These are the members of NATO, a military alliance formed in 1949 to protect European countries against the Soviet Union. “Only a strong defensive alliance could deter them from further adventures.” NATO now includes 29 countries, including three that are former Soviet states. “Estonia … Latvia … Lituania.” The Soviet Union may have collapsed, but Russia is still trying to wield influence over the region and undermine nations who get in its way. How? By trying to destabilize America and Europe, and damage their relationship. The goal: to weaken alliances so Russia can more freely pursue its interests. From cybermeddling to mind games, here’s how the country and its leader, Vladimir Putin, excel at geostrategic trolling.
One tactic? The method: Invade a foreign nation, reject the outcry and hold the territory. Exhibit A: Just as Ukraine was embarking on a pro-Western course and possibly joining NATO, Russian-backed rebels seized Crimea. They’ve been there ever since. And Russia even built a massive bridge to connect to the area. Method: Stoke instability, claim innocence. Exhibit A: “Little green men.” Russia claimed the insignia-free forces who took over strategic locations in Crimea were not the Russian military, but instead were “separatists.” Putin eventually admitted that the men were his troops, once Crimea was under control. Method: Posture the military in provocative ways. Exhibit A: Deploying next generation nuclear-capable missiles at NATO’s doorstep. Method: Undermine elections, trigger power outages — “Ukraine.” — leak emails. Exhibit A: Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear. These were Russia-linked hacking entities accused of attacking America’s elections. The U.S. has indicted 12 Russian military officials for the interference. Use soft power to hide ugly truths. Method: Host international sporting events to show you’re a good global citizen. Exhibit A: the World Cup, which allows Russia to gloss over charges of human rights abuses and international isolation.
Method: Find a useful megaphone for your message. Exhibit A: Donald Trump. The U.S. president has been reluctant to criticize Putin for his country’s actions. “And I might even end up having a good relationship, but they’re going: ‘President Putin is K.G.B,’ and — you know what, Putin‘s fine.” That’s made it easier for Russia to achieve its aim of weakening the world order. .
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