Ever since Moscow’s Little Green Men seized Crimea in early 2014, we’ve been in a new Cold War with Russia. To the consternation of wishful-thinkers, as Vladimir Putin’s confrontation with the West has become transparent, the reality of what I termed Cold War 2.0 almost four years ago has grown difficult to deny. Since the Kremlin’s revanchism is driving this conflict, we’re in it whether we want to be or not.
Europe is the central front in Cold War 2.0, thanks to geography and history. Putin’s war on, and in, Ukraine continues on low boil, while the Russian military regularly delivers provocations—a too-close warship here, an aircraft buzz there—all along NATO’s eastern frontier, sending an aggressive message. Major military exercises like September’s Zapad mega-wargame demonstrate Putin’s seriousness about confronting the Atlantic Alliance.
What Putin wants was the subject of my recent interview with Antoni Macierewicz, Poland’s plain-spoken defense minister. What the Kremlin boss seeks, he explained, is restoration of the Russian empire, to which Ukraine (or at least most of it) belonged for centuries. “Putin understands that there is no empire without Ukraine,” he added.
However, Kremlin provocations extend far beyond the former Soviet Union, as Macierewicz elaborated:
The first move, I think, is Ukraine. But I don’t exclude a military attack in the Far East. They want to distract American attention, prolong the front of confrontation in order to create a favorable situation for aggression in Europe. If you look at the map, Russia is always helping the enemies of America: deep ties to North Korea, involvement in Afghanistan and Syria, backing Iran, and so on.
This assessment sounds alarmist at first, particularly the mention of possible aggression in the Far East, but Western intelligence agencies that track Russian moves have been thinking along similar lines—though they seldom say so in public. Therefore, it’s worth taking a brief look at what Putin’s up to, and where.
Read the rest at The Observer …