Tue. Jan 18th, 2022

According to Gideon Rachman, Russian President Vladimir Putin “mixed threats to his own rule with threats to the nation” (“Putin’s threats obscure his vulnerability”, Opinion11 January). In this interpretation, Putin simply cannot tolerate the emergence of a healthy, vibrant democracy next door, because it would give Russia’s struggling opposition movement the much-needed inspiration it needs to challenge the system – something that is simply unbearable for the Kremlin. .

By focusing primarily on ideology, however, Rachman sidesteps the role that security plays in driving Russia’s foreign policy. What so many observers see as Moscow’s attempt to arouse the Soviet Union is, in fact, an attempt to quench the most primitive desires of a state: self-preservation, power and maximum flexibility. After watching for a quarter of a century how NATO is expanding eastward and including members of the former Warsaw Pact, Putin is in fact trying to maintain the little buffer between Russia and NATO territory. The motive behind Russia’s troop build-up near Ukraine’s border is therefore less about advancing the establishment of a Western allied democracy in Kiev and more about preventing Ukraine (democratically or otherwise) from establishing itself in Western security institutions. hedge.

Many reject the idea, which is incessantly propagated by the political elite in Moscow, that Russia is under siege. With good reason: NATO at its core is a defensive alliance, not one aimed at expanding borders by force.

Yet our feelings are largely unimportant. From Moscow’s point of view, NATO is and will remain an anti-Russia alliance. US and European officials do not have to respect this position or pretend to nod in agreement when Russian officials try to play the victim. But if the Biden administration is to have a chance to de-escalate the situation and prevent a war in Europe, it will at least help to understand where Russia is coming from.

Only by appreciating what drives the other side can an effective, realistic policy be created.

Daniel R DePetris
Fellow, Defense Priorities

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