Putin “desperately” fighting for his survival
Garry Kasparov defined the Russian activities as Putin’s desperate fight for survival. He criticised the fact that Ukraine is treated as a buffer zone in between NATO and Russian Federation. Kasparov said that the threat on the Russian side is “realistic” and Europe-related. Measures undertaken by NATO may be not sufficient enough in preventing further escalation of the crisis, up to the level of a full scale conflict breaking out.
Chairman of the Human Rights Foundation indicated that there are many analogies in between the situation of Russia and situation in the Nazi Germany. Kasparov compared the support for Putin, which has been visible just after the annexation of Crimea took place, to the support granted for Adolf Hitler by top officers of the Wehrmacht, just after Hitler had overtaken the power in Germany. This is a reason why definitive steps need to be taken against Russia – due to the fact that Putin, as any other dictator, has his own self-preservation instinct and he will refrain from aggressive steps solely in case, when he receives a strong response from the West.
Kasparov additionally claimed that delaying the actions aimed at Russia may lead to an uncontrollable escalation, including the worst case scenarios (open armed conflict involving Russia and the NATO states). He also reminded the audience that Adolf Hitler could have been stopped in 1936, while four years later stopping him was impossible. At the same time he wanted the West to bolster and develop its defensive capabilities.
“Proportional” Activities of the West – Sign of Weakness?
It is hard to disagree with the Kasparov’s assessment, both in connection with the Russian actions, as well as within the dimension of the Western response. It is probable that Vladimir Putin will decide to undertake risky and dangerous actions, which may be completely uncontrollable by the international community. It is worth to note that right after the annexation of Crimea took place, NATO and EU representatives considered the Russian Army’s entering the eastern part of Ukraine to be a “red line”, which, if crossed, would trigger more severe sanctions on the Russians.
As we all know the Russian Armed Forces have entered the Donbas Area (but it has not been officially confirmed), what is more a regular, massive and coordinated artillery attack has been conducted from the Russian territory. This is contradictory to the fact that it seemed that in the 21st Century the Russian would limit themselves to unconventional operations, such as activity of the special forces, saboteurs and cyber-attacks. In the light of the Ukrainian response to the terrorist activity Putin did not take a step back, and he openly used his armed forces. This may be a basis for presumptions, according to which, when aggressive, unconventional actions are taken against the Mid-Eastern European NATO member states, with implementation of effective defensive measures Putin may decide to escalate the potential conflict further, involving the whole military potential that remains at his disposal.
Steps taken by NATO, in the light of the Ukrainian crisis, even despite being required (rotational presence, increase of the airspace protection of the Baltic states, creating immediate response forces), are limited in their character and they do not provide a guarantee of defending the NATO member states, should an open attack of the Russian Armed Forces happen. We should remember that, throughout the last couple of years, Russians have conducted a wide reform of the army, along with a technical modernisation of the used equipment. During the Warsaw Security Forum this issue has been discussed by professor Adam Daniel Rotfeld, who indicated that the situation is quite dangerous, since the Russians have been able to manufacture modern armament, while the civil economy is falling back.
Reconstruction of Defensive Capabilities Needed
Along with the budgetary cuts in the West, the balance of force between Russia and NATO has been shifted. Russian massive increase of defence spending, in the light of the risk of further cuts in the UK or the USA and lack of consent for significant increases in the Western European defence spending – all that may lead to a situation which will be critically worse. A hypothesis may be stated that the Russian deterrence system is already “working” against the Western countries. Fear of war may be one of the factors, which contributed to the fact that Kiev did not receive significant help of military character from the West.
At the same time the Western politicians direct their actions in a way, which would lead towards “de-escalation” of the conflict, refraining from any explicit actions, such as permanent presence of significant armed forces within the Baltic states.. Sanctions would probably be effective against a politician who acts rationally, whose goal is to raise the standard of living of the citizens, but in case of a “tsar” who is going towards a 19th Century imperial expansion, the actions taken by the Western Europe may be ineffective.
A question should be asked – aren’t the drastic reductions in the NATO nuclear arsenal in Europe a sign of weakness for Putin? Such weakness may be treated as a granted “consent” for further, aggressive activities, targeted also against the NATO member states. The readers are probably aware that the Russians are constantly modernising their nuclear capabilities. Many experts argue that role of the tactical nuclear weapons has been increased within the Russian doctrines. Reportedly the Russians may even consider using the tactical nuclear warheads to threaten their adversaries, which may lead to a stoppage of any allied forces intervention.
The international community, when undertaking actions aimed against Putin, needs to be prepared, also in the military dimension, to face any, even the worst case, scenario. Otherwise, any actions or declarations made may be interpreted by Kremlin as a sign of weakness, which would motivate the Russian decision makers to further escalate the crisis, in order to “raise the stakes”. This means that the crisis may get out of control completely, which may lead to breakout of an open conflict involving Russia, consequences of which may be difficult to predict within the scope of the international security.