Map of Russian troop concentrations on the border with Ukraine, presented by the Ukrainian military intelligence to Military Times in November 2021.

Map of Russian troop concentrations on the border with Ukraine, presented by the Ukrainian military intelligence to Military Times in November 2021. 

Opinion, Russian Aggression

Edited by: A. N.

Moscow commentators and presumably the Kremlin, Aleksandr Skobov says, are suggesting that the West has already capitulated to Vladimir Putin over Ukraine because the only response they think the West will make involves sanctions. But that is a mistake: if Putin expands his aggression in Ukraine, a new Iron Curtain will go up.

Aleksandr Skobov (Image:

Aleksandr Skobov

“A serious regional war in the center of Europe would mean that relations between Russia and the West as a whole would inevitably return to the level of the height of the First Cold War,” the Moscow commentator says.

New sanctions will be directed at “the destruction of the Russian economy as an opponent.”

But more than that, Skobov says, “cooperation in all spheres – scholarly, cultural, legal and the humanities” will be blocked. “At a minimum, that will involve formal contacts of a semi-military time, and between Russia and the West will again go up ‘an Iron Curtain.’” Those concerned only about sanctions are missing the point.

“Cutting off Russia from the global system of international ties in our post-industrial era undoubtedly will be a problem for the countries of the West, and many will have to make sacrifices.” Consequently, he argues, many will try as much as they can to contain Putin rather than have things reach that point.

But that is precisely what will happen if Putin launches expanded aggression against Ukraine, Skobov says.

And if that happens, Russia will suffer far more harm than Western countries. Moscow thinks it can compensate for this with a new coalition of countries “on an anti-Western basis.”

This alliance of authoritarians won’t be as strong and united as the Kremlin thinks, he argues. Many will cooperate for a time, but these are very different countries with very different agendas and they aren’t in a position to compensate Russia for the losses it will suffer by being cut off from the West.

And the largest ally Moscow is expecting to help out, China, may be happy to use Russia as “a battering ram” and “distraction” in the West but is focused on penetration rather than confrontation as its strategy to achieve world domination. Moscow’s agenda thus is not Beijing’s, and China won’t be willing to follow Russia into isolation for long.

Moreover, Skobov says, “the Kremlin itself would not want to finally lose all opportunities for penetrating and disordering the West.”

It thus will face pressures from within its own regime not to take an action which could cost it such chances, the Moscow commentator argues.

It is of course the case that information openness is becoming for Putin “ever more unbearable” and that “the Putin authoritarian regime is completing its rebirth into a totalitarian regime based on political mobilization, thought control, ideological prohibitions, and censorship.”

In this situation, “the Kremlin has its own ‘Operation Barbarossa’ for Ukraine,” but Putin isn’t going to put it in motion “until the very last moment.” What the West must do is to convince him of their readiness to impose “the highest possible costs” if he goes forward. According to Skobov, there are signs that they are doing that, having concluded appeasement doesn’t work.

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Edited by: A. N.

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