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Putin's weird war gets ever riskier

18 1 1
03.09.2017

September will be a nervous month in Eastern Europe. On September 14, Russia will unleash what may be its largest military exercise since the Cold War. In Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and elsewhere, officials are openly concerned that the “Zapad (‘West’) 2017” drills near their borders will be used as cover for a military attack.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sees both conventional and nuclear posturing as a useful tool to reassert Moscow’s status as a world power and intimidate nearby enemies. The three years since Russia’s annexation of Crimea have seen a dramatic increase in Moscow’s military activity.

But Russia’s escalating confrontation with the West goes well beyond that. Moscow, Washington and other Western governments understand that any direct conflict between Russia and the West would prove disastrous. Instead, the face-off is worsening in wider, often weirder ways. And while many Americans would blame Moscow, many Russians see it differently.

Part of that is down to a Kremlin media machine that relentlessly pushes the message that Moscow must assert itself to avoid being surrounded and impoverished – and paints the West as chaotic, corrupt and Machiavellian. Such views are deeply embedded in Russia’s national mindset. An unclassified report released by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency in June concluded that senior Russian leaders genuinely believed Washington was intent on toppling them, particularly under President Barack Obama.

That........

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