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Letter: NATO vs Russia

Tucker Esty’s recent column on the threat Russia poses to NATO and our democracy was well presented and accurate as far as it went. However, it presented only the West’s point of view. There’s also the Russian side of the story.

Since around 1990, when the Soviet Union dissolved, the West has provoked Russia and threatened her security. First, we brought the Baltic and other Eastern European countries into NATO after assuring Russia we would not do so. So now NATO borders Russia’s western flank. Second, we moved elements of our ballistic missile defense system into Eastern Europe under the view that Iran was a threat. Then we waged economic warfare on Russia because of their internal domestic policies with which we did not agree. And, eventually, we encouraged Georgia and Ukraine to sever their ties with Russia and join the EU and NATO. That would have put NATO on Russia’s southern flank. That crossed Putin’s red line.

While Georgia and Ukraine are now sovereign states and should be able to do what they want, that ignores their geography and history with Russia. Georgia has large Russian populations in its northern provinces. Their protection provided an excuse for a Russian invasion.



Georgia realized we couldn’t help them and backed off and now has a “peaceful” relation with Russia. Ukraine did not back off. Consequently, Putin invaded and annexed Crimea. Why Crimea? Crimea is about 90% Russian and is home to Sevastopol, the huge Russian naval base that dates back to the reign of Catherine the Great. There was no way that Putin would risk Sevastopol falling into NATO hands. He then invaded the provinces adjacent to Crimea to provide a buffer zone.

The West imposed heavy economic sanctions as punishment. While Russia cannot compete militarily nor economically with the West, Putin has options, particularly in hybrid or cyber warfare. Since the West has embraced the internet and social media in particular, our democracy is extremely vulnerable to disinformation and our infrastructure to ransomware attacks. Thus Putin can cause us endless trouble. Whether we can acknowledge Russia’s interests and negotiate a deescalation remains to be seen.

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Tucker Esty is obviously an intelligent and capable person. But we all need to remember that there are two sides to every story.

Bob Croteau (Former Defense Department Senior Executive)

Vail


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