The world is becoming an increasingly dangerous place.  While China remains the biggest threat to long term global stability, the new Russian Bear expansion quest in Europe is the tinderbox that could ignite a global conflict and have dramatic impact on Alaska military operations.  Vladimir Putin is pursuing his vision of dominating neighboring counties under the guise of providing a buffer for Russia from NATO and United States interests.  Putin intends to supplant western interests in eastern Europe. 

Russia has always been paranoid about Western Europe. Napoleon entered Moscow in 1812.  With exhausted supply lines, his forces had to retreat in winter with the loss of over 400,000 soldiers.  One hundred years later, Hitler betrayed his nonaggression pact with Stalin and launched “Operation Barbarossa,” marching into Russia.  Hitler advanced to Moscow.  Like Napoleon, winter saved Russia, forcing Germany to repeat Napoleons torturous retreat and saving Moscow.

“Putin has now drawn a “Red Line” in resisting NATO membership for Ukraine.”

One has to see the situation through Putin’s lenses to understand the rationale of his pursuits. To protect Russia, the Soviet Union needed to control neighboring countries.  Built on post-World War II agreements and an aggressive expansionist ideology, the Soviet Union controlled a vast global domain that included Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and many outlanders like Cuba, Angola, North Vietnam, and others.  Now, in the twenty-first century, the Soviet Union is gone, and most Eastern European states are no longer part of a Russian sphere of influence.  That is not Putin’s vision of a future Russia.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has grown, with many Eastern European states joining the Atlantic pact.   To Putin, NATO on the border of Russia is a serious security threat.  History has taught Russia that Europe is not always a friendly neighbor.  Putin sees Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania being members of NATO as a problem.  That’s one reason Putin has now drawn a “Red Line” in resisting NATO membership for Ukraine.

Another point often overlooked is the Kaliningrad factor.  Kaliningrad is a Russian exclave 200 miles west of the Russian border. It is an ice-free port on the Baltic Sea and home for Russia’s Baltic Fleet. Surrounded by NATO members Poland and Lithuania, Kaliningrad remains disconnected from Russia and is a strategic concern for Putin. 

“this is all occurring because the United States exhibits a feckless foreign policy.”

Russia today is not Russia of 1990.  Our neighbor just across the Bering Strait is investing in modern weaponry, exerting international influence, developing partnerships with adversaries of the United States, like China, and sees an opportunity to once again challenge United States world power.

Crimea was the test case.  Putin seized Crimea during the Obama/Biden administration.  He learned that the forced military annexation of Crimea from Ukraine strengthened his domestic political base and did not result in any meaningful international backlash.  Now, Putin is ready to again advance on Ukraine. Putin smells US weakness and is getting ready to take advantage of America’s apparent lack of will to lead.

Of course, this is all occurring because the United States exhibits a feckless foreign policy.  The US waives sanctions on Russia, permitting the Russian Nord Stream 2 natural gas line to be constructed to Germany at the same time Russia sends an increasing supply of weapons to Ukrainian separatists and deploys thousands of Russian soldiers to the Ukraine border.  Sending mixed messages does not show strength in leadership, or an understanding of Russian intentions, and that should be a grave concern for all Alaskans.

This confrontation is bigger than a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine.  If the US and Western Europe fail to reach a peaceful resolution, Russia will invade Ukraine and will then turn its attention towards gaining control of the Baltic states to reintegrate Kaliningrad with Russia and secure direct access to the Baltic Sea.

If the Biden Administration wants to retain US global stature as a leader of peaceful engagement, it must succeed in deescalating the Ukrainian tension.  Otherwise, we are on the brink of a serious military conflict between two powerful nuclear armed nations the likes we haven’t seen since the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

“Diplomacy means pushing back on Russia and holding Putin responsible for the Ukraine insurgency war currently being waged by Moscow.”

Instead of deploying tactical weapons or sending US forces to Ukraine, the Biden Administration must successfully implement non-military actions that could deescalate the current march to war in Ukraine.  It’s time for a new strategy, one that preserves an independent Ukraine by advancing Ukrainian economic development, bolstered by Western European investments.

This will not be easy, because Putin cannot be trusted.  Putin must commit to stop supporting Ukrainian separatists and the insurgency war being funded and supplied by Russia, with Russian troops.  Putin can deny Russia is doing this, but the world knows he is lying.  The current trial of those responsible for shooting down the Malaysian commercial airliner shows Russia is engaged in military activities in eastern Ukraine.  The slaughter of those innocent passengers and crew was done with a Russian rocket operated by Russian soldiers inside Ukraine.  It’s time to test Putin. Diplomacy means pushing back on Russia and holding Putin responsible for the Ukraine insurgency war currently being waged by Moscow.

Forget useless “economic sanctions.”  Iran is the perfect example of a country that has been severely sanctioned for over forty years and yet is on the verge of developing nuclear weapons and is a major cause of regional instability in the Middle East. In a very disaggregated world, sanctions are empty threats because there are always other world actors willing to violate sanctions to gain favor and political influence.  In the case of Russia, China is ready to provide any support necessary for Russia to contain US influence in Eastern Europe.

The path forward is tricky.  United States leadership must deter Russia from invading Ukraine.  Maintaining an independent and democratic Ukraine is critically important.   I support a sovereign Ukraine nation.  People of every nation should have the right to self-determination.  That will not be achieved in Ukraine through military conflict.  Russia will win that fight.  Economic sanctions are a joke, so diplomacy must be successful.

It is a positive move that Putin withdrew a few troops from the Ukraine border and is agreeing to a January meeting.  The hard part for the United States is to weave diplomatic peace with a Russian leader who has drawn a red line on Ukraine joining NATO. 

This will be a test of the Biden Administrations capabilities on maintaining peace and demonstrating global leadership for which failure could be catastrophic for Ukraine and European geo-politics.

The views expressed here are those of the author.

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Russia and the New World Disorder

Craig Campbell
Craig E. Campbell served on the Anchorage Assembly between 1986 and 1995 and later as Alaska’s Tenth Lieutenant Governor. He was the previous Chief Executive Officer and President for Alaska Aerospace Corporation. He retired from the Alaska National Guard as Lieutenant General (AKNG) and holds the concurrent retired Federal rank of Major General (USAF).


  • Michael Totten says:

    Let him have Ukraine,, it’s a failed state anyway,, they’re all poor as poop over there,, a russian annexation would improve the economy over there. Ukraine is like Venezuela,, it can’t get any worse at this point

  • John J Otness says:

    Neither Russia nor China hold a candle to the danger of our. very own. Coward politicians. Dominion is their Gallows.

  • A. N. Gottschalk says:

    What are Murkowski’s thoughts regarding this article? What does Tsibaka think of it considering that she is Trump’s “choice” over Murkowski and considering Trump has been Putin’s errand boy? What are the thoughts of Murkowski and Tshibaka on Michael Totten’s comments? Will the two candidates speak to this issue as clearly as Totten has?

    • Steven Chappell says:

      “Trump has been Putin’s errand boy” President Trump had been harder on both Russia and China than any other President in modern History since Ronald Reagan. Biden has neither the will nor brain capacity to take on either Putin or Jinping. He is an errand boy for China with deep financial ties to the CCP. I can tell you Murkowski doesn’t have a single thought in her brain except to keep up her little Dynasty. All should be prepared for military confrontation, and I wouldn’t put my bets on Austin or Milley as both are shrews of the Biden administration debacle withdraw in Afghanistan.

      • A. N. Gottschalk says:

        Steven Chappell: “All should be prepared for military confrontation”

        The question is this: What are the thoughts of Murkowski and Tsibaka on this matter? War or economic reprisals?

        Is this country ready to go to war over a failed state? What say you, Murkowski? What say you, Tsibaka? The senatorial race is no baking contest nor are you running for Miss Congeniality! What say you?

  • Mongo Love Candy says:

    Neocon Bravo Sierra!

  • Opus says:

    Putin can be trusted to keep his word. Biden cannot. Putin is a competent leader. Biden is a moron puppet. The Nord Stream pipeline is none of our business. The US/NATO are actively provoking both Russia and China.
    The outcome:

  • M.John says:

    Mr. Campbell, while I respect and generally agree with your opinions, I believe you are dead wrong on this issue. Maybe you’ve been watching too much CNN? It is the Pentagon and the military industrial complex who are persuing their vision of dominating Ukraine, which they view as strategically important. Ukraine had a democratically elected government which, coincidentally, aligned itself with Russia, until our “intelligence” community installed a puppet government in 2014. the very term “Ukranian separatists” was fed to the mainstream media by the same shadowy people. Nato troops clustering around a non-member country and conductiong extensive threatening exercises should be viewed by the Russians as perfectly normal, but Russian troops, inside of their own country, is somehow an outward threat. Why is this kind of thing always ok when the U.S. does it, but its a horrible threat when it’s done by anyone else? – M.John

    • Greg Cheney says:

      M. John, I appreciate your perspective, and I agree with you. You make more sense than the writer of this article, in my opinion, though I am at least glad that he advocated for a non-military approach. I could share many articles by individuals (certainly not by leftist lunatics or warmongering conservatives) that would align with much of what you said. By the way, I know of influential people that believe Putin is more trustworthy than Biden. A cursory look would show people that Putin stands for traditional values that the US has abandoned. The American people should not believe the nonsense dribbling from the mouths of those who would lead the people of these two countries into an armed conflict. The US government, through the military, has done more to destabilize parts of the world than most people realize. “My country, right or wrong” is a pathetic stance for anyone to take. This site needs more comments from people like you since you seem to have some common sense.

  • RB7 says:

    President Putin is not some dictator who wants to rule the world. Lets not forget that Ukraine was compromised under the Obama admin. The Biden, Kerry, Pelosi, and Romney families have deep financial ties to Ukraine. NATO is run be corrupt governments who have a stake in not allowing Pres Putin to break up their crime ring. There is A LOT of money laundered through Eastern Europe by NGOs and non profits, owned by the world elites. Dont forget, Putin and Trump were working together to end human trafficking in Eas. Europe. There is MUCH more going on than what our warmonger government and media is telling us. God gave you a brain. Use it

  • Robert A Schenker says:

    I might remind Mr. Campbell that Putin is correct in smelling weakness with China Joe but he can never forget that his real enemy is Xi Jinping. Russia has always been insecure with a neighboring China. Recall the ’69 Sino/ Soviet clashes where it wasn’t a question as to whether the USSR would in retaliation use nukes, the debate was over which targets and what tonnage.