Professor Paul D Miller, who is one of the very few who predicted that President Vladimir Putin”s Russia would intervene in Ukraine, now argues, in Foreign Policy, that “Russian President Vladimir Putin has a clear goal and a grand strategy. But it’s not the most realists perceive. Some argue that he is driven by fundamentally rational, defensive goals: NATO expansion appeared threatening and Russia is pushing back. The West expanded its sphere of influence at Russia’s expense, and Russia is now retaliating. That’s why the “Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault,” according to John Mearsheimer … [but, Prof Miller adds] … As with most academic realist analysis, this is nonsense. Putin is not driven by cold calculations of rational self-interest, because no human is. We are not Vulcans. We are driven by our perception of self-interest as shaped and defined by our deeper presuppositions and beliefs — which is to say, our ideology or religion … [and] … Putin believes hegemony over Russia’s near-abroad is necessary for Russian security because of his beliefs about Russian nationhood and historical destiny. Putin (and, perhaps more so, his inner circle) isn’t merely nationalist. The Kremlin appears to be driven by peculiar form of Russian nationalism infused with religion, destiny, and messianism. In this narrative, Russia is the guardian of Orthodox Christianity and has a mission to protect and expand the faith.”
His argument concludes that:
First: “Putin will instigate an ambiguous militarized crisis using deniable proxies, probably in the next two years. Perhaps Russian-speaking Latvians or Estonians (a quarter of Latvians and Estonians are ethnically Russian) will begin rioting, protesting for their rights, claiming to be persecuted, asking for “international protection.” A suspiciously well armed and well trained “Popular Front for the Liberation of the Russian Baltics” will appear. A few high-profile assassinations and bombings bring the Baltics to the edge of civil war. A low-grade insurgency may emerge … [and] … Russia will block all United Nations Security Council resolutions, but will offer its unilateral services as a peacekeeper. The North Atlantic Council will meet. Poland will lead the effort to invoke Article V, declare the Baltics under Russian attack, and rally collective defense against Russian aggression. The Germans and French will fiercely resist. Everyone will look to the United States to see which way the alliance leader tilts.“
And then, either:
“If the Alliance does not invoke Article V, NATO’s mutual security guarantee becomes functionally meaningless. No alliance member will put any faith in the treaty to guarantee it’s own defense against Russia in the future. The geopolitical clock will rewind to 1939. Some Eastern European states may choose to bandwagon with Russia. Others, starting with Poland, will begin arming to the teeth. Putin’s dream of a fractured West and an open field in Europe will be realized.“
“If the Alliance does invoke Article V, it will be tantamount to a declaration of war by the West against Russia. And that’s when Trump will have to decide if the defense of Latvia is worth risking World War III.“
And he assumes that the US has enough political power to be the sole arbiter of that decision or that actually giving force to Article V requires the USA. Article V says, “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.” The highlighted bit is why he thinks President elect Trump will be key to Article V. If the USA decides that military action is not deemed necessary then the European, British and Canadian forces that are on the ground in Eastern Europe are unlikely to be able to do more than mount a feeble withdrawal.
The lens through which Putin and many Russians view the world is, I agree with Prof Miller, tinted by history. Traditionally Russia has been ravaged by both the liberal West, especially Poles and Lithuanians and Germans, and by Asians. NATO is just a another incarnation of the the Roman Catholic West that hates the Orthodox Slavs and China is heir to the Mongols. What I, for example, see as opportunistic adventurism may, reasonably, be seen by a Russian as a prudent defensive strategy for a country that has few natural defences against or advantages over either East or West.
In any event, I agree that Putin’s Russia is the most significant threat to world peace and security and if Prime Minister Trudeau really wanted to do some real, effective peacekeeping, rather then just scoring a few easy political points amongst the feeble minded and the glitterati in the Laurentian Elites, then he would be sending a brigade (-), say 3,000 soldiers, to Latvia, not 450 there and 650 to Africa … but principles and policy do not go together in the Trudeau regime any more than they do in the Putin regime in Russia.