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Russia Sure Behaves Strangely for a Country Bent on Conquest

January 15, 2019 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

It is commonplace for Americans to portray Russia as a dangerous
country with nearly unlimited territorial ambitions. But the facts
simply do not support such an alarmist view. Instead,
Russia’s behavior is more consistent with that of a
beleaguered regional power trying to fend off hostile intrusions
from an American-led NATO.

The self-serving myth of a malignantly aggressive Russia,
however, continues to grow—with potentially dangerous
consequences for European and global peace.

Assertions that Moscow’s behavior pose a serious, even an
existential, threat to Europe and the entire democratic West
surfaced even before Donald Trump became president. They flared up
in 2008 when fighting erupted between Russia and neighboring
Georgia—even though the latter country had initiated the aggression. Senator John McCain
asserted that “it’s very clear that
Russian ambitions are to restore the old Russian Empire.”

Its conduct has been
abrasive and aggressive, but there’s no evidence that Moscow
harbors expansionist ambitions.

Such allegations became more pervasive when Moscow annexed
Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014 following the
Western-assisted Maidan revolution that overthrew Ukraine’s
elected, pro-Russian government. Ultra-hawkish writer and media
talking head Ralph Peters asserted that Putin had a detailed plan for reclaiming the Russian
empire. “Make no mistake,” Peters warned, “Putin
truly believes he’s entitled to reclaim Ukraine and a great
deal more. In his view, independent capitals from Warsaw (yes,
Warsaw) to Bishkek [the Kyrgyz Republic’s capital] are
integral and natural parts of the Russian imperium. He regards them
as property stolen from its rightful owner: Moscow.” Hillary
Clinton’s rhetoric was even more apocalyptic: Putin’s actions, she
contended, were “what Germany did back in the
‘30s.”

Such hyperbole has continued and even increased over the past
five years on both sides of the Atlantic. In a March 2017
interview, Dalia Grybauskaitė, president of Lithuania, stated bluntly: “Russia is a threat not
only to Lithuania but to the whole region and to all of
Europe.” Poland’s foreign minister, Witold
Waszczykowski, was equally alarmist, insisting that Russia’s behavior posed an
“existential threat” even greater than ISIS.

Russia’s conduct has been abrasive and aggressive at
times, but there is no evidence that Moscow harbors expansionist
ambitions remotely comparable to those of Nazi Germany and the
Soviet Union. Indeed, the Kremlin’s actions suggest a much
more limited, perhaps even defensive, agenda. As professors Andrei
Shleifer and Daniel Treisman observed in Foreign Affairs, “To
many in the West, Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia seemed to
prove the Kremlin’s land hunger.” But such a conclusion
reflects poor logic: “Kremlin leaders bent on expansion would
surely have ordered troops all the way to Tbilisi to …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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