In the US Vice-Presidential debate’s Mike Pence read out an old Russian proverb, “A Russian bear never dies, it just hibernates”, and in reality, he made this up, there was no proverb, but does that mean the saying itself is untrue? Not necessarily, on December 26th, 1991, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), that had opposed American foreign policy so vigorously for 46 years since the end of World War 2 finally collapsed and with it independence for many of the union’s republics and satellite states, some of whom had gone on to join the European Union and NATO. However, as of 2008, the largest, wealthiest and most powerful of the former soviet states Russia has seen a resurgence in its aggressive foreign policy thanks to current President Vladimir Putin to the point where many news writers are suggesting a return to a second Cold War between Moscow and the West. But is Vladamir Putin really that significant and how much of a threat is Russia still having still to regain completely to its heights during the age of the Soviet Union?
One of the first major events of Russian aggression in the post-Soviet era was the 2008 invasion of Georgia, which was Russian forces invade the Caucasus former soviet state of Georgia in order to aid in the succession of pro-Russian entities of South Ossetia and Abkhazia which continues to see a constant Russian military presence in the regions. The war saw widespread condemnation from the West, but no foreign intervention was levied in order to help protect Georgia sovereignty, should the world have done more to protect Georgia? Especially when Russian occupation of the regions continue nearly a decade later?
Another example of Russia’s increasing aggression is their actions in Syria, Russia has long been the last major supporter of Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad, with Russia supplying the Syrian regime with weapons in the early stages of the Civil War for use against civilians and demonstrators, both armed and unarmed, as well as following the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) where Russian military forces began operating in the region, initially from airfields within the country but also from naval vessels such as the Black Sea Fleet and the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov which was escorted by the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy during the ship’s passage through the English Channel. How would you describe Russia’s actions in Syria? Necessary, courageous or unhelpful in securing peace?
Perhaps some of the most significant statements of intent by Russia was the physical taking of territory from the nation of Ukraine which during the nation’s heightened political crisis saw Russian forces invading the Crimean peninsula before holding a referendum, boycotted by some like the region’s Tatar population, which was the region being formally annexed by Russia. As well as this the War in the Donbass region to the east of Ukraine has seen continued conflict despite multiple ceasefires, and the dramatic loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 which was shot down over the area, air crash investigators have blamed Ukrainian separatists equipped by a Russian BUK surface-to-air missile system, an allegation both Russia and the separatists have denied. Was Russian justified in annexing the region of Crimea? Has or should Russia have allegedly armed Ukrainian separatists? Should Russia be doing more to ensure the ceasefire and encouraging progress towards full peace negotiations between the Ukrainian government and the separatists?
With Russia becoming involved in an increasing number of conflicts around the world, these 3 examples being a small number of the total number of incidents Russia has become involved with since the collapse of the Soviet Union 26 years ago, is there any hint of rising tensions between the West and Russia? Or is the West simply being paranoid? Perhaps Russia has been entirely justified in its actions over the past years?