Just as the meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs is drawing to an end, the Russian Federation reveals the reason behind the last month of aggressive actions, including its military build-up along the Ukrainian border, the migration crisis on the Polish borders, and its increasingly belligerent rhetoric directed at both NATO and Ukraine.
In his opening statement, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg addressed the Russian military build-up, including heavy armor, drones, and combat-ready troops. He called on “Russia to be transparent because this is unprovoked and unexplained. So, therefore, Russia needs to be transparent, and they need to reduce tensions, and de-escalate.”
Today, President Putin became transparent. During an accreditation ceremony with foreign ambassadors, he addressed the “growing threat on Russia’s western border“:
“In my speech at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I already stressed that the priority facing Russian diplomacy at this juncture is to try to ensure that Russia is granted reliable and long-term security guarantees.
While engaging in dialogue with the United States and its allies, we will insist on the elaboration of concrete agreements that would rule out any further eastward expansion of NATO and the deployment of weapons systems posing a threat to us in close proximity to Russia’s territory. We suggest that substantive talks on this topic should be started.
I would like to note in particular that we need precisely legal, juridical guarantees because our Western colleagues have failed to deliver on verbal commitments they made. Specifically, everyone is aware of the assurances they gave verbally that NATO would not expand to the east. But they did absolutely the opposite in reality. In effect, Russia’s legitimate security concerns were ignored and they continue to be ignored in the same manner even now.”
In my opinion, his statement, following months of belligerent actions, coercive diplomacy, and disinformation, is very much in line with the Hybrid War strategy. It is designed to ensure victory through limited use of military power.
As all eyes are drawn to the military build-up and migration crisis in the east, it is crucial to remember that the battlespace of the Hybrid War occurs inside the cognitive spaces of populations and key decision- and policymakers. It aims to destabilize nations from within, create fear, and foster inaction.Russia aims to confuse and manipulate both Ukraine and the West into making the political decisions Russia wants. It wants Ukraine to give in, and the West to keep its “hands off Ukraine.” Click To Tweet
President Putin has once again, offered the USA, the EU, and NATO a glimmer of hope of a political solution to the increasing tension.
For Ukraine, however, it offers only further war or its surrender.
The West will, however, not take the bait. Despite the subtle promise of a “political solution,” Russia will fail to deliver. A concession on these terms will offer nothing but more hostilities.
- Firstly, it will be seen as a Russian victory over the USA, the EU, and NATO, further emboldening a belligerent nation involved in Hybrid Warfare throughout the western hemisphere. Its list of aggressions is growing by the day.
- Secondly, the Arctic is slowly turning into another region of high tension. Due to its limited military capacities and economy, Russia needs a respite to fix the Black Sea region before turning its full attention to the High North. This runs counter to all of our interests. Thirdly, a political solution that does not take into consideration the aspiration of the Ukrainian population is bound to fail. The consequences for both Ukraine and Europe would be devastating.
- Lastly, failing to support a “NATO’s enhanced opportunity partner” and the biggest contributor to NATO operations, the alliance will lose all credibility. As would the EU Eastern Partnership program and EU’s principles and values. Both would lose their credibility as protectors of liberal democracies.
The Russian Hybrid War is in my opinion, in a sense like a pandemic. Lacking a resolute response and extreme measures, it is bound to spread. It is high time for the West to change its strategy towards Russia. We should not negotiate with rogue nations.