As in 1939, Kremlin said mulling ‘preventive occupation’ of the Baltic states

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2015/05/12 • Analysis & Opinion, Op-ed, Russia

Article by: Paul A. Goble

People of decency and good will around the world have been horrified by Vladimir Putin’s defense this week of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact which made Hitler and Stalin allies, opened the way to World War II, and allowed the Soviet Union to occupy Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, portions of Poland and Bessarabia for half a century.

Kseniya Kirillova, Journalist

Kseniya Kirillova

But they should be even more horrified by the fact that some near the Kremlin are once again thinking about “a preventive occupation” of the Baltic countries, a step that, as Kseniya Kirillova points out today, could trigger the collapse of the West or a third world war.

Moreover, and just as in 1939, they should be disturbed by Moscow’s duplicity and cynicism about such a move, one nominally taken in the name of improving Russia’s defense capability but in fact threatened in order to advance Russian imperialism and to disorder and confuse the Western powers.

In her commentary, Kirillova does two things: First, she points to a recent article by Moscow commentator Rostislav Ishchenko calling for a “preventive” strike against the Baltic littoral in order to block what he sees as a threat from NATO; and second, she interviews former RISI analyst Aleksandr Sytin on why Ishchenko’s words are more than the ravings of one man.

According to Ishechenko, Moscow has a compelling interest in a preventive occupation of at least portions of the Baltic countries in order to counter NATO, an interest he says exists even if there is no such threat, because such a move would allow for “the preservation of the line of ‘the virtual front’”.

Specifically, he writes, “a preventive strike with the goal of liquidating the Baltic place des armes could become necessary from a military point of view not because someone might expect an attack from this direction but in order to preserve the line of the front (even virtual), to extend a land corridor to the blockaded group of forces in Kaliningrad, and to free up forces for actions in other, more important directions.”

Not taking such actions in a timely manner – and Ishchenko helpfully provides a map showing just what Russian forces should seek to seize – could, he suggests, prove “fatal in the indefinite situation” the world now finds itself in. Indeed, he argues, “the rapid [Russian] occupation of the Baltics could become the best choice” among those available.

Rostislav Ishchenko's vision of "slightly updated Europe" (Image: NewsBalt)

Rostislav Ishchenko’s vision of “slightly updated Europe” (Image: NewsBalt)

Ishchenko suggests, as Kirillova puts it, that “the main goal of this operation would be not ‘the defense’ of [Russia’s] borders from imagined enemies but the occasion for the beginning of a trade with Europe about the shift of borders and spheres of influence in which of course the sovereignty of other countries and the will of the peoples living in them are not and cannot be taken into consideration.”

As Ishchenko puts it, “a lightning-like occupation of the Baltics would put the European Union in a situation when the restoration of the status quo could be achieved only by means of negotiations.” That is because Paris and Berlin could not “fight” for the Baltic countries if they no longer existed.

It would be comforting to think that Ishchenko’s article is simply one more example of the absurdities that often surface in countries during times of stress, and undoubtedly many people in the EU and the US will dismiss his notions as nothing more than that. But to do so would be a serious mistake.

Aleksandr Sytin, a former analyst for Russia’s SVR intelligence service and more recently for the now infamous Russian Institute for Strategic Research, argues that Ishchenko is speaking for more than himself and that his article is intended simultaneously to test the waters of public opinion and expand the limits of what people consider permissible.

He told Kirillova that Sytin now works closely with Russia Today and other Kremlin media outlets and that he and others so connected put out ideas Moscow wants to see spread through the population so that the regime can act nominally in the name of “’the will of the people’” even though the source of the ideas is the Kremlin itself.

According to Sytin, “Ishchenko’s declarations entirely and completely reflect the foreign policy course of present-day Russia and in particular its striving to become a world center of power and to restore the configuration of the world as it was in 1945, and also to ‘save’ the peoples at a minimum of Eastern Europe and ideally all European peoples from the ‘pernicious influence’ of the US by using the existing contradictions between them and the EU’s weakness.”

Sytin said that, despite proposals like Ishchenko’s, he is certain that the Kremlin does not really want to get into a military confrontation with Europe and NATO. Instead, it hopes for a compromise, one in which the West will make even more concessions to Moscow in order to avoid such a conflict.

“The more quickly the West recognizes that the era of a ‘good’ agreeable Russia is now in the past the better,” Sytin argued, and he insisted that “the Kremlin’s current aggressiveness is creating a danger much greater than that which came from ‘the evil empire’ operating under the name USSR.”

Edited by: Paula Chertok

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  • Yuriy

    Ishechenko was a “Ukrainian commentator” for a while, taking different posts around Ukrainian government from 1992 to 2010. For a couple of years, starting 2006, he was working with minister Dmytro Tabachnyk, who was dismissed from Ukranian government right after the Maidan( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dmytro_Tabachnyk )

    Now he is very pro-russian writer, I would say more to extreme level, participating in resources like http://freeukrainenow.org/ , so, don’t expect too much :)
    You can try to translate his wiki page:
    http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ищенко,_Ростислав_Владимирович

  • puttypants

    Seems to me this is another Kremlin ploy…I think we should just bomb the Kremlin and stop playing these games. Putin must have lost his mind. Russia’s threats are out of control and they need to be stopped.

    • Michel Cloarec

      200% typical russian shit !

    • disqus_aJpixObjG7

      But that would require some CHARACTER and ETHICS from the West- if that would manifest, the demonic putin would immediately put his tail between his legs

  • Michel Cloarec

    INSOLENT,IGNORANT,ARROGANT ,DRUNKEN IDIOT . Too many persons, only one stupid solution, eliminate them, the country will save money . Stalinistical very effective manners to save on pension paiements . Russia and its guarantee shit !

  • Michel Cloarec

    It is so siderant stupid, that maybe it is time to think , why hitler hated the sovjet ? Think that maybe the stooge was right and the rest of the world was wrong !

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      In retrospect, perhaps we should be thankful that Adolf attacked Stalin in June 1941. In doing this he probably forestalled Stalin’s plans for an attack in July or August, which may well have been successful and could have resulted in the Soviet occupation of all of Europe.

      • Michel Cloarec

        Well, we can´t start to do as putin does . Future of the past .
        URSS did not have the material capacity at that time !
        The little Finland did beat the URSS, and took all the military material.

  • Dagwood Bumstead

    It’s far more likely that Putin will attack Belarus. Lukashenko has no friends and it is not likely that the people of Belarus will resist the way the Ukrainians are resisting. If anything, the armed forces of Belarus and the KGB are even more full of (pro-) Russian moles that the Ukrainian armed forces and SBU were.

    Nobody in Belarus will really care if Lukashenko is replaced with Putin. To them, he might even be an improvement on Luka.

    • Czech Friend

      I wouldn’t be so sure…

      • Dagwood Bumstead

        Who or what can stop Putin if/when he decides to annex Belarus? Who will even bother to protest? Merkel? Hollande? Obama? I doubt whether anybody would care if Putin did decide to kick Lukashenko out.
        Right now Putin can get away with anything… and he knows it.

  • disqus_aJpixObjG7

    the WORLD JEWISH CONGRESS OFFICIAL STATEMENT: Attempts to ascribe anti-Semitism to the new democratically-elected government or to Ukrainian civil society are an important part of Russian propaganda, used to legitimate Russian aggression http://eajc.org/page34/news50618.html

  • disqus_aJpixObjG7

    WORLD JEWISH CONGRESS OFFICIALLY STATES: The Jewish community stands together with the Ukrainians against Russian aggression. This angers the occupants and their puppets in occupied territories. The formal leaders of the terrorist groups “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Lugansk People’s Republic,” which are in fact controlled from Moscow, make no effort to hide their anti-Semitic views and spread rumors of the “Jewish government in Kyiv,” hoping to awaken and employ anti-Semitic sentiment against the new Ukraine. http://eajc.org/page34/news506

  • disqus_aJpixObjG7

    WORLD JEWSIH CONGRESS SAYS: In the situation as it stands, the most important way to reduce the probability of anti-Semitic incidents and to ensure the safety of the Jewish community lies through stopping Russian aggression. http://eajc.org/page34/news506

  • disqus_aJpixObjG7

    Always Reply to the ongoing smear of anti-semitism in Ukraine

    THE WJC WORLD JEWISH CONGRESS officially reports:
    There are over 50 MPs with Jewish roots in the
    newly elected parliament of Ukraine. Its speaker is Vladimir Groysman, whose
    Jewishness is doubted by no one.

    It is interesting that even radical right parties and movements have several
    times made openly pro-Jewish gestures. For example, when anti-Semitic graffiti
    appeared in Odessa in spring 2014, the leaders of the local “Right Sector”
    branch personally helped remove them. http://eajc.org/page34/news506

  • disqus_aJpixObjG7

    Always be ready to reply to the vicious historic ongoing SMEAR of anti-semitism of Ukraine and Ukrainians:

    JEWS
    FIGHTING FOR UKRAINE THE JEWISH HUNDRED

    The
    Jewish Division of Ukraine’s Heaven’s Hundred

    http://eajc.org/page34/news43797.html

  • disqus_aJpixObjG7

    Always be ready to reply to the vicious historical ongoing SMEAR against UKRAINE & UKRAINIANS as anti-semitic!

    http://eajc.org/page34/news50618.html

    WORLD JEWISH CONGRESS STATEMENT:

    Attempts to ascribe anti-Semitism to the new democratically-elected government or to Ukrainian civil society are an important part of Russian propaganda, used to legitimate Russian aggression. The results of a professional hate crime monitoring program that we are holding together with our partners imply that a number of anti-Semitic incidents in 2014 might have been committed as acts of provocation. The “hybrid war” that Russia is waging against us implies that many crimes are being committed only to become an element of the information war.
    In this context, unfortunately, we cannot exclude the possibility that certain Jewish institutions or members of the community might become victims of such anti-Semitic acts. Moreover, as the aggressor has intensified irregular warfare, the Jewish community infrastructure might also be targeted by terrorist attacks.

    The Jewish community stands together with the Ukrainians against Russian aggression. This angers the occupants and their puppets in occupied territories. The formal leaders of the terrorist groups “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Lugansk People’s Republic,” which are in fact controlled from Moscow, make no effort to hide their anti-Semitic views and spread rumors of the “Jewish government in Kyiv,” hoping to awaken and employ anti-Semitic sentiment against the new Ukraine.

    In the situation as it stands, the most important way to reduce the probability of anti-Semitic incidents and to ensure the safety of the Jewish community lies through stopping Russian aggression.