NEWSWATCH Washington Times: Russia’s grab for its neighbors; ‘Europe whole and free’ should be more than a slogan

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[“Russia’s grab for its neighbors: ‘Europe whole and free’ should be more than a slogan’” – Washington Times – Paula Dobriansky, Blaise Misztal – March 29, 2015]

Writing in the Washington Times, Paula Dobriansky and Blaise Misztal address concerns about Russia’s impact on peace, security and economic stability in Europe. They also assess the prospects for political consensus in the United States to respond more robustly to Russia.

A bipartisan consensus is emerging that the United States should do more to address Russia’s continuing aggression against Ukraine. But Russian revanchism does not begin or end with Ukraine, nor are ‘little green men’ its only foreign policy instrument. Moscow is actively engaged in subversive activities along Europe’s eastern flank, targeting the region’s economic and political stability. As Central European capitals grow increasingly concerned, Washington urgently needs to demonstrate its robust commitment not just to the region’s security but to its democratic future.
Moscow has long demanded that Western nations not encroach on its ‘sphere of influence,’ defined by the borders of the old Iron Curtain. It is now seeking to regain its sway over its neighbors in order to, ultimately, control all aspects of their domestic, foreign and defense policies and separate them from the rest of Europe.

The authors suggest that Russia’s tactics go beyond the use of force, and are aimed at the post-Cold War European order, including an effort to sow splits and divisions impeding Western unity.

Russia’s strategy beyond Ukraine may not feature outright use of force, but that should be cause for greater alarm, not less. To exert control in its near abroad without resorting to aggression, Moscow has sought to first weaken the post-Cold War European order — political and economic stability and abiding commitment to political and civic freedoms. Those countries that undertook significant and often painful reforms to establish new, free institutions following the fall of the Berlin Wall — Poland and the Baltic states, for example — have been better off and more deeply anchored in Western international political and security institutions than those that struggled to changes their ways, like Ukraine. Now, Russia has launched a campaign of propaganda and subversion directed at the Central European nations that remained beyond its grasp for the last quarter-century. Its primary tactic is to exacerbate and exploit Europe’s internal tensions.

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