The master of the Kremlin is biding his time to put NATO in its place – time that may never come as he needs months or years in Ukraine still. However, it is probable that Putin will be followed by another Putin as the demand is there in Russia. NATO must therefore waste no time reinforcing its entire eastern flank, from the Arctic Ocean to the Black Sea, Kalev Stoicescu writes.
The Kremlin's claim that Russia is combating "fascism" fools no one except thoroughly brainwashed Putinoids. The entire world can see that Russia has become an aggressor similar to Nazi Germany.
Russians with some sense, including in the Kremlin, likely understand that history repeating itself is inevitable in that a victim of fascist aggression that is highly motivated to defend itself and has the backing of the politically, economically and militarily strong free world will eventually prevail.
Accusing Ukraine, also Sweden, Finland, the Baltics and others of fascism in turn changes nothing. It simply demonstrates how pathetic and laughable the Kremlin's propaganda apparatus has become.
Battles near Kyiv in late February and March can figuratively be compared to the defense of Moscow between October 1941 and January 1942. The "fascist predators," to use the Soviet term, did not succeed in conquering their target's capital. Instead, they were forced to retreat and try their luck in the Donbas and the south of Ukraine. Mariupol can symbolically be compared to the defense of Stalingrad and the Siege of Leningrad.
Unfortunately, the balance of powers is very different from the Second World War. Unlike the Soviet Union, the victim this time is a democratic country that will remain west of the iron curtain, in the free world once the conflict ends.
The Russian despot's May 9 speech in the Red Square once again highlighted what weighs heaviest on his heart and the hearts of Russian-speaking people who support him. An inferiority complex born out of being bested by USA and the entire democratic West.
The Soviet Union tried to maintain political, military and technological parity with the USA, manifesting in the Warsaw Pact and the Communist Bloc, number of nuclear warheads and the space race. The Soviet Union succumbed to the way it was run and economic and technological stagnation. Vladimir Putin's regime is walking the same path and will step on the same rake.
NATO is the central object of hate for Putin and his peons as the alliance ensures the defense and independence of European democracies that the dictator calls "satellites." Moscow might be able to manipulate some European Union members and charge them billions for oil and gas, but it cannot fully control anyone. Not even its only western-looking vassal – Belarus – that has still not joined the war against Ukraine. Viktor Orban's Hungary will also join the oil embargo eventually, what choice does it have.
The North Atlantic alliance is supporting Ukraine with increasingly modern and efficient weapons and ammunition, in addition to considerable financial and humanitarian aid. Defensive armament gifted or sold to Ukraine by USA, UK, Estonia, Turkey, finally Germany and many other allies has been used to destroy thousands of units of Russian military equipment and thousands of soldiers.
Russia's greatest defeat lies in failure to establish itself as a nuclear power everyone should fear. The war has made it obvious that Russia, despite its sprawling propaganda, is naked, while the Ukrainian state, people and culture and strong end enduring. Both are nightmares for Putin, as is Finland and Sweden's looming NATO accession.
On that backdrop, it is quite clear that the collective Putin is plotting his revenge on NATO for all of these (perceived) humiliations. Can we do anything about it when nations' will to live in freedom and make their own choices – for example, whether to join NATO and/or the EU – constitutes humiliation for Russia? Should we all give up our freedom and democratic aspirations because Russia considers it irritating Russophobia?
The master of the Kremlin is biding his time to put NATO in its place – time that may never come as he needs months or years in Ukraine still.
Moscow's short-term or summer goal is to reclaim the initiative, conquer all of Donbas and push through as far as Transnistria, while maintaining seeming normality in Russia by adjusting to or bypassing sanctions. The West and Ukraine must stop it from achieving these goals. However, the West should first shake its fear of Putin losing, fear of a nuclear attack essentially.
Some analysts suggest it will take Russia between three and five years to compose itself and become a threat to NATO again. Who knows? We don't even know whether Putin will still be the one in power then, or next fall for that matter, and whether their potential successor will be better or worse.
It is important to keep in mind that a considerable part of the Russian population (and Russian-speakers living elsewhere) is so brainwashed and saturated with anti-Western and anti-Ukrainian sentiment that it will take a very long time to change.
It would require denazification, following the example of Germany after WWII. For example, making Putinoids sit in the cinema for hours on end watching footage of the horrors of war their "heroes" visited upon people in Ukraine. However, that will never happen as no one is looking to occupy Russia (no one wants to) and they will not do it themselves.
That is why Putin will likely be followed by another Putin as the demand is still there in Russia. The threat will remain. NATO must therefore waste no time reinforcing its entire eastern flank, from the Arctic Ocean to the Black Sea. The democratic world needs to put more economic pressure on Russia.
Strategic communication is just as important, especially to minimize the nuclear threat. Russia needs to be made to understand beyond all doubt that any nuclear strike, including against Ukraine, would merit a response in kind. The Kremlin will not be calling anyone or engaging in dialogue before it is certain the West is unwavering, unbending and unafraid.
Editor: Marcus Turovski