I’m reading George Friedman’s “A Forecast for the 21st Century”. So far, it’s reinforced something I’ve read between the lines in analyses of past administrations. The world’s governments don’t act irrationally. Our current administration is no exception. A 2012 article on stratfor.com helps to explain the U.S. behavior. Perhaps it even explains Harper’s panel discussion on the EU in which representatives of the UK, the United States and France expressed concern about Germany’s power. It certainly provides a different slant on so-called American imperialism. While America’s actions might appear as evidence of an offensive strategy, they are primarily defensive. U.S. foreign policy is the result of unheard-of power combined with fear. I’m not qualified to answer the question of whether the level of fear is grounded in reality in any particular circumstance, but after reading this article, you can decide whether it is justified in the case of Ukraine.
Largely due to the rise of competition with Russia’s role as supplier of Europe’s natural gas, Russia is trying to create strong buffers in Central and Eastern Europe. She hasn’t been hugely successful, but her cause has been helped by decreasing military budgets in the EU.
The wavering of NATO’s focus on Central Europe has added to NATO’s problems, for example in Afghanistan. In addition, France has supported military coalitions in places not strictly of interest to NATO, such as Libya.
For the past ten years, NATO has easily contained Russia militarily, while the EU contained her economically, but since the Greek economic crisis of 2010 the EU has had fewer resources. Russia, on the other hand, has a $600 billion surplus from energy sales and $500 billion in reserves.
By 2012, the Russians had increased their troop presence near Estonia. They had an agreement with Belarus to deploy troops there in a wartime scenario, and they had deployed S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems in Kaliningrad. They also had plans to deploy the Iskander missile system there.
Russia has also been buying assets at the end of the energy supply chain in Europe, which will give it more leverage in the foreign policies of European states. In this case however, Russia is in need of European investment, which will increase EU leverage over Russia.
These facts provide some of the background for Russia’s current involvement in Ukraine, which is tremendously important to her strategic plans. Russian influence in Ukraine would integrate Russia into Europe, but it would also allow Russia to truly challenge Europe.
In view of Germany’s rising power in the EU, this writer believes–or he did in 2012–that a German-Russian condominium is a possibility. Germany has always been conflicted between Atlantic Europe to the West and land-bound, autocratic Europe to the East. A subtle turn by Germany toward Moscow would be a serious matter.
Europe is very much in play. Its future as an economic, political and moral powerhouse is not written in advance — as was smugly assumed a few years ago. The EU debt crisis is only the beginning of the story, with geopolitical aftershocks that will only become apparent over time.[ref]Global Affairs, Stratfor.com, May 23, 2012. Available: http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/europes-russia-factor#ixzz2vCJdWzhd[/ref]