(NewsGlobal.com)- 19FortyFive reports that Putin and a small group of highly paranoid men close to him came up with the idea to invade Ukraine because they believed that Russia needed to fight against Western aggression immediately if it wanted to survive.
In Overreach: The Inside Story of Putin and Russia’s War Against Ukraine, Owen Matthews, a former Newsweek correspondent based in Russia who is now a writer for the Spectator, makes this case for why Vladimir Putin decided to declare war.
According to Matthews, Russia’s security concerns stem from a profound dissatisfaction with the post-Cold War European security order. Even though Washington and Moscow agreed to work together to create a “common and comprehensive security” framework for the Euro-Atlantic region, American policymakers far too frequently ignored Russian geopolitical sensitivities throughout the NATO enlargement process.
The NATO-Russia Council was established in 2002 as an example of a post facto effort to include Russia in the new security architecture, but not on a “fair, egalitarian basis,” as Boris Yeltsin had proposed in 1997. Putin even mentioned joining NATO in 2000, saying that it would happen if “Russia’s interests will be reckoned with if it will be an equal partner.”
The statements by Yeltsin and Putin reflected the shared aspirations of Russian citizens. At the end of Yeltsin’s administration in 1999, according to a survey by Levada, an independent Russian research organization, “respondents had two main wishes of their new president: to end the economic crisis and to restore Russia to the status of superpower.”
In this context, a new era of tension between Russia and the West was set off by NATO’s decision at the April 2008 Bucharest summit to commit that Ukraine and Georgia would eventually join the alliance. “We view the appearance of a powerful military bloc on our borders… as a direct threat to the security of our country,” Putin ominously warned alliance leaders at the summit. The justification that this process is not intended to harm Russia will not do.
According to Matthews, Mikhail Saakashvili, the leader of Georgia, believed that “NATO’s woolly letter of intent”—bolstered by American supplies and training—would dissuade Russia from interfering in an offensive by Georgia to retake control of the breakaway region of South Ossetia.
Saakashvili discovered when Russian tanks invaded South Ossetia later that August, such promises were merely provocative enough to encourage Moscow’s aggressive opportunism to oppose NATO expansion.
The Russian response to NATO’s closer ties with Georgia showed Moscow’s willingness and capacity to act when it felt its core interests were in danger. Ukraine’s neutrality law of 2010 was a huge opportunity lost to normalize relations between Moscow and Kyiv permanently. However, it was destroyed by the Kremlin’s greed. Russia’s strategy for avoiding a full-scale conflict with the West consisted of fostering ongoing instability. Ukraine changed its mind about remaining neutral and ratified an amendment to join NATO. Minsk accords were signed months later to ” keep Donbas inside Ukraine as a counterweight.”