Blog East-West Tensions Require Clear Response

East-West Tensions Require Clear Response
Current tensions between Russia and the West are getting worse, driven by Russia’s disdain for Europe and a belief that China’s rise will make the U.S. less relevant in years to come, according to two experts on the region.

Economic sanctions have failed to deter President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to assert Russian influence in Eastern Europe, which argues for a clear response from the West, including expanding military forces among NATO members.

“I have no great expectations for the future of (Russian-EU) relations,” said Dr. Bobo Lo, an independent Russian and Chinese foreign policy expert. Russia “doesn’t take Europe seriously” he added, instead seeing a divided Europe, no longer capable of being a major player.

In recent weeks, Poland has firmed its military ties to the West, while Denmark has contemplated participating in a NATO missile shield, while the Baltic States have voiced concerns over potential Russian aggression.

Actually I think we are entering an era which could be compared to the Cold War -- a new Cold War,” said Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former NATO secretary general. “Russia of today is more dangerous than the Soviet Union,” because it is less predictable and more nimble.

Sanctions may have weakened Russia’s economy, but they have also strengthened its resolve to resist Western demands.   

“They feel like they can take whatever the West throws at them and emerge victorious at the end,” Lo said during AIC’s geopolitical risk panel discussion. “The more pressure they (Russia) are under, the harder they will fight.”

Rasumssen lamented the failure of partnerships between the West and Russia, saying the East-West relationship had become more dangerous in the wake of Russia’s annexation of the Crimea. 

“I see it as a very dangerous situation with long ranging consequences,” Rasmussen said.

Both Lo and Rasmussen advocate stronger collective defense among NATO members, which could include additional military expenditures, reducing dependence on U.S. military support.

“We cannot be spooked. If we think that we can somehow appease our way out of the crisis, then we are gravely mistaken,” Lo said.

China’s economic rise has added another dimension to the equation, counterbalancing U.S. and European influence. Both the U.S. and Russia have reoriented more toward China and Asia in recent years.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean a greater interest in Asia,” Lo said. “It’s more accurately a turn away from the West.”