If our allies in Easter Europe aren’t buckling on their brown pants they are missing a great opportunity to do so.
The NATO alliance is facing the most significant test of its solidarity since the nuclear freeze movement of the early 1980s. Ukraine, not a NATO member but a participant in the NATO Partnership for Peace program, was invaded by Russia. A fake independence referendum was generated in a Russian majority enclave. The results of that referendum were used by Russia to annex a part of Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that Russia has a duty to protect ethnic Russians living in Eastern Ukraine so it is unlikely that this particular crisis winds down quickly.
Putin gave little ground, according to a Kremlin account of the telephone conversation. Calling the Ukraine situation “extraordinary,” he charged that Ukrainian “ultranationalists,” supported by the U.S.-backed interim government that took over last week in Kiev, were threatening “the lives and health of Russian citizens and the many compatriots” living in Crimea.
“In the case of any further spread of violence to Eastern Ukraine and Crimea,” a statement issued by Putin’s office said, “Russia retains the right to protect its interests and the Russian-speaking population of those areas.”
It is doubtful that Russia’s ambitions are so limited.
In 2008, Russia used the excuse of defending ethnic Russians as a reason in invade Georgia (for the Ron Paul Institute members, this refers to the nation, not the state)
Earlier, in 1991, Moldova, another former Soviet Republic has seen a strip of its territory torn away by ethnic Russians aid and abetted by Moscow and with the assistance of Soviet military forces and made into the Potemkin nation of Transistria. This region has now asked to be annexed by Russia.
Now the low hanging fruit has been eliminated and it is a matter of months until Putin turns to “protecting” the ethnic Russian minorities in NATO members Latvia (33% ethnic Russian), Lithuania (7% ethnic Russian), and Estonia (28% ethnic Russian). The groundwork is being laid. From the Wall Street Journal, Russian’s Comments Rile Latvia:
Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Veshnyakov created a new wave of concern in Latvia with recent remarks saying it may soon become easier for ethnic Russians in Latvia to obtain Russian citizenship.
Mr. Veshnyakov told Latvian Radio 4, a Russian-language public broadcasting channel, that proposed legislation in Russia would allow granting Russian citizenship to ethnic Russians in Latvia to “save the Latvian noncitizens out of poverty by giving them citizenship and a pension without having to stay in Russia.” Russians constitute 27.6% of Latvia’s population of 2 million, the largest ethnic group among the minorities living in Latvia.
The Obama administration is on the job, though. Having thoroughly blundered their way through the Crimean annexation, they are now determined that NATO shall not escape their expertise.
Joe Biden has been sent to Poland to convince (emphasis on “con”) our allies that we will uphold our obligations under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. It must be noted that this meeting was not the idea of the Obama administration. The meeting was called by Lithuania under Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty.
Recent experiences with Russia also fuel Estonia’s concerns. The removal of a Soviet-era war statue from the capital city of Tallinn in 2007 led to riots among ethnic Russians (who make up almost a quarter of Estonia’s population) and diplomatic outrage from Moscow. Shortly thereafter, a concerted, three-week cyberattack crippled Estonian government agencies, banks, news outlets, and other organizations—a vital blow to what some have called “the most wired country in Europe.” Estonian officials blamed the Kremlin for the cyberattacks, a claim Russian officials vociferously denied.