In less than a week, Europe’s view of Russia has fundamentally changed. The new question is: What happens if we don’t support Ukraine?
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How we understand Russian motives has everything to say about what we should do in the future.
- Are we facing Russia first and foremost demanding security guarantees, among which NATO will not continue its expansion to the east?
In this case, war can be avoided. And the way forward must be based on a pragmatic stance from the West in which we are also considering making concessions to Putin.
- Or are we faced with an aggressive, revisionist and nationalist regime that wants to subjugate Ukraine to the Great Russian Empire?
If Russia threatens the basic stability of Europe, and in the next round too other countriesthen only one language is understood: power.
Former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was among those quoted as saying: “The academic struggle is so bitter precisely because it means so little.“But these debates mean a lot. So many. Both for our views on Russia and for what choices we have to make in the future.
All serious academics and researchers want to emphasize that reality is complex. They want to say that there are several explanations for a phenomenon, and they are not necessarily mutually exclusive. They want to emphasize that information – especially in tense situations – can often be filled with great uncertainty. Interpretation is just that, interpretation.
The question is which explanation is given the most weight and what best explains what happened. Researchers study Russia from a different perspective. They wear different glasses.
There has been a seismic shift in a short time
Where researchers have detailed knowledge accumulated over years, decision makers need to have an overview. They have minds, researchers, thinkers, and opinions to relate to, but their decisions are not shaped in academia by facts, gray areas, and uncertain interpretations.
Politicians have to make choices. And these choices are shaped by their fundamental way of looking at the world.
There has been a seismic shift in a short period of time. The most important symbol is Germany. They changed overnight his foreign policy from the peaceful and relatively friendly lines of Russia, to the weaponry and clear image of the enemy.
Such a rapid and sensational development was not the result of a long process, painstaking study and discussion of finer points of fact. It happened because the world changed dramatically.
Old glasses – the old way of seeing things – seem out of date.
The big debate about Russia is heating up. However, there are many things that are widely agreed upon:
- Russia has moved in an increasingly authoritarian direction.
- Russia views the environment – roughly within the borders of the former Soviet Union (minus NATO members in the Baltics) – as area of interest.
- They have been critical of NATO’s eastward expansion.
- Russia has put forward the narrative that the United States deceived them after the Cold War. Especially after 2014, they also have a different narrative: Russia belongs to Ukraine, in one way or another.
- Russia has for years pursued aggressive policies in neighboring areas with support for friendly regimes and the destabilization of others.
At the same time, there is a big difference of opinion.
In the great discussions that have shaped European and Norwegian politicians, we can also see the contours of two basic views of Russia’s motives – two analyzes that could provide very different answers to how we should react now.
One view places great emphasis on developments after the end of the Cold War. A disillusioned Russia, with its tumultuous economy, has been unable to put a real force behind protesting NATO’s eastward expansion.
If Western fear is behind it, such a view implies that NATO and the EU must demonstrate some kind of pragmatic flexibility. Researcher Tormod Heier explained earlier this year how NATO has a principled and more pragmatic attitude they can emphasize (Dagsnytt 18 7.01).
The regime is authoritarian, but also a rational actor
putin claim to renegotiate the entire European security system is seen as a bargaining chip. The demands are totally unrealistic, but it makes sense to negotiate, talk and try all diplomatic channels.
Russia has legitimate security interests (at least interests we cannot ignore). The regime is authoritarian, but it is also a rational actor. In short, as we say in Greenland: they talk a lot.
This is a game of great power in which Ukraine is only a piece, and if the game does not find a solution, the conflict will only escalate. The West must provide a license, like one de facto guarantees that Ukraine will never join NATO or the European Union.
Read also: «Empire of Lies»
The second view is that Russia has become nationalistic and aggressive, driven by a kind of ideological and historical dream to restore its former greatness.
The Kremlin’s actions are not primarily a response to what the West has done, but find its deepest causes in the regime’s own worldview.
As Svein Holtsmark and Lars Rowe write, the fear is that NATO will send troops to Russia «Unreasonable claims».
Putin’s Russia is motivated by deep ideological nationalism
We need not wonder what Putin’s goals are. He himself was ready for it.
Last summer, the Russian leader wrote a 30,000-word essay on historical relations between Russia and Ukraine. The essay reveals «imperial ambition»And can be read as something close to one Declaration of war.
Putin’s Russia is motivated by deep ideological nationalism.
Western demands are a game for galleries, it’s never possible with a diplomatic solution. That’s a joke. The same goes for diplomatic meetings in the Kremlin, assurances that Russia will never attack and fake news that troops are withdrawing.
We should have seen it coming. Formerly “Ukraine final»As former foreign politician Michael Tetzschner wrote 10. January.
The historical parallel is Munichavtalen in 1938, when the great powers, led by Great Britain, allowed Germany to occupy part of Czechoslovakia and thereby secure «peace in our time». They thought.
But Hitler never wanted peace. He wanted war, “Lebensraum” and a new millennium empire for his Aryan race. He is on an ideological planet other than the wise and gentle British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain.
What could explain the sudden and dramatic change in European politics? What can explain Germany changing its foreign policy, Norway changing its 1959 ban on sending weapons to warring states, the suddenly revitalized and determined European Union?
Commentator Andreas Slettholm at Aftenposten ask if the West really knows what we are doing when we sent weapons to Ukraine. This is a timely question, but it seems to forget about the tectonic shifts in Russia’s outlook that have occurred in less than a week.
European politicians prefer to ask: what happens if we don’t defend Ukraine?
If Russia is a major power that seeks primarily stability and security guarantees, it requires diplomacy and concessions.
But if Putin’s Russia is ruled by aggressive nationalism whose goal is to devour Ukraine and turn it into a Russian empire, fueled by historical echoes and powerful stories about Mother Russia’s place in the world, we face a regime that understands nothing more. .language rather than power. Not coercion on our part, but political, cultural and economic sanctions that we have never used or seen before.
European politicians may believe that the sanctions will affect the Kremlin’s judgment. Probably not. They may think that this reaction will weaken the seeds of resistance in Russia. Or maybe not.
I think another perspective is just as important: Europe is building sew with a view to the years to come. To protect against water masses.
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