Image Credits: Economist
In the past 15 years, Russia has successfully invaded Georgia, annexed Crimea and took over parts of Eastern Ukraine through what came to be known as "asymmetric warfare", all this while facing minimal or negligible resistance from the west.
A nation that shares a border of 20,000 kilometers with 16 nations, 12 of which were part of former USSR Russia. Russia still has many challenges to deal with currently under a strong and politically motivated leader. Russia has sought to push against the Western world order and tries to keep a balance by trying to set a multipolar world thriving itself. From losing its territories and economic might in the late 20th century, it rose as a powerful, belligerent society and influential power.
Putin's Russia is reshaping how global geopolitics will move forward in the 21st century. NATO, which is already in the absence of any contemporary rival alliance, faces several questions about its existence and expansion, and has had an uncertain approach towards Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, but this doesn't stop the alliance from continuing its primary doctrine of containment of Russian influence and expanding its territorial influence.
Recently, NATO made it clear on reinforcing Eastern Europe with more ships and fighter jets, and also to send additional troops to its southeast flank; presently, NATO has about 4,000 troops in multinational battalions in Eastern Europe, backed by tanks, air defences and intelligence and surveillance units. The Netherlands, Denmark, France, and Spain were all planning or considering sending military reinforcements to Eastern Europe. Ukraine shares borders with four NATO countries, which can further ease the movement of military hardware into Ukraine itself if necessary.
The unwilling attitude of the US which is rather devoted towards containment of China makes NATO's position dwindle as the Russian forces have a significant upper hand when talking about facing the European members of NATO exclusively in any manner. The Russian firepower dwarfs that of its west European counterparts in every sense. This disparity only worsens the already weak commitment of the alliance to resist or get directly involved in resisting a potential invasion of Ukraine. If this becomes a reality, it will prove to be another big blow to the western nation's legitimacy of being a reliable ally in times of need and would only encourage the Russians to further undermine it.
Image Credits: Bloomberg
RUSSIA AND UKRAINE
In the past months, the focus of global geopolitics has drastically shifted from Taiwan Strait to Eastern Europe, where an already decimated Ukraine faces the grave threat of being invaded by the ever-growing Russian military buildup on its eastern border.
According to a new assessment of troop movements by the Ukrainian Secretary of the National Security & Defence Council, Russia now has about 265,000 troops stationed within 250 miles of its border with Ukraine. This comes as a reaction to Ukraine's signaling to join NATO, which contributes to Russia's insecurity of being surrounded by the most powerful military alliance on the planet with no buffer in between.
With the appointment of an Anti-Russian government in Ukraine, Kiev has further pushed for membership into the alliance. However, NATO seems in no hurry to let Ukraine in without looking at every possible consequence. Russia on the other hand is using its military from the borders of Eastern Ukraine to the waters of the Black sea as a bargaining tool against NATO, all this at the risk of a military conflict that has the potential to drag entire Eastern Europe into chaos.
The two possible ways of pacification of this can be either the U.S. gives into Russia's demands or Russia to save face will have to act with its military, after such a large troop buildup and talks of bringing the war to Europe to save face internally and on the world stage. But for now, the Russians have the western world on their toes.
EUROPE'S DEPENDENCE ON RUSSIA - THE UNEASY MARRIAGE
“The gas from Russia cannot be replaced in the short term,” Markus Krebber, CEO of one of Germany’s largest utilities, RWE, said at the Handelsblatt Energy Summit.
About 40% of EU gas imports come from Russia and this dependence will increase in the coming time as Europe cuts on its usage of conventional energy resources and many member states, including Germany, plans to completely phase out Nuclear Power Plants by the next decade.
Germany, in particular, is the biggest buyer of Russian gas in the world. Nord Stream 2, will double capacity for Russian gas exports to the country currently being channeled through the parallel Nord Stream 1 pipeline. This reliance of EU Nations on Russian gas and oil severely limits the EU's options to act against Russia if required in the coming future. In case of hardline disagreements or confrontations, Russia will be able to cut supplies to Western Europe, thereby exerting political pressure.
ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTS IN KAZAKHSTAN
The Anti-regime protests sparked by the rising energy prices in the Central Asian Nation forced the desperate Kazak government to seek military assistance from the Russian-led CSTO. Russia with its Post Soviet expansionist mentality wasted no time. Thousands of CSTO troops from Russia, Belarus, and Armenia were mobilised to suppress the anti-government protesters. While the west was helplessly watching the Russian-led CSTO troops were openly firing on the protesters on the streets of Astana.
This while fueling an Anti-Russian sentiment among the common people has still provided Putin's Russia, significant dominance in the Central Asian region which had been long due. This show of strength is a clear message from the Kremlin to the west about the tremendous amount of influence it wields in the Central Asia region and gives out an indirect signal to the world regarding the strong commitment of Russians towards their allies which the west, in contrast, is facing difficulties to prove.
Image Credits: Wikipedia
THE BEAR AND THE DRAGON (Russia China Alliance)
Another name that comes up when talking about resisting the west is China, and Moscow has thus found a willing partner in Beijing. China is the main reason why western efforts to isolate Russia have always been undermined. Once passive rivals, both the nations have taken up a rather aggressive stance over the American dream of a unipolar world. Russia and China share quite a similar expansionist mentality for regional hegemony as well as global dominance.
RUSSIA IN EASTERN EUROPE
The best way one can put the relationship of Eastern Europe with Russia is ' Buffer Between two power spheres' and the west's actions in the region strike precisely at Russia's biggest fear of being surrounded by hostile powers.
Putin’s Russia, like previous Russian states, sees itself surrounded by enemies, particularly by NATO in the west. For this reason, any effort by states within what Russia considers its sphere of influence to strengthen their ties with the West is viewed as a hostile act that requires appropriate reactions. The entire security dilemma surrounding the escalation is based on Moscow's impatience of not tolerating hostile governments in its backyard.
RUSSIAN HYBRID WARFARE AND CYBER ASSAULTS
The Russian Cyber Warfare capabilities are a real threat. From Cyberattacks to disinformation campaigns, Moscow has a vast array of 'weapons' to choose from. According to a report by Reuters "In the last two months of 2016, Russian hackers targeted Ukrainian state institutions about 6,500 times" Apart from cyberattacks on state institutions the Russian machinery of disinformation is a nightmare for Western nations with 'Free and Open internet'. Article 5 of the NATO treaty doesn't encompass any scope of a cyberattack on a member nation, leaving behind a big loophole. These attacks will only grow with threats of a confrontation escalating.
Besides cyber warfare, the Russians have shadow army tactics which have largely been successful whenever applied. According to sources, Moscow uses "state-financed military contractors' in at least 16 African countries to disguise and deny the direct Russian intervention. These provide a low-cost alternative to conventional military and have been used everywhere from Eastern Ukraine to the Middle east. And in case of any conventional confrontation in the future, the mercenary forces and private military contractors are always at Moscow's disposal.
In case of expansion of the Western Security Structure into the buffer of Eastern Europe and a military invasion of Ukraine, There are very real chances of a potential confrontation between Moscow and NATO on paper at least. However, both sides are well aware of each other's capabilities and willingness to escalate the tensions and no one would risk dragging entire Europe into a devastating conflict. But for now, the Russians are knocking on the doors of the Western world, ready to undermine their ambitions of a unipolar western dominated world.
By Jayesh Singh