Vladimir Putin’s Munich warnings ring loud as US-led NATO ‘plays with fire’ in Ukraine
The warnings issued by Russian President Vladimir Putin during his speech in Munich 15 years ago about the dangers of NATO enlargement continue to reverberate across Europe, particularly in light of the military buildup of the alliance that helped fuel the crisis in Ukraine, experts told Sputnik.
On February 10, 2007, Putin gave a landmark speech at the Munich Security Conference in which he criticized NATO’s post-Cold War eastward push as a serious provocation that risked fueling a arms race and violated Western promises not to expand.
During his speech, Putin pointed to a statement made in 1990 by NATO Secretary General Manfred Woerner that the alliance’s unwillingness to place an army outside German territory gave the Soviet Union a firm guarantee of security. Putin, during the same speech, then asked: “Where are these guarantees?”
Fifteen years later, Moscow is still asking the same question. In December, Russia unveiled draft proposals aimed at preventing further NATO expansion in addition to strengthening US-Russian arms control agreements. Although progress has been made in negotiations on some issues, Moscow believes the United States has largely ignored its most critical demands, such as returning NATO’s military infrastructure to the 1997 position and the guarantee that Ukraine will never join the alliance.
The United States has not only ignored Moscow’s demands, but has even deployed more troops to Europe in recent weeks, saying Russia is preparing to invade Ukraine. Moscow not only denied the allegations, but accused the West of stoking those fears to justify sending more arms and forces to the region.
“Putin’s warnings, including in his 2007 speech at the Munich Security Conference, about NATO’s eastward expansion resonate loudly today,” said Ted Galen Carpenter, senior researcher at the Cato Institute, at Sputnik. “The current crisis could and should have been avoided. The United States and its NATO allies deserve the greatest share of responsibility.
Carpenter said the actions of Washington and its allies in Ukraine in recent years have constituted “major provocations.”
“In addition to the arrogance of extending a powerful military alliance to the Russian border, they meddled in Ukraine’s internal affairs to help overthrow an elected president and turn the country into a Western political and military client,” he said. said Carpenter.
Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, believes that in 2007 the United States and its allies should have realized that it was time to rethink future NATO expansion. He said he was a staunch critic of NATO’s “open door” policy as it is generally understood.
“When we started thinking about bringing in big and/or distant countries that were difficult for us to defend and very close to the heart of Moscow historically and otherwise, we were playing with fire,” O’Hanlon told Sputnik.
O’Hanlon pointed to a recent op-ed he co-wrote that suggests NATO is required to invite only states that would enhance regional security – not countries like Ukraine whose membership would actually increase. the risk of conflict.
However, although he was never a big proponent of NATO enlargement, O’Hanlon indicated that adding Ukraine was different from expanding membership to independent countries. which had been under the “yoke” of Moscow without any choice on their part, such as Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and the Baltic States.
REGIONAL COMPLEXITIES LIMIT US
In his 2007 speech, Putin predicted that if Russia and Ukraine ever disagreed, all European consumers would “stand there without gas” – an oddly prescient comment given that countries in the region face the prospect. even amid US opposition to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
The United States has been scrambling in recent days to find alternative energy sources in case the situation in Ukraine escalates and sanctions are imposed on the proposed pipeline.
Although the Russian president in Munich warned of the threat posed by unipolarity, he also observed that the world was becoming more multipolar, foreshadowing some of the current geopolitical complexities.
This was evidenced by Germany’s recent reluctance to accept marching orders from Washington. For example, Ukraine has repeatedly criticized Germany for denying it arms and blocking exports of deadly weapons by NATO allies. Berlin, for its part, has insisted that Germany not allow arms exports to war zones.
Carpenter acknowledged that while the world is more multipolar, the United States still has a predominant influence in transatlantic relations. That said, the expert also argued that regional complexities have limited Washington’s hand.
“European — particularly German — resistance to any use of force regarding Ukraine caused the Biden administration to take that option off the table,” Carpenter said.
Germany said it was working with the United States on possible sanctions if Russia invaded Ukraine, although Berlin was reluctant to explicitly mention Nord Stream 2.
Carpenter thinks tensions between the United States and its partners could escalate further on this very issue. “The main fight could happen if Washington pushes for additional economic sanctions at some point,” Carpenter warned.