On September 21, 2017, Russian news agency RIA published an article, titled “The West Was Right To Fear ‘Zapad-2017, For Russia Is No Longer Nice,” by journalist Irina Alksnis. According to the author, the recent Russia-Belarus joint Zapad-2017 drills (September 14-20) reflect Russian military policy towards the West. “Russia is preparing for war; it is preparing in earnest. And first and foremost, on the Western axis,” writes Alksnis.
The author adds that Eastern European countries understand that “the flamboyance and overtness” of Russia’s drills indicate that Moscow is guided by the classical principle “if you want peace, prepare for war”‘. However, Alksnis stresses: “The world also knows two Russian maxims: the classical one about the rifle hanging on the wall, and the modern one: ‘Russia will never again fight on its own territory’.”
Alksnis’ analysis dispenses with the usual Russian reaction to Western apprehension over growing Russian military might. This is not irrational panic, or an attempt to divert public attention but recognition that Russia has returned to the international arena as a dominant player and shed of its previous sentimentality. In other words Western fears prove the efficacy of Russia’s foreign and defense policies and should be viewed with satisfaction.
The following are excerpts from Alksnis’ article:
‘The Zapad-2017 Exercise Reflects A Significant And Absolutely Real Trend In The Russian Military Policy’
“The ‘Zapad-2017’ military exercise has given those Russians interested in politics plenty of new reasons for entertainment watching the extremely emotional, bordering on nervous breakdown, and reactions of our closest Western neighbors, primarily those in the Baltics. Of the latter, of course, the most noticeable was Lithuania’s reaction to the alleged violation of the republic’s airspace by Russian transport aircraft. Although one could hardly top the Polish defense minister with his declaration that ‘nuclear weapons are being used as part of the exercise’.
“It is customary in Russia to mock the nervous – sometimes downright hysterical – attitude of our Western allies to the ‘Russian threat’, and any attempts to understand it usually end with a statement along the lines of ‘They must realize it is nonsense; therefore, it is nothing but a PR stunt for some personal gain’. Russophobic propaganda in these countries and whipping up a spiral of public fear of Russian aggression are viewed in the same context. They are seen exclusively as mechanisms for solving some of their internal problems, and in particular, transferring public attention public from really important issues to artificially inflated ones.
“Without denying that all of the above does exist, it is still worthwhile to take a closer look at the situation. And then it will turn out that for them, for the authorities and the elites of East European states, it is not a game at all.
“The truth is that they are indeed afraid of Russia. Moreover, if you look deeper, it will become clear that their fear is not unfounded. Their fear of Russia has quite serious and absolutely rational motives, which are worth understanding and recognition.
“By the way, it is not hard to do – it is enough to look at what is happening in the world through their eyes.
“Firstly, Russia has again cheated the entire world and instead of dying, having placed its resources at the disposal of the world community, has managed not only to survive but to return to the global stage in good shape.
“Secondly, the Russia that has returned is displaying manners quite uncharacteristic of its former self — absence of sentimentality concerning those it used to call fraternal peoples for centuries, and rationality that is more akin to refined cynicism. It has already made them pay (instead of the traditional forgiveness) — by trade restrictions, food import ban, and direct multi-million punitive sanctions (compliments to Bulgaria for violating the contract on the Belene nuclear power plant).
“It is enough to look at the way Russia has behaved towards Ukraine, whose people it did not simply consider fraternal but viewed as part of it very itself. In fact, Russia has chosen the most ruthless possible course of action concerning Ukraine: it has been left to its fate, and when necessary, Moscow acts in its own interests in such a way that the situation there is exacerbated.
“A quite obvious thought occurs to Russia’s neighbors: if Russia has gotten rid of sentimental feelings towards Ukraine, just how cynical can it be in its decisions and tough in its actions towards others?
“Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly — Russia is preparing for war; it is preparing in earnest, and first and foremost,on the Western axis. The Zapad-2017 exercise reflects a significant and absolutely real trend in Russian military policy.
“Russia is building up its military muscles demonstratively and at all possible speed. In addition, there are overt full-scale preparations in the sphere of mobilization arrangements and in civil defense.
“Our neighbors are capable of understanding that the flamboyance and overtness of these preparations directly indicate that Russia is guided by the classical principle ‘if you want peace, prepare for war’, that in this way it is trying to prevent a possible military conflict. But this does not put them at ease.
“Because, in addition to the Latin principle of ‘[vis pacem] para bellum’, the world also knows two Russian maxims: the classical one about the rifle hanging on the wall [in the first act that is used in the second or third act], and the modern one: ‘Russia will never again fight on its own territory’.
“Also, there is the overall global situation, which our anxious neighbors cannot ignore. The situation involves the disintegration of the prevailing hierarchy of powers, the degradation of the global hegemon, degeneration of the elites and the grand-scale increase in general instability.
And hopes that the proverbial ‘rifle on the wall’ will not fire in this situation are increasingly diminishing. Even though, as history has shown, in the end the Russians will probably manage to spin it in such a way so as to say afterwards: ‘They started it’.
“But the Baltic and Polish peoples, as well as other East Europeans, don’t feel better for all that. Because if, as they say, things go ‘boom’, they will be the first to find themselves in the wrong place. And taking into account the above-mentioned Russia’s loss of sentimentality regarding East European nations, their fears are not so ridiculous after all.
“So, one can understand the panic of the Latvian authorities over malfunctions in mobile service in their country. After all, Russia is a world leader in the sphere of electronic warfare.
“Thus, they can no longer count on ‘Russia will take pity on us’, but only on ‘Russia does not need us’.”
Note: For archiving purposes, a full copy of the article will remain here.