Russian President Vladimir Putin has so far showed he can take the pain dished out to him by the United States and the European Union in the form of economic sanctions.
He’s also calculated that NATO will not go to war with him over the Ukraine and there is little appetite for real sanctions in the austerity ridden EU. So with this in mind, what is stop Putin going even further?
It looks like President Obama will continue to lead from behind and make a speech in Europe this week setting out his ‘red lines’ to the Russians.
Unfortunately these are likely to mirror the ‘red line’ warnings Obama issued against the Syrian’s using chemical weapons, which let’s face it didn’t result in much.
So far, both Assad and Putin have gambled successfully that Obama will do nothing and that bluster within Europe, coming from Cameron and Merkel, is backed up with nothing more than hot air.
This is the harsh reality of the Ukraine crisis and can only make the Baltic States and Eastern Europe nervous. Why? Because, large swathes of these countries have significant Russian minorities and the Putin doctrine is of course to defend ethnic Russians wherever they may live.
Putin will be asking himself, how much blood and treasure would the West really shed for Moldova say or even NATO members like Estonia? Of course, NATO will say ‘we will stand shoulder to shoulder with NATO members’, and I for one hope they mean it – but these are complex political and economic times and Putin thinks NATO member states will leave these countries wanting.
This is made even more acute by the poor collective ability to militarily assemble and strike against the Red Army. Their military crutch, as always is the United States, but they are now entering a new phase fighting IS and with only two years left of the Obama administration the policies of old are fixed.
In my view the US, UK, EU and NATO countries must start to act and increase their defence expenditure to 3% of GDP every year for the next five years.
The Russians are renowned for playing chess and Putin seems three moves ahead. Like any dictator or aggressor, Putin responds and understands actions, not words. Obama, Cameron, Merkel and Hollande, please take note before it’s check-mate.