastern Latvia.”
“We know,” he told a recent meeting in Poland, “what the answer that NATO and the Western world will give to these actions. There will be no answer.” Or more precisely, there will be expressions of concern regarding “the violation of international law” and “the violation of all principles which we have known since World War II. But there won’t be any concrete response.” Given the likelihood of that, the Russian commentator says, Putin is likely to achieve his goals.
Tragically, Illarionov may prove to be correct, although all people of good will should hope he isn’t. Putin has shown himself a master of combing aggression in some spheres with expressions of a desire to cooperate in others and to simply wait out Western leaders who feel themselves compelled to show progress by reaching an accord with him.
And even more worrisome, there is an increasing willingness in the West to accept the the former Soviet space as lying within Russia’s droit de regard and to say that because Moscow’s moves are confined to the former Soviet space, they do not threaten the West and should be viewed as a rather typical sorting out of imperial legacies.
But such views entail two kinds of dangers that should matter very much to the West. On the one hand, if many in the region conclude that Illarionov is right, some may surrender but others may behave in more radical ways, provoking a Russian imperialist response that could threaten ever more of the Soviet region.
And on the other, despite what Putin and his admirers may think and even suggest, there is no indication that Putin has any intention of stopping at the Soviet borders. His actions in Syria in support of a dictator there should convince anyone open to convincing that he has a much larger and more dangerous agenda – and that if he is not blocked now, he will pursue it.