US caught off-guard by Russia

Russia's patriotism is surging, from Cape Dezhnev to the Baltic sea, and Vladimir Putin is starting to answer calls to raise the stature of his nation to that of a former glory. After two decades of hibernation, it has become apparent that the Russian bear is beginning to stir once more.

There is frequent, Cold-War-style rhetoric, spilling out of both Washington and Moscow, which began after Russia's decision to annex Crimea, in the Ukraine, last month. The widely publicised conflict began with the Euromaidan campaign, a popular movement aimed at ending the Ukraine's ties with Russia and creating closer bonds with their European neighbours. Which culminated, last month, with the usurpation of the Ukrainian government and their pro-Russian president.

The new Ukrainian government is quickly cementing its anti-Russian stance. A position which is fortified by an alarming number of nationalist members of parliament, and the might of the ultra-nationalist paramilitary group, Right Sector. The ruling party, Fatherland, denounced joint Ukrainian-Russian treaties, and raising the status of the Russian language to the level of a regional state language.

Russian communities in the Ukraine are alleging that subversive action by the United States is what motivated the Euromaidan movement. The claims are strengthened by verbose calls-to-arms coming from American politicians and military commentators. To the extent of former vice commander in chief of the US Air Force in Europe, Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney, calling to “give them lethal weapons, give them 100 T-72 tanks.”

Russia's recent actions may bring about some anxiety among the American people, but they are in no way unjustifiable. When pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted, reports of organised attacks on ethnic Russians, and armed gangs displaying swastikas and messages of hate started coming in. These actions encouraged members of the Russian community to begin calling the revolution a 'fascist coup', of which they will violently oppose. And with today's resumption of Ukrainian military action against Russian combatants, Russia's grounds for the annexation of Crimea, to protect the 58% of the population who are Russian from attack, therefore proves legitimate.

Russia has made many foreign policy choices over the past two years that are worrying those in Washington. Amid calls ranging from arming Ukrainian militias to full-blown military intervention, Vladimir Putin is not only unperturbed by the threats, he seems emboldened by them.

Russian expansion into the Ukraine indicates the seriousness of Putin's plans to establish the Eurasian Union, an economic union of post-Soviet states. Not only is Moscow seeking relationships with old members of the Soviet Union, they are seeking deals with old allies too. Earlier this week Russia cleared 90% of the debt owed by North Korea, reducing the number by almost $10 billion. The remaining money, when repaid, is earmarked for funding important projects in North Korea, such as a natural gas pipeline running to Seoul. This comes following similar action last year, when they wrote-off much of Cuba's debt, while visiting to sign a monumental trade agreement.

But it all comes preceding, perhaps the most important act of modern Russia, the finalisation of decade-long discussions with China to forge natural gas trade ties, expected next month. These actions display Russia's intention to end economic reliance on US-friendly Europe, and to seek deals further into Asia, where they are more ideologically aligned.

The truth is that the situation in the Ukraine, and the rhetoric from both the US and Russia, is just the latest in a string of disputes between the two monolithic nations. The two are fighting it out, head on, in the greatest frequency since the Cold War. Russia takes the opposing side on most issues close to America, like that of Palestinian sovereignty and the overreach of the Israeli government. However, the most significant conflict between the two is the proxy war being fought in Syria, at the expense of over one-hundred-thousand lives.

The conflict, reminiscent of Guatemalan, Laotian and Nicaraguan civil wars before the collapse of the Soviet Union, looks like a game of chess, with pieces controlled by two foreign powers. The Russian government is a longstanding supporter of Bashar al-Assad's Syria, supplying them with weapons since 2008. Last year, in response to a new Russian arms deal, and the clear Syrian government advantage, the US began arming insurgents in Syria with light and heavy weaponry, including anti-tank rockets.

The Syrian government has, for some time now, held the upper-hand in the ongoing conflict, and is seeking a decisive victory in the final stages of the war. The US government will be preparing to take it personal, as a military loss. Losing middle-eastern interests and facing defeat in an indirect battle with the Kremlin, shows Washington that they have trivialised the threat of a post-Soviet Russia for too long.

The annexation of Crimea, and the overwhelming power that Russia wields against US backed groups in the Ukraine, further solidifies Russia's position as a powerhouse in Europe. And as the nation looks to spread its interests further into Asia, Russia's reliance on any US-friendly nations who oppose their action is growing weaker.

The Russian Federation has a very long memory. They remember the Cold War well, a conflict that the United States seemingly forgot, as their interests began to fall elsewhere. They remember their friends, they remember their enemies and undoubtedly they remember fascism. We are talking of the grandchildren of the twenty million Russians slaughtered by the Nazis, the descendents of the survivors of Leningrad's two-year siege, the men and women who conquered Hitler's Berlin and vanquished the scourge of Nazism where it was born. They may not have the same flag, but the Russian bear will roar when people, once again, parade the swastika in Europe's open air.

The United States trivialises the power of Russia in Europe, reaching a zenith this week with Vice President Biden's reference to action in the Ukraine as a “humiliating threat”. They have seen the nation as nothing more than a nuisance, since the dissolution of the Soviet Union over twenty years ago, and recent events have allowed a glimpse into just how unprepared Washington has been for an adamant and independent Russia.