Putin wants to evict the US from Europe

Ukraine is both Russia’s target and a source of leverage against the US.
Putin wants to evict the US from Europe
Representative image

New York

Over the last several months President Vladimir Putin of Russia has bogged the Biden administration down in endless tactical games that put the US on the defensive. Russia moves forces to Ukraine’s borders, launches war games and ramps up the visceral commentary. In recent official documents, it demanded ironclad guarantees that Ukraine (and other former republics of the USSR) will never become members of NATO, that NATO pull back from positions taken after 1997, and also that America withdraw its own forces and weapons, including its nuclear missiles. Russian representatives assert that Moscow doesn’t “need peace at any cost” in Europe. Some Russian politicians even suggest the possibility of a pre-emptive strike against NATO targets to make sure that we know they are serious, and that we should meet Moscow’s demands.
For weeks, American officials have huddled to make sense of the official documents with Russia’s demands and the contradictory commentary, pondered how to deter Mr. Putin in Ukraine and scrambled to talk on his timeline. All the while, Putin and his proxies have ratcheted up their statements. Kremlin officials have not just challenged the legitimacy of America’s position in Europe, they have raised questions about America’s bases in Japan and its role in the Asia-Pacific region. They have also intimated that they may ship hypersonic missiles to America’s back door in Cuba and Venezuela to revive what the Russians call the Caribbean Crisis of the 1960s. Putin is a master of coercive inducement. He manufactures a crisis in such a way that he can win no matter what anyone else does. Threats and promises are essentially one and the same. Putin can invade Ukraine yet again, or he can leave things where they are and just consolidate the territory Russia effectively controls in Crimea and Donbas. He can stir up trouble in Japan and send hypersonic missiles to Cuba and Venezuela, or not, if things go his way in Europe.
Putin plays a longer, strategic game and knows how to prevail in the tactical scrum. He has the US right where he wants it. His posturing and threats have set the agenda in European security debates, and have drawn our full attention. Unlike President Biden, Putin doesn’t have to worry about midterm elections or pushback from his own party or the opposition. Putin has no concerns about bad press or poor poll ratings. He isn’t part of a political party and he has crushed the Russian opposition. The Kremlin has largely silenced the local, independent press. Putin is up for re-election in 2024, but his only viable opponent, Aleksei Navalny, is locked in a penal colony outside of Moscow.
So Putin can act as he chooses, when he chooses. Barring ill health, the US will have to contend with him for years to come. Right now, all signs indicate Putin will lock the US into an endless tactical game, take more chunks out of Ukraine and exploit all the frictions and fractures in NATO and the European Union. Getting out of the current crisis requires acting, not reacting. The US needs to shape the diplomatic response and engage Russia on the West’s terms, not just Moscow’s.
To be sure, Russia does have some legitimate security concerns, and European security arrangements could certainly do with fresh thinking and refurbishment after 30 years. There is plenty for Washington and Moscow to discuss on the conventional and nuclear forces as well as in the cyber domain and on other fronts. But a further Russian invasion of Ukraine and Ukraine’s dismemberment and neutralisation cannot be an issue for US-Russian negotiation nor a line item in European security. Ultimately, the US needs to show Putin that he will face global resistance and Putin’s aggression will put Russia’s political and economic relationships at risk far beyond Europe.
Hill was an intelligence officer on Russia and Eurasian affairs in the US govt
The New York Times

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