Senator John McCain’s recent opinion editorial in the Wall Street Journal warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin is one of America’s greatest threats.
Vladimir Putin’s neo-imperial ambitions are clear enough in his attempt to dominate Russia’s neighbors, Ukraine most of all. But his ambitions increasingly extend to the Arctic and Europe’s northern flank. That is where I and my colleagues met with leaders and security officials from Norway, Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
Like the U.S., these nations don’t want a return to the Cold War. But Russia’s aggressive behavior has led them to conclude President Putin wants exactly that. They see Russia’s undeclared, grinding war on Ukraine as a test both for Moscow’s campaign to reassert Russian dominance of its so-called near abroad and the response of the trans-Atlantic community.
McCain warned that an unchecked Russia will not only be bad for America but our allies in Europe.
Officials from each of the countries I visited expressed the same concern: Russia is threatening the security and prosperity of the Arctic and Northern Europe by assertively deploying its military power, patrolling its neighbors’ coastlines both above and below water, and building or reopening numerous military outposts across the region.
Russian provocations and territorial claims in the Arctic also threaten U.S. national-security interests. Russia’s military expansion in the Arctic and North Atlantic appears to be an attempt to establish de facto control over these vital areas, much as China is seeking to do in the South China Sea. In both cases the U.S. response has so far been feeble. That is alarming, because freedom of the seas is essential to the modern way of life. Any action by Russia that impedes movement in the Arctic may ultimately threaten the peace of the Atlantic and the intercontinental ties between the U.S. and our closest allies and trading partners in Europe.
McCain has fought for increased military spending to combat aging military infrastructure and fleet. If we do not spend more on defense, and that includes our allies and NATO partners, we will open ourselves to vulnerable attack.
Recently, The Heritage Foundation held a panel on confronting Putin’s imperial ambitions.