While team Obama resides in Poland fortifying NATO resolve, it would help if his executive team embraced realism. It won’t happen, but we need a brief outline explaining Putin’s aggressive posture throughout the Mediterranean and Baltic region. The Russian leaders is definitely hurt at home given downward pressure his commodity based export regime is under; but finding relief valves is only half the problem, the other half is the nature of authoritarian regimes, the lack of sound institutions and the need for security that animates all autocratic regimes.
Putin is engaged to fundamentally challenge Western political order. This is his rationale in aiding Iran, splitting the Atlantic alliance in Glasgow, damaging any democratic ethos in Minsk and threatening Berlin.
To achieve these ends, Putin began Russian military modernization efforts to conceal his posture abroad. His Gerasimov doctrine, known as deniable hybrid war is an attempt for him to achieve foreign policy goals cheaply, without interference. Putin simply claims grandiose international legalese, providing cover for covert action. His framework is to challenge American aim of stability through coercive, active propaganda. He’s winning, but his industrial base and currency is dwindling.
Geopolitically, what does Russia seek?
Russia wants the West to acquiesce to Putin’s world view that Russia should have a sphere of influence. To achieve this aim, Putin uses agreements to demoralize the U.S. If you ask Istanbul, Beijing, Brazil, Israel and even London, they all admit a quiet dangerous refrain, team Obama’s unwillingness to punish Russia permits Putin a mantle of power broker.
As Truman, Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan all knew; there’s only one way to finish off this growing antagonism: meet the challenge head on and punish him severely for all to see.