Under the pretext that NATO has expanded into former Soviet Satellites and Republics and that such expansion cannot continue, Putin’s Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and annexed Crimea in 2014, and then worked to separate to regions of Eastern Ukraine from the rest of Ukraine by providing para-military concealed soldiers and inciting protests. Now Putin is threatening to invade the Ukraine.
Russia insists on having a regional sphere of influence it considers vital to its national security. Thus, it is demanding that NATO not accept the Ukraine, a former Soviet Republic, as a member. Putin has gone even further, writing of “the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians”. The U.S and NATO claim that barring Ukrainian admission would be a violation of NATO’s “open door” policy that opens the Treaty to any European state that can further NATO’s principles and contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area. Likewise, such a Russian demand is, moreover, a clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty.
However, such a NATO provision does not say that NATO must accept any country that applies.
The scholar Timothy Snyder portrays Putin as a neo-Brezhnevite perfectly capable of resorting to military force and invasion of other countries to advance the notion of a greater Russia. The invasion of Georgia in 2008 and Crimea in 2014 seem to confirm this notion.
However, if we believe that Putin is another tyrant willing to go to war for what he considers vital interest of Russia, we should either prepare for another war or passively accept Russian aggression. Neither option is desirable. The former because it could lead to a bloody war with heavy casualties. The latter is a poor choice as it will display western weakness with long-standing future costs. As former President George W. Bush pointed out, “weakness is provocative”.
Thus, negotiations remain the only reasonable option. But how?
Thus far, the idea of preventing the Ukraine from joining NATO has been rejected by the U.S. In response, Russia has threatened to move troops to Venezuela and Cuba. Such a move was immediately dismissed by the U.S National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan as a “bluster”.Interestingly enough, Russia’s statements opened a pandora box.
Russia’s involvement in Latin America has been taking place for almost two decades while several U.S Administrations have chosen to remain silent.
Russia’s Latin America involvement began precisely in 2008 after the Georgia crisis.
Russia deployed nuclear-capable bombers and warships in the Caribbean.
Russia has been the main supplier of weapons to Venezuela, many of which ended in the hands of the Marxist and later Bolivarian guerilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), well before the Colombia-FARC peace agreements. Russia deployed ships in the area to conduct military exercises with the Venezuelan navy. These military exercises were dismissed by then U.S Secretary of Defense Bob Gates. Russia also signed agreements with Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela to gain access to their ports and airfields in the region with the purpose of supporting Russian military operations in the United States’ historical sphere of influence. Russia sold Latin America $14.5 billion in arms between 2001 and 2013 and that by 2014 Russia’s military presence in the region was vast.
Furthermore, Russian companies associated with the government are attempting to control the import and export of Venezuelan oil in an effort not only to make profits but also to help the murderous Venezuelan regime.
As United States Army War College scholar Evan Ellis observed after the 2014 events, while the Obama Administration was focused on preventing Russia’s advances in the Ukraine, Russia was challenging the United States in its own historical sphere of influence.
The narrow definition of NATO as a North Atlantic coalition has made it lose consciousness that the Treaty is also an entity responsible for protecting the entire Western civilization and the liberal order. Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua are in danger of being joined by new f left-wing governments in countries such as Bolivia, Peru, Chile, and Argentina. After the next election, Brazil might also fall under the spell of Russian influence as it has in the past when the WP was in power.
Moreover, Russia has a major interest in encouraging left-wing authoritarian regimes in Latin America in the same way that it supports illiberal anti-European Union right-wing parties in Europe. The idea is to weaken U.S and European Union power, which means weakening the liberal order. If we believe that Russia should not be trusted it does not make sense to negotiate, as Brett. Stephen recently pointed out. However, adversaries rarely trust each other when negotiating, and the fact is that we are negotiating.
We can compromise on these points with Russia and reach a textured compromise. We can have a 25-year freeze of NATO expansion, not to incorporate the Ukraine to NATO and not to post troops or weaponry on NATO countries bordering Russia in exchange for Russian respect for the Ukraine’s sovereignty.
But such an arrangement should not be the end.
These negotiations also present an opportunity to require Russia to stop supplying weaponry to Latin American countries and abstain from supporting authoritarianism in the region, particularly Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. The U.S must be very strict in demanding a Russian retreat from the Western hemisphere.
A successful multi-dimensional Russian-American negotiation can set a precedent to resolving future conflicts and crises. We live in a multipolar world reality. The world presents a multiplicity of problems and conflicts that could potentially be resolved through negotiations and guarantees provided by world powers. Ukraine is an important part of a long list of such problems. The Syrian crisis, the threat of a nuclear Iran, the rise of Islamic radicalism and others each present examples of vital issues of interest to the United States and world peace.