There are current reports that Russia is flying simulated attacks on baltic countries and the U.K.. NATO has condemned the events, calling them a provocation and an escalation, and gearing up their nuclear strategy meetings.

Pro-Russian commenters on the articles linked above claim that NATO does the same thing every day, and that therefore Nato is calling out Russia for something it practices itself, rendering the condemnation mere propaganda.

  1. Is this claim true, and is the media simply reporting Russian maneuvers while keeping quiet about the NATO counterparts?

  2. Regardless of the above, should simulated attacks between Russian-aligned and NATO countries in the current political climate simply be regarded as a kind of relatively benign business-as-usual intelligence gathering? Or should they actually be considered noteworthy show of force and potentially hostile?

  • The answer to #2 is "both" :)
    – user4012
    Jan 30, 2015 at 15:51
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    They are reporting about NATO exercises - they just don't call them provocations, but maneuvers.
    – user45891
    Jan 30, 2015 at 20:38
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    @user45891 Are they equivalent in terms of provocativeness, e.g. do they involve simulated attacks and/or brief violation of sovereignty?
    – John Woo
    Feb 5, 2015 at 13:52
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    I'm not sure (nor knowledable wise to actually evaluate that; gut feeling wise: they aren't) however I think no matter how ridiculous the physiological profiles of Putin and Russia are, one aspect is common to all them: No matter what the NATO does, it is seen as provocative. So while on a objective scale NATO maneuvers might not be as provocative, they nevertheless are perceived as hostile - and only that perception counts.
    – user45891
    Feb 10, 2015 at 16:36
  • 1. I guess, most users on Politics :SE are not Intelligence Agency guys, so there's no way to confirm or deny. Media shows what they want to show. One may say media is a channel of Propoganda. But, well, that is that. 2. This is like asking, "does it deserve conjecture and hot air?" . I believe, what it should be considered is opinion based. Guys will percieve what they feel like, unless a real war breaks out. And I percieve, that it is usual buisness
    – Rohit
    Feb 12, 2015 at 14:53

3 Answers 3


The fundamental problem is that Russia does not accept the de-facto status quo where the West is in a position to dictate World affairs. This gives rise to the most tensions where Russian interests are affected. The problems with Russia evolved gradually, it's not true that Putin was intent on obstructing the West right from the start. In fact his initial opinion was that there is no reason why Russia should not join Nato.

To understand how the relations deteriorated, you have to look at the events from the year 2000 till today from the Russian perspective. From this perspective Russia was fighting the war against terrorism in the Caucasus and before that in Afghanistan, only to be opposed and criticized by the West. If we then reject that Russian perspective on the grounds that Russia did violate human rights, there is still the problem that our views about how Afghanistan or an independent Chechnya could be governed and avoid becoming a failed state, was totally unrealistic.

This then causes Russians to see that the Western world view has flaws. Moreover they'll then look at events since the year 2000 from a more critical perspective of the West than we do which then leads them to draw conclusions we typically donlt draw. E.g. the Iraq war was to most of us just an intelligence failure, to Russia this was much more vindication that their attitude toward intervening into the affairs of sovereign countries is indeed correct.

The recognition of the independence of Kosovo was to the West a minor issue, but for Russia this was a grave issue. The West weaseled its way out of this issue by declaring that this was a special case that should not set any precedent. While that was enough to get Western nations to accept this (some countries did not agree with the decision, e.g. Spain, but they were not going to rail against it). But for Russia the recognition of the independence including the declaration that this is not going to set a precedence was totally unacceptable.

How can the West and not Russia have the right to decide on a case by case basis that some region can break away from the country it is part of? Obviously the West would not agree that Russia can do that too.

Then the war in Georgia in 2008 was probably the single most important event that did irreversible damage to the relations between the West and Russia. The Western perspective is that this was an act of aggression perpetrated by Russia. he Russian perspective is the complete opposite. Russia argues that Georgia started the war Georgia and simply lost. While an dependent EU mandated study did fault Russia, one has to be realistic here and accept that the West would in a similar situation not have done things differently that Russia, other than perhaps go for a complete regime change.

One can argue about Russia's peacekeeping mission in South Ossetia and Abkahzia not having been neutral, but then there are plenty of examples of the West having engaged in similar behavior from Lebanon in the early 1980s till Iraq in the 1990s and Bosnia (e.g. illegal weapon deliveries to the Muslims fighting the Serbs).

For the West cry foul play when Russia didn't see itself acting out of bounds of the limits the West itself sticks to, made Russia feel that when push comes to shove, they cannot really do business with the West. Russia did feel that it did accomodate for Western interests. Even when they felt that the West was wrong, that didn't mean that Russia would continuously rail against that.

The straw that broke the camel's back was Russia putting aside all its skepticism about a NATO led mission to police the fighting in Libya (including an arms embargo imposed on both sides) and deciding to not veto a chapter 7 UN resolution to give authorization for such a mission. This ended up with NATO supporting the overthrow of Gaddafi with NATO playing an active role in arms deliveries to the rebels.

And then the events in Libya after that intervention over the last few years were not really positive. We in the West then don't rethink the rationale for intervening in the way we did, the Russians do make that link (no just protecting Benghazi, but the whole enterprise of removing Gaddafi).

You have to consider the complete picture of all these events from the Russian perspective to see how this leads to a de-facto "anti-Western" point of view. It's not that Russians are by definition anti-Western just that they think the Western point of view on many issues is just wrong and the West itself doesn't see that.

This then makes NATO at the borders of Russia much more of a threat. Western influence in countries where there are Russian minorities is seen to be problematic, because Russia doesn't thrust the Western way of thinking to resolve problems. This in turn gives nationalists in Russia the political space to persue their policies. Putin has to accommodate them, but he can't just let the nationalist forces give everything they want.

I don't see any military threat from Russia, not only because Russia cannot project any military power of significance to overpower NATO but also because the conflict between Russia and the West isn't at its core a military standoff. If you go to Eastern Ukraine then the locals there will tell you all you need to know, some are pro-Kiev and some are anti-Kiev and with each day that passes they hate each other more. That Putin is pouring oil on that fire may be true, but leaving out this picture and framing everything on Russian military forces, is giving us in the West a false perspective of this conflict which leads us to see things like a treat to the Baltic Nations that in reality do not exist.

Putin is then making good use of our fears by holding exercises which forces us to spend more on beefing up our military presence in Eastern Europe.

  • The number of casualties in Iraq war vary greatly according to source of data. But if you look on some of them which have some credibility (project Iraqi Body Count, Iraqi Health Ministry, Iraq war logs) the number 100 000 or hundred thousand seems reasonable and conservative estimate. This really can't be justified as "intelligence failure". The people that are responsible for this failure should be judged as war criminals just as were judged generals from former Yugoslavia. Imagine what would happen if some other country attacked USA and killed 100 000 of its citizens ? Mar 21, 2015 at 17:46
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    Let's single out Georgia and see if we can poke some holes in this story. Not saying this is not the Russian state's point of view, but trying to prove it is ridiculous and paranoid. If the Georgians started it, why was it not fought on Russian territory?
    – John Woo
    Mar 23, 2015 at 16:10
  • Russia had an official peacekeeping mission with peacekeepers stationed in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. A lot can be said about these peacekeepers (they were not really neutral in the conflict). But Georgia reacted to Russian provocations by crossing the line of a military attack, just like Saddam did in the mid 1990s when his forces went into Northern Iraq to get rid of a CIA outpost in Kurdistan. That prompted Clinton to launch an attack against Saddam's intelligence headquarters. So, it seems to me that there are unwritten rules of conduct that are applied differently to Russia than to us. Mar 23, 2015 at 17:45
  • " the Iraq war was to most of us just an intelligence failure, to Russia this was much more vindication that their attitude toward intervening into the affairs of sovereign countries is indeed correct." - Really? You mean like Ukraine, Georgia, Moldavia? Oh right, that was Russian military, not US. I can also dig out results of public opinion polls calling for military intervention in the Baltics.
    – user4012
    Mar 25, 2015 at 13:21
  • @truthseeker - your idea of "credibility" is not very credible. You picked the most biased anti-American sources, who lumped in the casualties of Iraq War and casualties of intra-Iraq violence that had nothing to do with US.
    – user4012
    Mar 25, 2015 at 13:24

After more some more information gathering, I'm answering myself on this one. The conclusion I have reached is that Russia is intent on restoring its influence on former soviet republics and perhaps beyond using any means necessary, including force. Therefore, the military maneuvering is not benign, ordinary, or a response to Western activity, but part of a larger strategy aimed at expansion and conquest. The threat of a unilateral escalation of conflict by Russia should be taken very seriously.

These sources are all from Der Spiegel, a left-leaning German magazine traditionally sympathetic to Russia and critical of the U.S. and Nato. Only one is from The Economist, which has a classical liberal background but is remarkably non-ideological.

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    Makes sense. The most powerful (relative to the rest of the world) that Russia has been was at the time of the Soviet Union. Of course they'd want to reclaim that former glory. Unfortunately, the people seem to mostly be under the sway of the state media. A sad state of affairs. However, this isn't the Cold War or WW2. There's a lot more opposition and I doubt they'd get anywhere with a full-on assault. Seems more likely they're going to just try to push their luck as far as possible. Mar 10, 2015 at 15:03
  • Nothing good to offer ? What about writers Puskin, Lermontov, Dostojevskij, Tolstoj, Solzenycin ? Scientists like Ciolkovskij, Mendelejev, Lomonosov, Pavlov, Sorokin, Euler, Lobachevsky, Lyapunov, Cherenkov, Prigogine, Sakharov ? What about international cooperation in space research on International Space Station ? Mar 21, 2015 at 19:56
  • @truthseeker The Russian state has nothing good to offer other states.
    – John Woo
    Mar 23, 2015 at 16:02
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    @JohnWoo, Please give me a single proof about "direct military involvement in the Ukraine" in the article you used as a proof. Is that an American retired general Breedlove saying "I've seen troops, tanks, etc"? If so, than we have to start WW3, because I've just seen American nuclear missiles flying towards Russia! Any photos? Any real proofs? You can't just believe what someone says about serious things with no evidence. Your other points - no comments. You should really try harder to look for evidences. Sep 30, 2016 at 9:08

It seems that Russia has been becoming more aggressive in the past months. Putin has been relatively active in China, India, and the Middle East. They seem to be spreading a "narrative" about the United States and the rest of the Western Nations. Honestly, I think Russia is a bigger threat than ISIL, mainly because Russia is the second largest nuclear power and the sixth largest economy. [Below is a URL to C-SPAN about the Foreign Committee's recent talk about the Ukraine-Russia Conflict; it is very eye opening and informative.


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