An opportunistic former KGB official, Vladimir Putin continues to stir up conflict in Europe and present himself as a force to be reckoned with. Using Russian arms, Putin has successfully amassed power and has orchestrated successful military operations in Chechnya, Georgia, Moldova, and Syria. Popular uprisings in Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan over the past two years are being held back by direct Russian intervention, and Putin continues to exert influence over Europe through its immense energy resources. Now, a massive buildup of Russian forces encroaches upon Ukraine, threatening to invade the country. The US has started evacuating embassy staff from Kyiv, and the people of Ukraine are preparing for a prolonged war. It is clear that Russia’s behavior, and Putin himself, presents a clear destabilizing force against change in the former Soviet Union. What is Putin doing in Europe? What led to Russia’s more aggressive position? How can NATO play a role in checking Putin’s imperial expansionism and protect the self-determination of countries in the former USSR?
Ivo H. Daalder is president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He served as the US ambassador to NATO from 2009-2013.
Prior to his appointment as ambassador to NATO by President Obama, Daalder was a senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution, specializing in American foreign policy, European security and transatlantic relations, and national security affairs. Before joining Brookings in 1998, he was an associate professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy and director of research at its Center for International and Security Studies. He also served as director for European affairs on President Bill Clinton’s National Security Council staff from 1995-1997.