The Wheatley Institution

The Ukraine Crisis and the Challenge of Kremlin Revisionism

John E. Herbst
January 22, 2015

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Fred, thank you very much. That was much kinder than I deserve. As you all need to understand shortly. I am here tonight because there is a crisis in Ukraine. It is a crisis that has attracted substantial, albeit not substantial enough, world attention over the past 14 months. Most of the information that you have been presented about this crisis has talked about it in the framework of a Russian/Ukraine problem, but I have some news for all of you: this is not principally a Russia/Ukraine problem. This is a Vladimir Putin problem. And if Western political leaders were wise, they would understand that, and they would understand that no matter how much attention the media pays to ISIL or to Boko Haram, the problem of a rogue president in control of one of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals is easily the most important national security challenge that we face today. I hope that got your attention.

I am going to take you on a very quick historical tour to help you understand the problem represented by Mr. Putin and his kleptocratic, autocratic state. The problem we have in Ukraine right now goes back to a deeply shared historical understanding among the Russian people. All nations develop their own sense of history, and the Russian sense of history first appeared in print in the 18th century. There was a prominent Russian writer historian; his name was Tatishchev who wrote the first comprehensive history of Russia in the mid-18th century followed by another very famous Russian historian, Karamzin, who wrote 40 or 50 years later. And the story that they told was this: that the origins of the Russian people and the Russian nation began with the city of Kiev, or as Ukrainians call it, Kyiv. Kievan Rus, which emerged in the 9th and 10th centuries on the line of Russian historical development, the Kievan Rus was conquered by the Mongols as was all of the steps of central Asia and then of Eastern Europe starting in the early 13th century and then in terms of development of Russian history, leadership moved from Kievan Rus to Muscovy, the boyars of Muscovy, the grand prince of Muscovy. From there, Muscovy began to become an empire, the Russian Empire, associated with St. Petersburg, which Peter the Great built.

This is the Russian history as understood by all Russian students and, for that matter, any American student like me who learned Russian history. This, in fact, is a disabling element among many of the Russian scholars in the West. They never broke away from this paradigm. Related to this is the notion that, yes, there is a Russian people, but there is also an all-Russian people and the all-Russian people consists of Great Russians, a.k.a. the Russians, Little Russians a.k.a. the Ukrainians, and White Russians, a.k.a. the Belarusians, or the white Russians. In this historical understanding, the legitimacy of the Ukrainian people and for that matter the Belarusian people are as the little brothers of the great Russian people. What I have just described is understood in Russia as simply the way things are, the natural order of life. What this means is that—of course this is not true of all Russians, but it is true of a vast majority including most importantly many senior Russian officials. What this means is there is no real natural Ukrainian nation and Ukrainian people. They are the little Russians, and Ukraine really kind of belongs with Russia. You will see as I talk and move from this deep historical background up to the more recent present and to the very present how this plays out, how this is manifest. So this is point one.

Point two. I don’t know if any of you have read Henry Kissinger’s book Diplomacy—actually, almost everything Kissinger writes is worth reading. The man is a national treasure, which is not to mean that he is always right, by the way, but he is always very smart. He wrote in Diplomacy—and he is not the only one who has noticed this—that over the course of several centuries, the Grand Prince of Muscovy, which became Moscow, which became the Russian Empire, has expanded at the rate of the size of the Netherlands every month. The Russian Empire kept expanding, expanding, expanding, and when the Russian empire fell apart after the October revolution, after WWI and the Soviet Union replaced it, it too continued that expansion, including at the end of WWII when it picked up territory throughout Eastern Europe. Well, a funny thing happened after the fall of the Soviet Union. A funny thing that was actually the result of a conscious decision involving the President of Russia, then Boris Yeltsin, as well as his Ukrainian counterpart, as well as his Belarusian counterpart, and, for good measure and local color, their Kazakh counterpart, Kazakhstan still being a major country in central Asia. They decided that the Soviet Union should dissolve, and so this was not some CIA plot as some Russian fervent thinkers think today. They decided on the dissolution of the Soviet Union and when you take away—the Soviet Union was composed of 15 republics, nominally autonomous or independent, but of course under direct control of Moscow. Three of them were the Baltic republics, which of course quickly broke away from the Soviet Union, but then the other 12 became 12 independent countries.

When that all happened, Russia shrunk and lost about 25, 30, 35% of its territory. That still left Russia, by a factor of two at least, the largest country in the world. But—a very important “but”—for the first time since the Mongol invasion, the entity called Russia or Rus was shrinking in space, not expanding. Now, those of you who studied the Soviet Union or post-Soviet Russia know that there has never been a reckoning in Russia with the horrors of the Soviet period. The way there has been a reckoning, for example, in Germany with the horrors of Mr. Hitler’s reign. What you had among the elite in Russia at the time that the Soviet Union fell apart, even though Yeltsin was a principal, or the principal actor in its dissolution, was this sense of great loss. The national security apparatus; the KGB; the military; the ministry of interior, which is the police; the ministry of the border guards; and the ministry of external situations, which is kind of like our FEMA, but add a lot of weapons to it—these guys never really accepted the…not so much the demise of the Soviet Union, although they regretted that, but the loss of great Russian territory. They never reconciled themselves to it. Let’s remember that Mr. Putin was a career—not very successful and not very imaginative operative of the KGB. Okay. So that is the second point that you need to keep in mind.

Now what is my third point? That is right. I would bet that most of the folks in this room, most of you within the last 12 months have heard this peculiar phrase: frozen conflict. I would also imagine that most of you before the past year have never heard this phrase. Let me talk about it a little bit. Frozen conflicts are conflicts on the periphery of Russia involving states which have a substantial minority or more than one substantial minority. In these conflicts, the Kremlin has backed the minority to establish its clear preeminence as opposed to the central government of the other countries in the minority areas and as a point of pressure on the government in these countries, to pursue policies that Moscow likes. That is an extended but clear definition, I hope, of a frozen conflict. If you were someone who watched this part of the world after the Soviet Union fell apart, you would know that there were frozen conflicts in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has an enclave which is overwhelmingly in population Armenian, and the Armenians in this enclave in Nagorno-Karabakh wanted to be independent from Azerbaijan. Essentially, Moscow served as a conduit to represent the interest of that community in Nagorno-Karabakh on behalf of the Armenian government. So that is one frozen conflict. There are actually three in Georgia, the country of Georgia. One was in the province of Ajaria, another was in Abkhazia, and a third was in Southern Ossetia—and here too, Moscow emerged as a protector of the different ethnic groups in these three of the provinces of Georgia. A third country, which had a frozen conflict since 1991, since the Soviet Union fell apart, was Moldova. It has an area called Transnistria, meaning it is on the other side of the Dniester River in the country of Moldova, the eastern side. Moldovans are by ethnicity very close to the Romanians. The denizens of Transnistria are largely Slavic, both Russian and Ukranian, and Russia became their champion in Moldova as a way of exerting pressure. This was a policy executed by the various intelligence services of Russia, the FSB—and, actually, this is something worth noting. The old KGB in the Soviet Union, was split into two in Russia. Just like the United States has a CIA that does stuff overseas and an FBI that does stuff for the United States, the FSB is supposed to be the internal security apparatus in Russia and the SVR is supposed to be their foreign policy intelligence apparatus. The interesting thing is that it is the FSB that has responsibility in Russia for dealing with all of the countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union, which gives you a sense as to how they view these countries.

From the fall of the Soviet Union, Moscow—which in the 90s was pursuing policies that we largely liked—was following the policies of frozen conflict in his neighborhood. The only place it really did not do that was in Ukraine. It toyed with it in Ukraine, and there was a crisis in 1992 when a leader in Crimea, which at that time as now was majority ethnic Russian and composition, made claims about wanting to leave Ukraine, either to become independent or perhaps to join Russia. There are nationalist politicians in Moscow who at that time were very supportive of this, but we expressed some concern and basically the Russian game stopped. There was a similar episode in 1995 with the same outcome. So the frozen conflict game was not played in Ukraine in the 90s, in part because Russia was weak and in part because Russia was pursuing policies that would be contradicted by a frozen conflict policy that the United States and Western Europe opposed. Because Russia needed American help, for example, to join various international organizations, especially on the economic side to become a member of the GAID as he eventually did and so on. My point here, though, is to tell you that the crisis in Ukraine was foreshadowed in the 90s. So that is the third point.

The next point takes us to the more immediate path to today’s crisis. This takes us to the early 2000s, the first years of the new millennium. Putin became president at the end of the 1990s. There was a managed transition from Yeltsin, the previous president, to Putin. Initially, he pursued policies very similar to Yeltsin’s, and he and George Bush got along at the beginning. George Bush famously looked into his eyes and saw his soul. At the time, actually, Putin helped Bush, and I can explain that if you want, but that is not relevant to this theme. But Putin, the proud, lifelong KGB operative, produced some order in Russia—and that is to his credit. There was a crime problem in Moscow, for example; there were shootouts on the streets, and those largely ended in Putin’s first years. To his credit also, Putin introduced I would say a combination of fiscal austerity, which was needed initially, and fiscal discipline which is always useful. Something Washington could learn. Also, to the benefit of Russia to set the groundwork for real growth. But then there was the other factor which was not Putin’s doing, but which empowered him, which was the substantial rise of oil prices in the early 2000s, which gave him money because the Russian economy is based overwhelmingly on hydrocarbon exports, oil and natural gas. So the point I am making is that we began to see changes in Russia which bring us to today’s crisis in the early 2000s as Russia began to strike them. He came back from this period of historic weakness. Our strong Russia should not be a problem per se. The United States welcomed this development at the time.

The second point for this period of the early 2000s brings us to another term of art, frozen conflicts being the first and colored revolutions being the second. I am sure you have all read this phrase colored revolutions over the past year or so. So let me tell you what this means. First of all, colored revolution is a Russian term. It is something that the Kremlin devised to explain phenomena where civil society in authoritarian government revolts against their autocratic leader, and they revolt successfully. They don’t revolt by conducting a revolution where they have armed men who are shooting government officials. They have massive public demonstrations, which leads both to chaos, in certain ways, but also brings out a broader sense among the people of those countries that the government has got to go. The first such revolution of or change was in Serbia, which has been a Russian client even in the post-Soviet period. The second one was in Georgia in 2003, and the third one happened while I was in Ukraine in 2004 and 2005. There was one that was called a colored revolution but really wasn’t in Kyrgyzstan in 2005. Mr. Putin and his regime were deeply unhappy with these things, and because they run a quasi-police state where rule comes from on high, they assumed that these events could not possibly represent a people expressing unhappiness or disgust with leadership. They decided it must be a CIA plot, and if you read Russian literature on this, it is all right there. The point is that Putin saw this as a challenge not just to his influence in his near neighborhood, what he calls a near abroad, because governments which toss out autocrats and want democracy and a market economy and don’t want corruptions are not governments that are going to get along with Mr. Putin’s Kremlin.

From his standpoint, this was a serious problem, requiring a more assertive policy than the policy of frozen conflicts. We only began to understand over time what this meant. We had some inkling when I served in Ukraine. I was there from 2003 to2006 and the Orange Revolution, which was not really a revolution, prevented the 2004 presidential elections from being stolen and led to the election of the opposition candidate, who when they had a free and fair election, won handily. In any case, to prevent this outcome, the Russians put in about 1.5–2 billion dollars in terms of campaign money for the incumbent or rather for the party of incumbency. They deployed their media in a vastness information campaign to darken the opposition candidate, and at that point in time their media was very influential in Ukraine. They, I believe (although no one has proved this) poisoned the opposition candidate. I say that they did it because as far as I know, there are only three countries that had the capacity to do it: the United States, Israel, and Russia—and you figure out which one of these had a motivation to do that. Finally, after Yuschenko won, in fact a year later, for the first time, they turned off the gas to Ukraine. They are the supplier of gas to much of western and central Europe and the principle supplier of gas to Ukraine, like 80% of Ukraine’s gas supply. They turned it off in the winter as a form of pressure on Ukraine. So we began to see at this time again, more aggressive Kremlin actions to forestall, limit, overturn these “cold revolutions.”

Next point. The Russian response or the Russian management reaction to cold revolutions moved to the military. I am talking about the crisis in Georgia in 2008. Let me provide a little background on that for you. I mentioned a few minutes ago that Georgia suffered in its early days of independence from three frozen conflicts. One in Ajaria, one in Abkhazia and one in Southern Ossetia. Well, as a result of its colored revolution, what they call the Rose Revolution, in 2003, they got a dynamic leader, Misha Saakashvili, a real reformer, incidentally, although something of an authoritarian, which we didn’t pick up on until too late. Saakashvili actually, while Russia was sort of sleeping, seized control of Ajaria and established Ajaria as a constituent part of Georgia. I remember remarking at the time something like, “Remarkably he did that; he better not try it again because the Kremlin will be ready for him.” In fact, as things turned out, it turned out not the way I suggested a couple of years earlier. What happened was this: starting at some point, (I couldn’t give you the precise date. It might have been 2005. It might have been 2006.) the Kremlin began a series of things to provoke Georgia. There were a series of things were that every few months they would bomb the place. They wouldn’t bomb Tablecie, the capitol; they would bomb outlying regions, and sometimes Georgian security officials would be killed in these bombings or some villages would lose buildings and such. And in 2008, Putin set a trap for Saakashvili. There was constant—I shouldn’t say constant—I would say periodic conflict at the line of control between Georgia and the government such as they were in Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia. There would be shelling across those borders. They are actually are not borders. They are actually just lines of control because it is all Georgia as we understand it. The Kremlin set it up so that there were some border shelling. Georgians responded, and the Russians suckered Saakashvili into taking a shot at Russian soldiers, which justified in Moscow’s mind sending the Russian army in to take control of Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia. So ever since the war of August of 2008, the borders of Georgia have changed. Those territories declared independence recognized by Russia and two or three other countries, and we saw the application for military force by Mr. Putin to change borders. So this is the background of Kremlin actions to the crisis in Ukraine.

Now, as Mr. Putin developed his policies, he also developed a doctrine to justify these policies. This is the next point. It is the doctrine, the right of the Kremlin, the duty of the Kremlin, to protect ethnic Russians and Russian speakers wherever they happen to live. A lot of them don’t live in Russia. Twenty-five percent of the population of Kazakhstan is ethnic Russian. Comparable numbers in Estonia and Latvia, not Lithuania. Lithuania is about 6% or 7%. And Ukraine is a large number. This is a doctrine which the Kremlin has asserted proudly since the first time Putin became president and for that matter, even before that. In fact, right after the fall of the Soviet Union, when Ukraine was voting to be a dependent from Russia, Yeltsin, of course, a very liberal Russian politician; and Gorbachev, the last general secretary of the Soviet communist party and a rather liberal figure, were also saying to Ukraine, “If you vote for independence, we have this duty to protect ethnic Russians and Russian speakers.” So there is this constant theme, which Putin has made doctrine, a doctrine justifying not just action but aggressive action. So all of this is the prelude to the crisis in Ukraine.

I am going to spend a lot of time talking about this, but let us talk briefly about the crisis in Ukraine. It began in November of 2013 when the then president of Ukraine, somebody who had a pretty good relationship with Putin, Viktor Yanukovych, a man I know well from my time in Kiev, was about to sign an agreement with the European Union, a trade association agreement which would ease customs barriers between the EU and Ukraine. Mr. Putin did not like this idea and Yanukovych backed away from it at the last minute. Most people think he backed away from it because of Putin. I am not certain of that. I think there are other factors too. It really doesn’t matter for this conversation. He backed away, and within 24 hours he had tens of thousands of Ukrainians demonstrating in the main square in Kiev, the Maidan, which you may have heard of. He then made a very serious mistake, Yanukovych. He sent his police in to disperse them roughly. They didn’t disperse, and the next day there were not tens of thousands of people in the square—there were hundreds of thousands of people in the square, not demonstrating against the EU deal squad but against the authoritarian practices of Mr. Yanukovych and his regime. Those demonstrators stayed in the square from late November until February 22 when Yanukovych fled the country. When Yanukovych fled the country, the Russian position was, this was a coup instigated by fascists and the CIA against the lawfully elected president of Ukraine. Within a day or two, these “little green men” began to appear in Crimea. These little green men were in fact Russian military officers with actor insignias, and they multiplied and took control of the Crimea. By early April, not only was Crimea fully under Russian control but the Russian parliament had annexed it.

Later Putin acknowledged that those, in fact, were Russian soldiers for anyone who was naïve enough to think they weren’t. That was not really, though, what Putin needed in Ukraine because what Mr. Putin wants in Ukraine is a compliant government, and if you hive off the part of Ukraine which is the most sympathetic to Russia and leave the rest alone, you have got a Ukraine that is even less sympathetic to Russia than it was before. So what is a dictator to do? Well, he goes into his toolkit and pulls out a frozen conflict and says, “Let’s have a frozen conflict in Ukraine’s east.” So starting in early April of last year, people began to appear trying to stoke a rebellion. Only one problem. Almost none of the locals were interested. While it is true that up to 25% of the people in that area were well disposed towards Russia—in fact up to 25% in polls said that they would be willing to be independent from Ukraine or join Russia—that still leaves a whopping 75% who don’t agree. Equally, or perhaps even more important, of that 25%, they were largely older and you don’t make revolution with old- timers. I can tell you. You gotta have the youth. Even among the youth who are somewhat sympathetic to a Kremlin agenda, almost no one was willing to pick up arms. So they had to create their own rebellion, and you do that with money. You do that with leadership; you do that with arms; you do that with dredging up the dregs of society; and you do that with your own soldiers. Albeit not necessarily cold soldiers but often intelligence operatives. So that is how this insurgency, if you want to call it that, got off the ground because there was no pushback from Ukrainian authorities from early April through May.

They made substantial progress, territorial gains, but after Ukraine had a presidential election and Poroshenko became president, they launched a counter-offensive which was very successful. It was very successful even though in response the Kremlin began to send in heavier and heavier arms, T-64 tanks, serious anti-aircraft weaponry. Ukraine used its military’s air force in its counter offensive, but once they put in these sophisticated missiles—in fact, they wouldn’t just put sophisticated missiles into Ukraine, they were firing sophisticated missiles from Russia into Ukraine and they took out Ukrainian air force as a factor. They had to stop flying because planes were being shot down. As you all know, one of those missiles shot down a Malaysian airliner. And, by the way, our very good piece just appeared in Die Zeit, a German newspaper, a lengthy report written by German and Dutch journalists, which points the evidence overwhelmingly at the separatists with Russian support as responsible for that shoot down. The Russians also, in trying to stop this counter offensive from Kiev, put in lots and lots of volunteers. Now whether or not they were technically “volunteers” as they chose to do this, they were not regular Russian army units. But even that did not stop the counter offensive and by mid-August, the Ukrainians were on the verge of surrounding the two small areas controlled by Russian forces. If they had surrounded them, they would have cut off the supply, which means they would have quelled this rebellion. That is when the Red Army went in.

So in late August, Putin sends in his army. The army, of course, was much stronger than Ukraine’s military and they sent the Ukrainian reeling back westward, but even the most cautious Europeans had to acknowledge at this point that Russia was engaged in a war in Ukraine. This led to the first real serious sanctions by the Europeans against Russia for their aggression in Ukraine. A ceasefire was established, and that ceasefire was established September 5 and it has not really been observed. Two hundred and twenty-five Ukrainian soldiers have died since the ceasefire was established, and, in fact, a new Russian offense may have started the last few days. Our ambassador in Kiev, Geoffrey Pyatt said today that new Russian troops crossed the border yesterday. I don’t know if this is going to be a replay of August, but the point is that the situation is more serious today than it was a few weeks ago. So this is the Ukraine crisis and I have explained to you the origins. We need to understand, though, that this crisis—however it turns out—is not the end of our Putin problem. Or put another way, unless Ukraine rebuffs the Kremlin, succeeds in at least stopping any further Russian gains on its territory, and begins to develop as a normal democracy and market economy—unless that happens, we will see Putin provocations in other countries. Let me just give you a few examples.

In late August, at the same time that his troops were destroying the Ukrainian military, Mr. Putin had attended a youth festival which he hosts every summer with leaders of Russian sponsor organizations, youth organizations across the great country at a place called Lake Seliger. At this event, he will show up and schmooze with the students for a day or two. So they pay attention to this. In fact, this may be one of their responses to the colored revolutions: they want to make sure they have youth on their side. At this event, some young woman asked an exceptionally complicated and sophisticated question about Kazakhstan, in response to which Mr. Putin said the following, “Kazakhstan is an artificial country.” Same thing he said about Ukraine to Mr. Bush at NATO summit in 2008 in Bucharest. He said, “You know, Nazarbayev is a genius and he has created this country out of nothing. And right now, they treat Russians well, but you know, after Nazarbayev passes the scene and if they don’t treat Russians well, maybe we are going to have to do something.” So Mr. Putin was signaling his ambitions well beyond Ukraine.

Now we, the United States, have good relations with Kazakhstan, but we have no obligation to defend Kazakhstan. We do have an obligation to defend Lithuania and Latvia and Estonia, which all happen to be members of NATO. Now, the NATO has an annual summit and it had a summit in Wales which ended on September 5, maybe it was September 3. In any case, early September it ended. It was a Friday. At that summit they talked a lot about Russia and about the problem with Mr. Putin’s policies, albeit not with the degree of rigor and steel that is required. I will talk about that in a minute. But clearly, Mr. Putin was peeved and just before the summit as a way of reassuring our Baltic allies that we have their backs, President Obama went to Tallinn, the capitol of Estonia. So you have had two things designed to buck up the morale of our eastern most members of NATO that happened in early September. Well, Mr. Putin has a card or two to play himself. What does he do? The day the NATO summit ended, two days after Mr. Obama was in Tallinn, Putin kidnaps an Estonian official from Estonia and takes him to Russia where he sits in jail. Now, which event do you think had a larger impact on the view of the Baltic peoples in early September? The NATO summit are saying, “Russia, we are watching you! You better be careful!” Russia is stealing the Estonian counter-intel guy. And just to make sure that the Balts did not misunderstand his intention, a few weeks later he seizes a Lithuanian ship in international waters in the Baltic Sea. What has NATO done in response to these things? Exactly. Okay. So that is the situation. So right now, Ukraine is fighting our fight, and this is not properly understood in Western capitals and that is unfortunate. The West is slowly waking up to this Putin problem, but only slowly. We still think ISIL—I mean talk about strategic jokery. The Wales summit declared that ISIL was a strategic threat to NATO and said nothing about Russia.

Okay, so what are we to do? What should our policy be? We need to be doing several things to treat the Ukraine crisis and more broadly the Putin challenge. It all starts with the proper understanding of the problem and I hope I have given some of that you to tonight. The one thing we are doing well is our policy of sanctions. On balance, the West has done a pretty good job with the last round of sanctions that the U.S. put in place in mid-summer and the Europeans in September. They are “sectorial sanctions,” which have serious impact on the ability of Russian hydrocarbon industry to use modern technology to develop and to get further oil and gas and plays serious constraints on their financial sector. So that is one thing we have done well, and President Obama deserves a lot of credit for this because the Europeans were reluctant.

Second thing we should be doing, we need to make Mr. Putin pay a very high price in Ukraine for his aggression. Here, Putin is vulnerable. He is telling his people that there are no Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine as Russian soldiers. There may be some Russians fighting in Ukraine as volunteers, but no Russian army units. This is false. Again, the Russian army went in in August, and we have reports that it is going in now, and Mr. Putin is hiding his dead from his own people. There is an organization in Russia that is called something like “The Mothers of Russian Soldiers,” a very popular organization. When the president of that organization said in late August that there are over 10,000 Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine, he immediately declared a foreign organization shutdown. So this is a serious vulnerability. We need to provide weapons to Ukraine, weapons that shoot, so that if Russia aggresses and continues this aggression, more Russian soldiers go home dead. The more Russian soldiers that go home dead, the harder it is for Putin to hide this, the harder it is for him to continue his aggression.

There has been an extraordinarily short-sighted policy in Washington and also in Europe that providing Western weapons to Ukraine would escalate the conflict. Well, hello. We have seen about a half-dozen escalations by the Kremlin since this began in early April. Mr. Putin is afraid of casualties. If you want this war to stop, the best thing you could do is make it easier for Ukraine to protect its own soldiers and kill the enemy, kill the aggressors. Now, let’s understand. I mean, it is not pleasant to say this, but this is aggression and we did not fight Hitler with blankets. Which is not to say that Putin is Hitler; Hitler was more dangerous, but Putin is very dangerous still.

Third thing we need to do. I just described, I think in honest terms, not especially flattering terms, the wisdom of our NATO leaders assembled in Wales. What NATO needs to do is explicitly acknowledge that the Russia policy followed since the late 90s is no longer valid. Russia is not the partner. Russia is at best an opponent and at worst a serial aggressor, and there are different policies needed to deal with a serial aggressor as opposed to a partner. These policies include putting serious military assets in the Baltic states to dissuade aggression there. Wales decided to put essentially, a company of American soldiers into the Baltic states. We need a battalion or two. We need some serious hardware, serious hardware designed both to forestall aggression and to send the little message to the Russian general staff that your aggression in Ukraine has prompted counter measures that you and I have to worry about. Now, at the same time that we do this, you can say that we are happy to have a dialogue about all questions so we can resolve the crisis in Ukraine and we can change the stance of NATO. First, you have to have steel before you can have effective talks when you are dealing with a man bent on revisionist change like Mr. Putin. Also, a very specific point, there are spots in the Baltic States that are ethnic Russian majority where it is plausible we could see the appearance of little green men. I specifically have in mind the area of Narva and Estonia. There should be contingency planning in NATO right now to deal with such an operation.

Finally, the West should reach out to the countries which are not part of NATO, offer them a security dialogue. Georgia, Kazakhstan, and other states of central Asia such as Moldova. Just to get a better sense of what is happening there and how we could strengthen them. Of course, we are not going to send them our soldiers, but even short of us providing military equipment. Although, we shouldn’t necessarily rule that out in the current environment. Those are the policies we need. All these things on the security side from supplying weapons to Ukraine to strengthening NATO’s resolve require strategic leadership from Washington that unfortunately is absent. I have spent a lot of my time working in the Middle East. I give President Obama credit for much more intelligent policies than his predecessor in the Middle East. I give President Obama credit for not pursuing provocative policies towards Iran, but he is kind of at sea on this crisis in Ukraine. He just doesn’t understand it. And he has demonstrated that multiple times and that is a serious problem. Our congress understands it much better and that is why congress voted in December to Ukraine Freedom Support Act which calls for us to supply defense weapons to Ukraine. I am hoping and expecting we will see that happen this year. I outline the things we need to do. If we do that, we make sure that Russian aggression does not go beyond Ukraine and hopefully that Ukraine can re-establish control over its East and develop along a normal path, not subject to aggression from Mr. Putin. Thank you.

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