By James Krotz
From Murmansk in the north to Crimea in the south, Russian army, navy and air forces remain on alert along Russia’s western border, despite the 50% drop in the value of the ruble in recent weeks. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is under intense pressure due to the state of the Russian economy, has showed no signs of decreasing Russia’s military presences, decreasing pressure on NATO, or coming to the table for talks with EU and American diplomats to ease sanctions in return for more docile foreign policy.
In fact, the economic crisis, which is reaching its crescendo due to the collapse of banks, the halving of Russia’s purchasing power, and oil prices in free fall, makes Putin all the more unpredictable. Time and again throughout history, unfavorable domestic conditions have often led authoritarian and quasi-authoritarian leaders to manufacture foreign policy crises abroad to distract the populace from domestic issues. This “diversionary foreign policy” could prove dangerous for European countries, especially Ukraine, who is already embroiled in a rebellion in its eastern provinces, instigated by Putin and the Russian-speaking minority.
With the protracted decline of the ruble, coupled with increased naval presence in Murmansk, near Finland, Sevastopol in Crimea, and continuing violence in east Ukrainian villages, the evidence is becoming more and more convincing. European leaders and NATO members should wake up and smell the blintzes, because the violence that they’re so sure will never again spread to their continent may just be warming up with the weather.