What Putin really fears | The hill

By unleashing a Russian blitzkrieg on Ukraine, Vladimir PoutineVladimir Vladimirovich PutinHouse Oversight Launches Investigation into Credit Suisse Ties to Russian Oligarchs Biden’s ‘Careless Remark’ About Putin GOP Incense Leon Panetta: ‘We All Share the Moral Outrage About Putin’ MORE also shattered Europe’s long peace, with huge security implications for the United States. The pacification of Europe – the world’s most dangerous cauldron of conflict in the last century – was the crowning achievement of American art, and it may be unraveling.

The Russian strongman’s use of brute force to crush Ukraine’s independence is a tragedy for its 40 million citizens. But in ordering the largest military mobilization in Europe since World War II, Putin also sought to heavily arm transatlantic allies to roll back NATO’s eastward expansion after the end of the Cold War.

President BidenJoe BidenPelosi: ‘I fear for our democracy’ if Republicans win Jan. 6 panel votes in the House to advance Navarro contempt proceedings, Scavino Biden’s ‘careless remark’ on Putin’s incense GOP MORE and European leaders resisted this absurd demand. They know that placating Putin by giving him carte blanche in Moscow’s “sphere of influence” would not bring peace. Instead, it would destabilize and redivide Europe, subjugating nine NATO members who were again Soviet vassals to Russian dictates.

Ukraine is not a member of NATO – and Putin’s unprovoked aggression is meant to ensure that it never becomes one. Biden has made it clear that the West will not go to war to protect him from Russia. But the United States and Europe must stand in solidarity with Ukraine and never accept its enslavement by Russia.

Nor should they let the world forget that Putin’s justification for destroying Ukraine’s sovereignty is based entirely on lies and historical fiction. The Kremlin’s propaganda machine is working overtime to convince the world that Russia’s goal is to “denazify” Ukraine and protect ethnic Russians in breakaway provinces from “genocide.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is a comedian, not a fascist. Unlike Putin, he was chosen in free and fair democratic elections. The idea that Ukraine poses a threat to the security of its giant, nuclear-armed neighbor is a bad joke.

The aggressor here is Putin. In 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine for the first time, forcibly annexing Crimea and arming Russian separatists in two provinces in eastern Ukraine that Putin “recognized” as independent earlier this week. In a charged grievance speech On Monday, Putin denied that Ukraine has any right to exist outside of Russia.

The speech, by turns delirious, belligerent and self-pity, showed that the West is not dealing with a fully rational calculator in the Kremlin. Instead, the former KGB officer launched a geopolitical crisis fueled by his longstanding resentment over the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, and his paranoid view that a victorious Western alliance had since been plotting to “to slow down the development of Russia”.

And importantly, Putin’s brutal diplomacy is backfiring. Consider what he has accomplished so far:

Reinvigorate NATO. The 73-year-old alliance reached its peak under the former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump issues statement claiming hole-in-one on Florida Pelosi course: ‘I fear for our democracy’ if Republicans win January 6 House panel vote to advance Navarro contempt proceedings , Scavino PLUS, who scorned it as an anachronism that allows our European partners to bleed America for defense subsidies. Putin’s drive to bring the Russian empire together and the grim threats of nuclear attack against any nation that interferes have been a stark reminder to the allies why NATO remains indispensable to their mutual security. In fact, NATO membership is now Europe’s strongest barrier against Russian expansionism.

Solidify the national identity of Ukraine. In a long historical tract to Russian troops, Putin argues that Russians and Ukrainians “are one people” and that “true Ukrainian sovereignty is only possible in partnership with Russia”. Ukrainians disagree, and for the first time since independence a majority in favor of joining NATO. Even if Russian forces score a quick first victory, Putin could face a long and bloody insurgency. The United States should arm Ukrainians ready to fight for their freedom.

Support President Biden. The crisis allowed Biden to flesh out his claim that “America is back” in its leading role in collective security and solving global problems. His resolute stance against Putin’s inextinguishable demands has helped him win the trust of our European allies and begin to repair the damage the Afghan debacle has done to his reputation for foreign policy skill. The White House is now imposing punitive sanctions that will hurt Russia’s fragile economy by denying Moscow access to the international banking and financial system.

Unite Europe. There has been little clarity between Biden and key European leaders on how to respond to Putin’s belligerence. European Union leaders are also imposing sanctions and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has frozen the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is intended to send Russian gas to Europe. This is potentially a blow to the Russian economy, which is heavily dependent on oil and gas exports. It would also mean major sacrifices for Europeans, who depend on Russia for 40% of their energy.

The Ukrainian crisis orchestrated by Putin is turning into a clash between despotism and democracy. During 22 years of increasingly dictatorial and kleptocratic rule, Putin dashed hopes that Russia would break with its brutally authoritarian past and join Europe as an open, prosperous and free society that respects individual rights and Right wing state.

Instead, he spent his time rigging elections, consolidating power, helping friendly oligarchs plunder the country, suppressing dissent, assassinating regime critics, bolstering the Russian military — and to feed its historic grudge against the United States and Europe.

American “realists” who insist that today’s confrontation is our fault for failing to respect Russia’s “legitimate security interests” have their backs turned. The relatively weak states surrounding Russia pose no military threat. Neither does NATO, by design a purely defensive alliance.

Also, what Putin really fears is that his post-Soviet neighbors will reorient themselves towards Europe and start demanding things like civil liberty and a real voice in how they are governed – and that contagion spread to Russia.

The West does not have to sympathize with this fear of Putin. The best guarantee of American and European security now is a renewed commitment to deterring Russian aggression.

Will Marshall is president and founder of the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI).

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