In 2007, Vladimir Putin gave a speech at the Munich Security Conference (illustrated) castigating the United States for attempting to create a “world in which there is one master, one sovereign” through the use of “an almost uncontrolled hyper-recourse to force – military force – in international relations. .. which is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts”. He warned that the enlargement of NATO “represents a serious provocation which reduces the level of mutual trust”. But that Russia, “a country with a history spanning more than 1,000 years,” would not be intimidated or abandon “an independent foreign policy.”
The consensus was that he was not serious – or that, if he was, he would eventually realize that NATO enlargement was not a threat. The consensus was that Russia, which many still saw through the lens of the chaotic 1990s, could not be a serious player on the world stage – or that, if it tried, it would be a second-tier power forced to play by the West. rules. The consensus was that the exaggerated fear of NATO enlargement would recede. Yet we are here to be one of the driving forces behind the prospect of the greatest ground war in Europe since 1945.
We have 15 years of lessons, successes and failures to build on since then, but one crucial thing the West may not have learned is this: while Putin can lie and obfuscate that any Westminster politician, when it comes to the big issues, he actually tends – quite old-fashioned – to say what he means. Perhaps we in the West are just too cynical to accept that what we see and hear is really what we are likely to get.
Mark Galeotti is a Russia pundit, regular Monocle contributor, and author of “The Weaponization of Everything” and “We Need to Talk about Putin.” For more about how the world has changed over the past 15 years and what’s next, subscribe to Monocle now to get a copy of our 15th anniversary issue or buy one on newsstands from Thursday.