Friday, August 10, 2018

Putin’s Avoidance of Alliances Subverts Russian National Security, Travin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 9 – Vladimir Putin believes that Russian national sovereignty requires a self-sufficient economy and a foreign policy which is not constrained by alliances, Dmitry Travin says; but that approach weakens the country and leaves it without foreign supporters on whom it can rely in times of crisis.

            The professor at St. Petersburg’s European University says that “the Kremlin sincerely supposes that European countries have lost sovereignty” by economic and political cooperation, that “this is a bad thing,” and that Russia by avoiding both “has preserved” its sovereignty and that “this is good” (

                But the Kremlin leader is deeply mistaken about this, Travin says. Economic cooperation and political-military alliances strengthen countries rather than weaken them. If the US decided to move against Russia, he continues, it could count on its NATO allies among others; but in that situation, Russia under Putin couldn’t count on anyone, including Beijing.

            “In general, Russia is successfully avoiding alliances and preserving its sovereignty,” the economist says.  “In the event of a major war, our country would be guaranteed to remain one on one with a much stronger competitor. Theoretically, in such a situation, it could launch a nuclear strike – and die completely sovereign together with all humanity.”

            Russian “patriots” like Putin don’t talk about that and don’t consider what their real alternatives are because if they were to do so they would further alienate their own population and the rest of the world by revealing just how bankrupt their ideas are – and how they are weakening Russia.

            If leaders in all countries viewed things as Putin does, Travin continues, then “military political alliances would not arise. Small but proud countries would avoid them and then become victims of their stronger neighbors.” But “real politics” as conducted by “intelligent people” since the middle of the 17th century has taken a different line.

            They have pursued alliances precisely because that increases their power rather than weakens it, whatever people like Putin may think.  Yes, alliances help small countries to survive; but they also ensure that larger countries have the kind of international support and balance of powers they need in order to contend with other large countries other than in a major war.

            “Russia from the times of Peter the Great understood this,” Travin says. And only rarely has it turned out to be in isolation against a strong competitor. Only the Bolsheviks changed the situation in principle by counterposing themselves to the entire capitalism world all at once.” But even they did not do so for long.

            According to the economist, “even Stalin did not remain attached to this insane strategy during the world war. At first, it is true, as a result of incompetence, he concluded a mistaken alliance with Hitler’s Germany (the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) which left him for a certain time in isolation.”

            “But all the same at the end, an alliance of the USSR, England and the US began to act in correspondence with normal military-political logic, and that guaranteed the victory of the anti-Hitler coalition.” 

            “Then during the Cold War,” Travin continues, “the USSR stood at the head of the Warsaw Pact, an alliance that of course was much weaker than NATO but all the same an alliance.” And that alliance helped the USSR to survive that geopolitical competition as long as it did despite the weakness of its own economy.

            Unfortunately, “today Putin has again put Russia in a situation when it does not have any real allies, capable of taking part in a major war. And this at a time when the Russian Federation is much weaker than the USSR and the countries of the Warsaw Pact are already in NATO.” Moreover, the Russian people doesn’t want to give up butter for guns yet again.

            “Of course,” he concludes, this situation exists to a large extent because Putin and those about him “simply do not believe” that a major war could occur.  But their position nonetheless means that they “do not recognize that he who ignores such alliances in the end finds himself in a losing position.”

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