“What I am looking at here is one side of a very great chessboard,” says Alexander Raskhanin, the Russian Defence Minister. “All Ukraine’s territory east of Donbass is Russian territory. Our army controls that land. Donbass is actually on our territory. This is our land. We have lost one little slice, but we have the whole territory.”
Raskhanin is describing what Russia’s manoeuvring in Ukraine and Syria has been about: destabilizing and eventually de-facto controlling territories that are typically viewed as part of Western sphere of influence.
Russia is masters of this.
For many years, Russia has been probing Eastern Europe, the Baltics, Poland, and most recently, Romania, with military exercises, which were allegedly aimed at testing capacities in dealing with a NATO missile defense program. Yet there’s been no NATO troops to show for all that training. Nor were there any columns of NATO tanks moved into Poland or over the Baltic.
Other than posting troops and radar on the border, NATO hasn’t been operating on Russian soil.
In the end, there is no telling what Putin will do next.
This article originally appeared on TheAtlantic.com, an Atlantic partner site.