Imperially Deluded By Mart Laar ex-Prime Minister of Estonia
Imperially Deluded By MART LAAR
May 3, 2007
TALLINN — Flush with petrodollars, and amid disarray in the Western camp, Russia’s hopes of restoring its lost empire are rising.
Vladimir Putin’s annual address to both houses of the parliament, delivered last week, was just the latest signal. The Russian president declared that his country’s obligations under the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty would be suspended as long as the U.S. planned to install a missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. Mr. Putin threatened Russia would abandon the treaty if NATO countries failed to address his grievances. The defense shield, he claimed, was a threat to national security.
Nobody can take Russia seriously on this point. Neither the shield nor the Czechs or the Poles threaten, or could threaten, a Russia armed with thousands of nuclear missiles. But Mr. Putin is doing something else here. He wants to reclaim for Russia its previously dominant position in Central and Eastern Europe, harking back to a time when every strategic move in this region had to be negotiated and agreed with Moscow. Mr. Putin’s threats are intended to make Russia the de facto power in its “near abroad,” and a signal to the West that the Russians — who once pushed their way around in the world as a Czarist, then a Soviet, Empire — are back in the game.
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