The last year has shown that Putin perceives that his strengths are paired with Western weaknesses; if the West is to seriously contest with him, it must become serious.
Today, Ukraine stands as the border between Russia’s expansionist drive and the West. Where does Poland fit in?
Putin only cares about controlling vassal states from a large enough territory and population to maintain that control, as every Russian Empire has ever done.
Russia’s actions of the last week have reminded the region once again that although the giant slumbers often, when it wakes, bad things happen to the good and the bad alike.
There is a disturbing tendency to treat the legacy of the Soviet Union as the sort of unfortunate thing that happens in “one of modern history’s pivotal experiments.” It is not. It is a legacy that endures to this day.
The combination of growing Georgian cynicism, Russian and Russian-derived money, growing Russian assertiveness, and European incompetence is undoing the nascent Eastern Partnership faster than European leaders realize.
Dealing in Eastern European finance is a fast way to learn that outside of a few countries, the advantages of European ties are ephemeral at best.
However brief its renewed moment in the sun, it appears Russia may once again be called an empire — and all for a few billions of dollars.
This does nothing to encourage the West’s attempts to portray itself as an inevitable and calm future for Ukraine, which until just days ago was its entire foreign policy in the East.
In fairness, nothing the West has done since the Bush Administration will have given Warsaw much confidence.