Expert: Russia now sees western countries as weak

Rainer Saks in the Vikerhommik studio.
Rainer Saks in the Vikerhommik studio. Source: ERR/Janek Luts

The Kremlin now considers the West to be weak and its responses to Russia's actions towards Ukraine essentially non-existent, according to one expert. This has emboldened Russia in its drive to close the door on further Ukrainian integration with the West, once and for all.

Appearing on Vikerraadio morning show "Vikerhommik", Rainer Saks, who has worked a former Foreign Intelligence Service (Välisluureamet) chief and former Ministry of Foreign Affairs secretary general said that: "The question is not whether western countries are really weak - the question is how does Russia see it."

Saks said that Russia is acting to end the window of opportunity for Ukraine to integrate further with the west. "And I'm not talking about a slow down, I'm talking about ending it. Ending it forever. That is why this is all happening."

Russia would undoubtedly escalate the situation in eastern Ukraine and increase its forces on Ukrainian territory under the guise of the recognition of the two easternmost regions of the country as "independent", ramping up their forces their without engaging in open conflict and signaling to the west that there can be no going back.

While escalation is likely to continue this week, it is not clear how this will pan out or whether military action elsewhere will also take lace.

Escalating or de-escalating the conflict can be done on a pragmatic basis, from the Kremlin's perspective, he said.

At the same time, an all-out attack on Kyiv was, Saks said, unlikely, even in the form of air strikes, while direct military intervention by the U.S. or its NATO or other allies was similarly unlikely.

Sanctions should be made long-term to have any sort of deterrent effect, Saks added and both the EU and NATO must be clear in working out long-range plans, both militarily and in other spheres.

"In addition to hard security, so-called soft security is also important," Saks told Vikerhommik.

So far as NATO goes, a nuclear deterrent is key, he said.

"If we look at a possible military clash between NATO and Russia, this would mean a nuclear conflict and a global war. The best deterrent in the modern world is one where neither side makes its plans [for open conflict], as they would know that this could culminate in a nuclear conflict, just like that."

Putin is also ready to suffer strategically as a result of sanctions – particularly with regard to sanctions on individuals, which Saks said were essentially ineffective, while the fact that many such individuals have relatives living in the West doesn't really make a huge difference

From Ukraine's perspective, they have been able to avoid escalation and mass casualties, including those of civilians, particularly. "So far, civilian infrastructure has not been heavily attacked. But now it seems that these established practices are being abandoned," Saks said.

It is also important to bear in mind Ukraine is, unlike Estonia, not a member of any defensive alliance such as NATO and the EU, Saks noted.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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