Putin ‘shot himself in the foot’ with Nordic NATO applications
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The Ukraine war could extend to the EU after Vladimir Putin declared on Monday that any new military infrastructure in Finland and Sweden would demand a reaction. It comes after the two nations confirmed their plans to join NATO — a direct result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, they say. Finland is particularly vulnerable given that its entire eastern front borders with Russia.
Both countries have since the end of World War 2 remained neutral on such matters, hence neither is a part of NATO.
But the conflict has thrust domestic security under the spotlight, with each nation’s proximity to Russia deemed too close not to be a part of an alliance.
Like in the case of Ukraine, Putin has said that NATO’s expansion into Finland and Sweden would be a problem for Russia, and it would need to evaluate what to do in the case of the Nordic countries joining the outfit.
And like Ukraine, both Finland and Sweden have complex and intimate histories with Russia, especially regarding geography and borders, with both countries at one point either belonging to the Russian Empire or having their territories away from the mainland captured by it.
In Ukraine, many experts have listened to Putin’s words closely and noted that he appears to want to return at least some of the country’s landmass to the Russian Federation, with one myth the Kremlin has pushed being that Ukrainians and Russians are one and the same people.
While Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine came as a surprise to many, for those familiar with the politics of the region it was something years in the making.
James Sherr, a senior fellow at the Estonian foreign policy institute, explained that as far back as 2009 Putin’s ambitions for his near abroad were clear, likening them to those of Adolf Hitler, Führer of Nazi Germany.
Speaking to Samuel Lovett for a recent piece in The Independent, Mr Sherr recalled a 2009 conference where Putin “very casually” declared that there was “absolutely nothing wrong with Adolf Hitler’s foreign policy or anything he did until March 1939” when the Nazis annexed Czechslovakia’s Bohemia and Moravia.
He said: “Hitler’s argument was that he was simply re-unifying historical German lands.
“In the same way, Putin was now speaking about the unity of Russia and the Russian world.
“It was becoming clear that the doctrinal basis for Putin’s foreign policy was very similar to that earlier period of Hitler’s policy, where he said to Chamberlain and others, ‘I’m just taking what is ours historically.’
“This rationale of Putin’s has been around for a long time.”
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Hilter took Bohemia and Moravia less than half a year after singing the Munch Pact which was intended to avoid the outbreak of war by forcing Czechslovakia to surrender its border regions and defences to Nazi Germany.
The provinces were not incorporated into Nazi Germany but became known as the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, and were placed under Nazi rule.
The move encouraged surrounding countries like Hungary to similarly annex land from the4 Czechs, and by the end of 1939, Czechoslovakia had completely disappeared from the map without any reaction from the Allies.
Putin has not kept his anguish over the breaking up of the USSR a secret, previously describing its collapse as the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century”.
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A few days before Russia’s invasion got underway, Putin gave a lengthy speech justifying the dismemberment of Ukraine, reaching back further than the Cold War and the USSR to dredge up Russian territory losses more than a century ago, when the country was an Empire and had a feudal system.
He said the Bolsheviks — who ended Tsardom in Russia via the Russian Revolution — made a grave mistake in recognising Ukraine as a republic, lamenting not the loss of the Soviet Union, but the “territory of the former Russian empire”.
While Russia and Ukraine have shared histories, they are at the same time separate and distinct, with the name “Ukraine” actually mentioned before the name “Russia”, according to historical records.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Ukraine split into two, part of it belonging to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, while the was incorporated into the Tsardom of Russia.
Russia eventually took full control of Ukraine later on in the 18th century, but by this point, while its cultures and languages were similar, history had wedged enough of a gap between the two to create a distinct difference.
But Putin and his allies disagree, and have spent years pushing the idea that Ukraine does not exist.
Vladislav Surkov is thought to be an individual who has influenced Putin’s ideas in this area, described by some as the “Grey Cardinal” and the Kremlin’s main ideologist, as well as the mastermind behind Putin’s Ukraine policy.
While by late February 2020 he had fallen from grace and was sacked, his views were present in Russia’s invasion, declaring in an interview on February 26, 2020 that “there is no Ukraine”.
He continued: “There is Ukrainian-ness. That is, a specific disorder of the mind.
“An astonishing enthusiasm for ethnography, driven to the extreme.”
He went on to claim that Ukraine is “a muddle instead of a state. But there is no nation. There is only a brochure, ‘The Self-Styled Ukraine’, but there is no Ukraine.”
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