It is a well known truth that safety is necessary for prosperity. The question of safety of Europe comes back as Russia annexes Crimea and interferes with the domestic issues of Ukraine. It seems that the West fell asleep as the Cold War ended and now is waking up surprised to see that Putin is not Yeltsin.
Yeltsin’s decade brought cooperation between the East and West that had not been seen before. Russian was regarded as a partner and neighbour of the European Community rather than an enemy. The Western states could finally bury their weapons. However, from the Eastern perspective it looked completely different. The Russians felt humiliated and suffered grave economic problems in the post Cold War reality. The Soviet Union ceased to exist leaving the Russian territory considerably smaller.
Vladimir Putin, aka the exKGB agent, managed to use the atmosphere of humiliation and played the sentiment people have towards the Soviet Union. However, the West was still oblivious as to the true nature of Putin’s intentions. Even the invasion of Georgia in 2008 did not wake the US and EU up. Since the West did nothing to stop Putin in 2008, he has moved to his next victim – Ukraine. Having annexed the Crimea Peninsula, now provokes the eastern part of the country to rebel against the central government. The sanctions introduced against Russian do not reflect the seriousness of the situation therefore are bound to be unsuccessful. If Putin is not stopped in Ukraine, the Baltic States with considerable Russian minorities will naturally be his next target.
This brings us to the question of safety of Europe. It seems that the European Union is still incapable of any unified reaction and some European states are more concerned than others. The budget cuts that have affected the defensive capabilities along with the lack of the European army prove that the NATO alliance still remains the key element to the safety of the whole continent. The presence of the US troops across the continent might be the only factor that is capable of deterring Russia. As the threat is becoming more and more real, the US have moved 600 troops from Italy to Poland and the Baltic States.
It appears that the US troops should be gradually moved from Germany and Italy to states such as Poland, Romania and the Baltic Republics in order to secure the east frontier. A closer military cooperation within the EU is also welcome. After all, it must be remembered that Putin is a bully and bullies do not stop until forced to.