Two decades ago, Vladimir Putin asked the West to allow Russia to become a member of NATO. This informal request was promptly rebuffed. What view does Russia take of the option of a US-led Asian defense alliance encircling China? For Russia this is primarily a question of lack of trust or to put it differently, Russia specifically does not believe in trust but in raw power. A defense alliance requires mutual trust and Russia apparently is far from convinced that the United States, India, Japan, Australia, Indonesia and others would actually fight China were Beijing to invade Siberia. Moscow understandably does not believe in putting its fate into the hands of others and so Russia seeks to once more become a superpower by conquering Europe from Poland to Ireland in order to become able to deter China from invading Siberia in the future. Yet, the thinking was apparently different two decades ago when Putin wanted Russia to join NATO.
What is the current thinking in the Kremlin, in Russian intelligence and in the Russian military leadership? There is a keen understanding that Russia has considerable time to realize its neo-imperialist project in Europe as China is in no haste to invade Siberia and an invasion is probably at least 20 years away. Of course Vladimir Putin is understandably extremely frustrated that his 2022 invasion of Ukraine did not go nearly as smoothly as previous irredentist “military operations”. The problem obviously for the Russian government is that they know that they are fighting for the survival of Mother Russia by preying on others and of course this is impossible to explain to the average man and so Russian conscripts literally have no idea what they are fighting for.
It is essential to understand that Russian decision makers live in an intellectual universe of extreme Realpolitik that is completely detached from any moral values. Yet it must certainly not be forgotten that there was a time when Russia was interested in aligning with the West. Of course Vladimir Putin is older and more experienced now but it would be a mistake to reduce this to the psychology of one person. The goal must be to coax Russia into a direction where it opts away from its imperialist plan of expansion in Europe and in order to do that must far more weapons of many different kinds be supplied to the Ukrainians and the European Union must make a strategic decision to build a unified European military. The sanctions regime against Russia unfortunately does nothing to influence the course of war in Ukraine, however the sanctions are now in place and must be used as leverage to coax Russia into a US-led Asian defense alliance encircling China.
Unfortunately, the Western sanctions regime against Russia has only reinforced Russian suspicions against the outside world, but as an Israeli citizen (I am a dual citizen of Sweden and Israel) I can certainly understand why Russia wants to be self-sufficient in defense and rely on no one for its defense.
All three neo-imperialist powers (Beijing, Moscow and Tehran) pose severe threats against international peace and security. All three must be dealt with. However different strategies are required. China must be contained and the Khomeinist empire must be imploded, yet Russia is a different case. On the one hand must Russia be militarily deterred from preying on Europe but on the other hand must every effort be made to coax Russia back into the international community and convince it to abandon its neo-imperialist ambitions in favor of accepting an Asian defense alliance that encircles China from all directions. Of course, it is absolutely essential for European deterrence to make sure that the ZSU (Armed Forces of Ukraine) successfully kicks out the Russian occupying army from Ukraine. This requires a far larger investment and commitment to arming Ukraine than is the case at present. The ZSU is certainly not the Afghan army and the ZSU is highly capable and able to effectively use weapons provided to it. The very future of Europe is at stake.