By Richard E. Carroll
For over a hundred years, the West has characterized Russia as a menacing and frightening boogeyman, who is always about to invade and destroy Western civilization. But in the last 210 years, Russia has never militarily invaded Western Europe. While Russian troops did cross into Western Europe during World War Two, it was only responding to the unprovoked attack from Germany, Bulgaria, Italy, Hungary, and Slovakia on June 22, 1941.
However, in the last 210 years, the West has invaded Russia 4 times if you count the Crimean War. Three of those attacks were of an existential matter, and almost extinguished Russian polity. From 1812, when Napoleon invaded Russia, to the First World War, to the Second World War, Russia has had to fight for her life and her polity in existential conflicts because of military invasions from the West.
Today, the West is grappling with a Russia who has her back to the wall; yet it is the West which paints Russia as the aggressor, when it is the West which has been the strategic aggressor since the end of the Cold War. If the West sincerely wants peace with Russia, the West needs to come to the understanding that Russia has legitimate security interests. Until the West acknowledges the security interests of Russia, the current stand-off with Russia will continue unabated. These circumstances would force Russia into an economic, political, and military alliance with the real threat to the democratic countries of the world, China.
The End of the Cold War, and the Deception of the West
The fall of Communism and the Soviet Union was a watershed event in world history. From 1947, when the United States assumed the mantle of world leadership from Great Britain, until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the United States and Russia had been involved in a life and death struggle over which economic system, capitalism, or communism, would dominate the world’s economy.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 ended this struggle, but also precipitated a crisis in the question of reunification of West German and East Germany into a whole German nation. The crux of the crisis was whether or not a reunited Germany would be allowed to remain in NATO without provoking a sharp response from the then Soviet Union.
The Two Plus Four Treaty signed on 12 September 1990 by the then Soviet Union, the United States, Great Britain and France called for the evacuation of Soviet military forces, and paved the way for the reunification of West and East Germany into a fully unified nation on 3 October 1990.
While not spelled out in the Two Plus Four Treaty, there was a verbal guarantee given to Russia by the United States, that NATO would not expand its authority any further east, given Russian acquiescence to the reunification of Germany, and a reunified Germany belonging to NATO.
“In early February 1990, U.S. leaders made the Soviets an offer. According to transcripts of meetings in Moscow on Feb. 9, then-Secretary of State James Baker suggested that in exchange for cooperation on Germany, U.S. could make “iron-clad guarantees” that NATO would not expand “one inch eastward.” Less than a week later, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to begin reunification talks. No formal deal was struck, but from all the evidence, the quid pro quo was clear: Gorbachev acceded to Germany’s western alignment and the U.S. would limit NATO’s expansion”.
Russian Security Needs
Any serious inquiry into the security concerns of Russia by necessity should start with the sack of Kiev in 1240 AD, and the subjugation of Russia by the Mongol Horde from 1240 AD until 1480 AD. For 240 years, the Russian people were brutalized by the Mongol Horde. There were periodic slave raids into Russia by the Horde, which in turn took their captives to Constantinople for sale in the slave markets there. This continued unabated until the Battle of Ugra River in 1480 AD. During the period of Mongol rule, Russia was at times savaged by Western European states, and this has created a deep visceral distrust of the West in Russia.
The most recent example of Western European attacks upon Russia happened in June of 1941 by the military forces of Nazi Germany, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Italy, and Slovakia. While Finland also was part of the attack on Russia, Finland only used its military resources to recover land taken from her in the Russia-Finnish War of 1940. At one point in World War Two, the life of Russia was held onto by the slenderest of margins on the west bank of the Volga River in 1942. At one point during the Battle of Stalingrad, the Russian military forces were reduced to a pocket of a mere two hundred yards in diameter on the west bank of the Volga River. Only the insane courage of Russian soldiers, and civilians, prevented the German Army from evicting the Russian forces from the west bank of the Volga River.
A critical point to remember is that Romania, Italy, Bulgaria, and Slovakia all participated in the attack on Russia on June 22, 1941. Romania, Bulgaria, and Slovakia are now members of NATO.
Given the history of the repeated depredations upon Russia by the West, it is no wonder that Russia has become alarmed at the increased pressure upon her borders by nation states that have repeatedly attempted to end her polity.
The Geopolitical International Consequences for the West
The current leadership of Russia, while having badly misjudged the determination of the West in regard to Putin threatening a weaker neighbor, does have legitimate national security concerns due to the actions of the West against Russia over the last two centuries. While the crisis over Ukraine has not ended, it is highly unlikely that Russia will militarily begin a war it cannot win, and might even bring about the collapse of the Putin regime.
But the duplicity of the West does have serious geopolitical consequences for the West, and has increased geopolitical instability in the world balance of power. If the past is any guide, Russia will reach out to China to buttress her position on the world stage. While Russia recognizes that China is a more dangerous threat to Russian polity, Russia wrongly or rightly, deems the West as a more immediate threat. Russia has several times reached out to other nations for support when she feels isolated on the world scene.
The Rapallo Treaty of 1922 established diplomatic relations between Germany and the then Soviet Union when Russia was isolated and alone on the world stage. This treaty gave Russia access to modern technology and financial access to world markets. In return, Germany was given access to aviation technology, which she was barred from developing, and training in armored warfare on Russia’s territory, far from the prying eyes of Western Europe.
The German and Russian Non-aggression Treaty of 1939 gave Germany a secure eastern flank, and provided Russia with the time to rearm after her military had been savaged by Stalin’s purges.
On February 4, 2022, Russia and China both issued a statement calling for NATO and the West from expanding its influence any further towards Russia. Russia and China have been holding joint military exercises in the Indo-Pacific area. It is only a matter of time until Chinese land forces train in the European portion of Russia. Such closeness between the two nations only serves to increase the instability on the world political stage.
Instability increases the chance for a world political conflict with the West versus Russia and China. And all of this could have been avoided by open and honest dealings with Russia; it is still not too late to avoid a complete break with Russia, and prevent a new Cold War from emerging which has a good chance of breaking into open conflict.
A Possible Political Solution to the Crisis Between Russia and the West
Russian security demands are that NATO troops do not expand into Ukraine.
Ukraine is situated right next to the soft underbelly of Southern Russia. From the Ukrainian border to the river Volga there is no natural boundary. From Ukraine to the Volga there is only open steppes, which are the ideal condition for any type of an armored strike into Russia’s vitals.
Russia is also demanding that NATO reverse course, and not station any NATO troops, or nuclear weapons in NATO countries that are adjacent to the Russian political borders.
NATO has responded to these Russian demands by offering limited military exercises in those NATO countries that Russia is concerned about.
The West should bow to the inevitable fact that the Crimea is not going to be returned to Ukraine. It was by a political ploy by Nikita Khrushchev to win control of the Politburo over his rival Greorgii Malenkov that the Crimea was placed under Ukrainian control in the 1950’s, ignoring the ethnic realities of the Crimea when the Ukraine was transferred from the Kazakhstan SSR to the Ukrainian SSR.
Ukraine would have to receive financial compensation for the loss of the Crimea, and while pledging not to host NATO troops or joining NATO, Ukraine would be free to turn its face to the West in economic and political matters.
The West should need to come to a solution where Russian security would be assured, and that both sides would pledge not to use military force to sway political life in those countries that concern Russia.
By agreeing to these conditions by both parties, the pressure on Russia to seek a deeper economic, political, and military relationship with China.
The West must not lose sight of the longer-term threat posed by China. By loosening Russian ties to China with agreements on western Russian borders, China would have to consider her northern border security. This would force the Chinese to lessen its strategic assault in the Indo-Pacific region, and make China more amenable to political concessions.