Cause and effect: Who is to blame for Russia's war of aggression?
I was in my hometown this weekend, there I had a discussion with a family member which, I guess, is quite common these days.
It was about the war in Ukraine and who is responsible for it.
The relative argued that it was the European Union and NATO that made Putin so aggressive and led to the invasion of Ukraine.
„We have provoked Putin too much“, she said.
So let‘s face this argument. Would Putin have forgone to invade Ukraine if Nato and the EU had, for their part, rejected to welcome some eastern countries to their organisation?
The most honest answer is that we do not know. We just can‘t say. Because there is just one history. The enlargement of EU and NATO, the invasion of Ukraine. That is what happened. What might have happened if things in the past had been different is not history but speculation.
For speculation to make any sense, it should have a factual basis. So let‘s collect what we know so far.
We know that Putin is not interested in the rule of law and free elections and that he uses every means available to fight anyone who advocates such a society.
We know that Putin considers the path taken by former Soviet republics to become independent states a mistake. (Think alone of his famous quote from 2005: “First and foremost, it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”)
And we also know that Putin has already invaded parts of Georgia and annexed Crimea.
Now let’s move from knowing to speculation. What would you assume? If it were possible for Putin to undo what he calls the „greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century“, would he do it? I think he would. The easier it were for Putin to rebuild this old world with Russia as his empire, the more likely it would be that he would do so. And yes, this is speculation. But it is also quite straightforward, isn‘t it?
The idea of Putin leaving states alone when they are weak and without the support of other states strikes me as simply naïve. The president of Russia is not an idiot, he is rational and capable of anything. This is why most of the Eastern European states are trying their best to protect themselves against potential aggression by Russia. To claim that this self-protection is what prompts Russia's aggression in the first place mixes up cause and effect. And yes, this is, as said, speculation, but I also call this common sense.