Vladimir Putin: Columnist Patrik Etschmayer writes that

Mr. Putin is just the latest autocrat to smell fear in Europe.



The Dictator Challenge: Europe's Ultimate Test (News, Switzerland)


"The logic of aggression commands that the attacker persevere as long as potential gains exceed the costs. … That Russia feels harassed may well be, but it isn't as if NATO invaded Poland, the Baltic States and the former Czechoslovakia. It was the mistrust fostered by 50 years of occupation that turned half the continent into a prison and pushed the former 'brotherly states' from Russia into the arms of America. … Putin is a power politician who smells weakness, a man who internalized Soviet expansionist thinking in his youth and never forgave the West for the Soviet collapse. … If Europe doesn't know what it stands for, it will inevitably be crushed between the power blocs rather than being one itself. The dictorship problem will likely prove the European Union's ultimate test."


By Patrik Etschmayer



Translated By Stephanie Martin


February 16, 2015


News – Switzerland – Original Article (German)

The claim of the autocrat was clear: Our fellows in neighboring countries are being threatened and harassed. His nation was in political and economic distress after a bitter defeat a good two decades earlier, and its place in history which was hard-won over centuries - was endangered.


Unrest in neighboring countries which, not too long ago, still belonged to his own country's territory, were a welcomed excuse for covert or open intervention and, under the pretext of liberation, even the annexation of entire countries. The subsequent referendum, in which the “liberated” peoples were permitted to register their undoubtedly entirely “free” vote in support of the recently-executed occupation, while at home a conformist press portrayed the aggressor as a defender of traditional values opposed to Western decadence, was all part of an instrument for disguising the use of brute force.


But pressure on the dictator-come-autocrat grew: Because of homegrown problems like corruption, party nepotism, an inefficient economy and the cost of conflicts in his self-declared region of influence, there was no option other than a major success. While the economy gradually shrank, the army and its weapons arsenal expanded.


Previous partners were irritated, old enemies' suspicions confirmed, and tensions rose. While some counted on confrontation, others wanted to negotiate. There are always agreements, peace plans and hope. But the logic of aggression commands that the attacker persevere as long as potential gains exceed the costs - all the more so with the doves seeking to cuddle with the hawks.


Finally, however, even the last of the appeasers had to acknowledge that there were no fine words that could justify breaching every peace treaty and agreement. We all know the result: On September 3, 1939, war was declared on Hitler's Germany. So began the great dying, first in Europe and then worldwide.


Are we again in the initial phase of a similar horror? The war in Ukraine has taken on proportions that prohibit any use of euphemisms. Particularly in Germany, a debate has taken shape that could make your head spin. At this point, it is supposedly Russia which is being forced to practice forward defense in its neighbor. Mind you - within borders that Russia recognized in 1994 [the Budapest Memorandum]. But these commitments have been forgotten.


That Russia feels harassed may well be, but it isn't as if NATO invaded Poland, the Baltic States and the former Czechoslovakia when the Warsaw Pact fell apart. It was the mistrust and even disgust fostered toward Russia by 50 years of occupation that, together with the Iron Curtain, turned half the continent into a prison which, with an almost centrifugal force, pushed the former “brotherly states” away from Russia into the arms of the remaining global hegemon, the United States of America.


The impotence of Central Europe, which confronts Russian aggression with hand wringing while at the same time (barely) retaining a military commitment from the United States, is self-inflicted. The peace dividend of 1989 was thrown away, diminished when European unification became more of an economic than a political project with member states being more interested in outdoing one another than compromising in the interests of the whole and strengthening Europe. So what was potentially the largest economic power in the world mutated into the economically and politically self-obstructive bureaucratic monster unwittingly and increasingly left behind.


Munich Security Conference Videos: Merkel, Biden, Lavrov, McCain, Graham, Soros, Shultz


Even if it's bitter to hear: the European Union, with its depoliticized politics and skim-milk version of its ideals, has created a power vacuum at its borders. It has disappointed many of its neighbors with dithering and indecision when it comes to standing up for democracy, the rule of law and freedom beyond its economic sphere.

Posted by Worldmeets.US


Even within the E.U. there is dwindling confidence in the project. When just a few miles from Berlin, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is working to establish a Magyar [Hungarian] version of Belarus just a mustache away from Lukashenko, the E.U. has more than a little credibility problem to contend with


Putin recognized this weakness. A resolute Europe that from the start and with no ifs or buts not only negotiated but provided support for Ukraine and threatened consequences would not have allowed this to turn into a war. Nor would such a Europe have had to contend with an ally who, instead of acting with tact, actively intervened.


Putin is clearly no Hitler. He is a power politician who smells weakness against the wind 500 kilometers away, a man who internalized Soviet expansionist thinking in his youth and never forgave the West for the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1989. Reestablishing the former world power is the central motivation of his actions. Putin smelled weakness and indecision in Europe and took the reins in his hands. Moreover, what's happening in Ukraine will be decisive for the Baltic States and certain regions of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.


Romantics who see Putin as a counterbalance to the United States forget that Russia does as little to defend the freedom of others as the United States would do with the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership in Europe or potential arms shipments to Ukraine. Let's remind ourselves one more time: Nations have no friends - they have interests, so Europe should go beyond lip service, be clear about its interests and put its stake on the table.


If, on the other hand, Europe doesn't know what it stands for, it will inevitably be crushed between the power blocs rather than being one itself and collapse from self-doubt. The dictorship problem will likely prove the European Union's ultimate test.



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[Posted by Worldmeets.US February 15, 8:59pm]













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