A report surfacing after Russia’s celebration of the one-year annexation of Crimea claims Russian officials warned that any Western attempt to reclaim Crimea “would trigger a Russian response, possibly involving nuclear force.”
Putin put on a magnificent show to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Crimea’s annexation on March 18. While the celebration consisted of smiles and joy, something more sinister occurred at the same time behind closed doors in Torgau, Germany.
Over the course of two days, the Russians, “who once ran the interior ministry, the military directorate in charge of nuclear weapons, the GRU (Russian military intelligence) and the FSB (the main successor agency to the KBG)” met with Americans who had backgrounds in military, CIA, and the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Notes from the meeting show Russian officials told the Americans if anyone in the West attempted to retrieve Crimea, the move “would trigger a Russian response, possibly involving nuclear force.” It is not the first time Russia referred to their nuclear weapons in the past year. Putin told school children “Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers” and “it’s best not to mess with us.”
Putin explained in the documentary Homeward Bound the exact plan he concocted to capture Crimea from Ukraine. He claimed to have hatched the plan before the Ukrainian parliament ousted Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych. Pro-Western Ukrainians established a protest movement known as Euromaidan in Kiev in November 2013 after Yanukovych chose closer ties to Russia instead of ones with Europe. After three months, parliament kicked out Yanukovych on February 22, 2014. Crimea pushed out their Kiev-appointed mayor and appointed a pro-Russia mayor. On February 26, 150 gunmen stormed government buildings and raised the Russian flag. Then, Crimea’s parliament dissolved their government and elected a Russian speaker.
At the time, the Kremlin insisted it was only locals who had participated in the takeover. However, in the documentary, Moscow finally admitted the Russian government was behind the seizure. In 2010, Yanukovych extended an agreement with Russia to host Moscow’s Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol.
The threat is not limited to Crimea. Putin once said the fall of the USSR was the worst geopolitical disaster of the 20th century. After he annexed Crimea, Russian diplomats whispered veiled threats to Latvia and Estonia, both former Soviet states. The Russian ambassador to Latvia told a Russian radio station that Moscow is ready to provide passports to ethnic Russians in the country. A Russian representative told the UN Human Rights Council that Moscow is concerned over treatment of ethnic Russians in Estonia. Russia reopened criminal cases against Lithuanians who refused to serve in the Soviet Army in 1990-1991. Putin declared he wants to protect ethnic Russians and Russian speakers across the world. Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia—known as the Baltic States—are concerned Putin will target them next. In March, Lithuania reintroduced conscription due to fears about Russia.
The Russian delegates threatened the Americans “that Mr Putin was ready to respond forcefully to any further Nato build-up in the Baltics.” They claimed Russia will choose from “a spectrum of responses from nuclear to non-military.” From The London Times:
The Americans at the most recent talks, last month in Germany, said that despite the partial international isolation and sanctions that have followed Russia’s actions in Ukraine, Moscow “is still considering a “Baltics option”, most likely “destabilising actions that would be even harder to trace back to Russia than those of eastern Ukraine”.
They think that in a Baltic operation Russia would avoid “injections of troops and heavy weapons in favour of other tools; Russia would hope slowly to entice those Russian populations towards Russia without giving Nato a pretext to deploy troops”.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reignited the Cold War. Tensions remain sky high. The threat of a nuclear attack is so real that the delegates “urged their respective administrations to set up a military hotline to defuse such escalations by allowing ‘both sides to quickly and accurately establish the facts surrounding an accident’ so that commanders on the ground could ‘communicate with each other in a manner that avoids combat.’’’ However, the conclusions from the Americans “play down the threat of a nuclear attack” and believe Russia is only throwing out the threat “in an effort to shock the US back to the table.”
Putin annexed Crimea without enduring any severe punishment. The West placed sanctions on banks and high-ranking members of Putin’s administration, but those actions did little to thwart Putin, since Russian troops still occupy much of East Ukraine and Crimea is still under Russian control.
Rather that stop, Putin has expanded the scope of his military activity. NATO intercepted Russian military a record amount of times in 2014, especially in Baltic airspace. Lithuania arrested three spies between December and January, the latest inside a NATO facility.
Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and other aggrieved NATO countries aside, Russia continues to violate Georgia’s sovereignty without punishment. Putin recently signed “effective annexation” agreements with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the two breakaway regions of Georgia. These plans took effect under an umbrella without the fanfare of Crimea. But these agreements put the regions under Moscow’s complete control.
In June, former Georgian Prime Minister and representative to NATO Ambassador Grigol Mgaloblishvili told Breitbart News, “Russia intends to cripple much of Eastern Europe to maintain it in a state of ‘constant chaos’ [so] that it can control the region.” The constant hot air and no action against Russia only “emboldened” the government to continue. Moscow annexed Crimea without any real punishment; therefore, “it can keep moving.”