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Deepening Antipathy: Russia and the West

Exclusive to The Daily Banter

By: Daniel Ritchie

“...a provocation that could lead to bloodshed” was the description by Dimitri Rogozin, Moscow’s ambassador to NATO, about the possibility that the former Soviet satellites Georgia and Ukraine could obtain NATO membership, in an interview with the German newspaper SPIEGEL. He cautioned that the membership of Georgia would compromise its sovereignty and the membership of Ukraine would destabilize Europe. In Georgia he emphasized that the Moscow dominated Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions would never accept accession into NATO, which could divide the state and lead to violent internal conflict (and no doubt a battle ground for a proxy war by Russia and the US), and that the accession of Ukraine would run counter to the desires of the majority of the population, which could also lead to internal strife and destabilize Europe.

This development comes on the heels of the tension caused by the US plan to build a missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, about which the ambassador said in the same interview, that if the missile shield went ahead Russia would direct nuclear weapons at the installations in both countries. This follows Putin’s earlier statement that Russia would direct nuclear weapons at European cities once again, something not done since the Cold War. And it comes simultaneously with the opposing views on Kosovo’s declaration of independence.

In Russia Putin is about to step down from his office of President (though not from significant power, and a desire to become prime minister), which could have left some with the hope that his successor, Dmitry Medvedev, would bring a new approach to ease tensions with the West. However, in a recent visit to Moscow by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin stated Medvedev will “represent Russia’s national interests.” This quashes any far reaching hopes that the new president could bring a more cooperative relationship with the West, but it was perfectly predictable given the power structure in Moscow. Medvedev will not be an autonomous president and must tow the line of the powerful elite in Russia, which virtually are all ex-KGB members.

Furthermore, Russia is aspiring to rise to power once again, which will eo ipso set it on a collision course with the West. How the United States and the European Union handle this matter, and their cooperation or lack of there of on policy, could be the difference between another Cold War like scenario or the continuation of a peaceful Europe.