Vladimir Putin is one of the most interesting man alive today. In 2007, he was Time magazine’s “Person of the year”. In 2015, he held the #1 spot on the Time magazine’s “Most influential people” list. He has enjoyed very high approval rating in the Russian federation, throughout his career.
Putin’s relations with the West, more specifically, the U.S and NATO are complex, and are under the constant scrutiny of experts. He surely cannot be said anti-west, since he has supported some of their actions (Putin supported America’s war on terror after the infamous attacks on the WTC). However, most of the time, he is against the West, and the man has his own reasons. Relations between the U.S and Russia have been deteriorating since 2003, when Russia did not support the Iraq war. History is the proof to how right Putin was. No matter how much America tries to justify the war on the grounds of WMDs being under the control of Saddam Hussein, the truth is that the war did more harm than good. Iraq after the war- a destabilized nation.
Expansion of NATO to Russian borders, the unilateral withdrawal of U.S from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, the West’s sanctions on Russia, the former’s ever increasing spending on defense are only some of the reasons why Putin is angry with the West all of the time. There is no doubt that America today is not a super power, but a hyper power. They have military bases all over the globe, their defense spending is more than any other nation, they’ve the power to influence any major decision in international relations. On the other hand, Russia has seen its share of gloomy days after the USSR dissolved in 1991. It faced a financial crisis in 1998. Poverty and economic inequalities rose sharply. The education and health sector (Which saw its golden days during the cold war) declined. Putin is the man who came to Russia’s rescue. During his years as the president, real GDP grew on an average 6.7% per year, and average income increased 11% annually in real terms. The government has cut around 70% of the external debt under his leadership. From his actions, he seems more of “pro-Russian” than “Anti-West”. He has stood for Russia when times were difficult, without being intimidated by the great power and influence of the U.S and the NATO.
The Munich speech: In February 2007, Putin criticized what he called United States’ monopolistic dominance in global relations and “almost uncontained hyper used of force in international relations”. Indeed, the world today is unipolar, and this causes a sense of insecurity among nations that do not want to go along with the USA or the NATO. In January 2007, Putin said that Russia was in favor of a democratic multipolar world.
Well to be fair, Putin does have his reasons…
America’s unilateral withdrawal from the 1972 treaty: It was a treaty signed between the U.S and the USSR on the limitation of ABM systems. Under the terms of the treaty, each party was limited to two ABM complexes, each of which was to be limited to 100 anti-ballistic missiles.
On December 13,2001 former president George W. Bush gave Russia notice to the United States’ withdrawal from the treaty. USA’s withdrawal from the treaty eventually led to the creation of the American Missile Defense Agency. It also enabled the US to attack with a nuclear first strike.
USA’s plans to build missile defense systems in Poland and Czech Republic: The US missile defense system in Poland is also called the European interceptor site (EIS). According to the U.S, the EIS would defend against future missiles from Iran. Russia strongly opposed it, and instead proposed sharing of the Qabala radar in Azerbaijan, but this was not seen as an acceptable substitute by the U.S. The project was supported by the Polish and the Czech governments (Although the missile shield saw some opposition from some groups within the two countries).
In response to the Americans building missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, Putin said that if Russia’s military experts consider that they represent a potential threat, then they’ll have to take appropriate retaliatory steps.
On September 17, 2009, the Obama administration announced that plans for the project had been scrapped.
USA’s opposition to the Russian military intervention in the Syrian civil war: Even before the airstrikes conducted by Russia on rebel and jihadist groups in Syria after an official request by the Syrian government (the airstrikes began in September 2015), Russia had been supplying the Syrian army. Russian officials have said that their objective is to help the Syrian government regain their lost territories from various rebel groups like the ISIL, but also from groups that are backed and armed by the United States.
Now, here comes the interesting part, the international reaction. On 1 October, 2015, participants in the US led anti-ISIL coalition called on Russia to stop its air strikes in Russia. Their reason? That Russia was not discriminating enough between civilians and the target groups. Remember that this is the same US and NATO whose drone air-strikes in Syria and Western Pakistan has indiscriminately butchered thousands of innocent civilians. According to them, Russian bombings and air-strikes would only “fuel more extremism”.
Turkey shot down a Russian bomber in late 2015 on the pretext that the latter had violated the former’s airspace for 17 seconds. Now, the plane (SU-24) is an old fighter. Further, it was not even armed with anti-aircraft missiles. Three years ago, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that a “short-term violation of airspace can never be a pretext for an attack.”
NATO’s expansion to the Russian borders: NATO’s aggressive expansion to the east (encircling Russia) is seen as a threat by Russian experts. Further, the US has been surrounding Russia with a belt of military bases. They have strategic and economic interests in the Black sea.
The incorporation of the countries in the former Soviet sphere of influence into NATO has been the source of increasing tension between Russia and the NATO countries. As NATO builds up in Eastern Europe where Russia once ruled in influence, Moscow said it must respond.
If truth be told, there is nothing much Russia can do about it, save the occasional protests. A sovereign country has the right to decide its own affairs, and once they join NATO, they’re literally immune to any Russian aggression.It is not that Putin deliberately wants to sore Russia’s relations with the West. He is not a fool to start a new Cold War or even worse, another World War (I have quite a wild imagination). He simply wants to protect Russia’s interest. The USA is a major player in international relations today. It has assumed a hegemonic role. But it also has become a hypocrite nation. They want to protect Crimea on the grounds on sovereignty but do not hesitate to send armed helicopters in the dead of night into a sovereign nation (You know what I am talking about). They stop Russia from bombing in Syria on the pretext of protecting innocent civilians but fail to justify American and NATO’s airstrikes in the middle east that have been sabotaging entire neighborhoods, for decades now. They prohibit the storage and use of chemical weapons but themselves store them in massive amounts. They accuse Russia of committing crimes against humanity in Syria but forget what their soldiers did to the Vietnamese people in the Vietnam war. Enough of it already. Personally, I wish a bipolar world. The US today simply has too much power and it is dangerous to give so much of it to a single nation. Perhaps we need another nation to counteract this monster. Sadly, I see none in near future.