The idea that NATO wants to attack Russia is very common

In Russian security discussions there is a very different narrative about world events than in the West. Few people realize the extend to which the West is portrayed as a fascist coalition that wants to undermine Russia and uses clandestine conspiracies to achieve its goals. This is not just a propaganda byline but a fairly common view also among serious analysts.

Most of these discussions are in Russian, so they are not accessible to a Western audience. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has published this article in English by Aleksandr Khramchikhin which is an interesting account from a Russian perspective.

In Russia there is a widely held notion that NATO wants to attack Russia. But the Russians have nothing to fear, according to Khramchikhin:

[The] cuts in military hardware are consistent with a general tendency in the West (to a greater extent in Europe than in the United States) to embrace ideas of hedonism, pacifism, postmodernism, tolerance, and political correctness. […] As a result of these shifts in attitudes and ideological trends, NATO troops may be unlikely to demonstrate heroism and willingness to make sacrifices, elements that are absolutely essential in wartime. Almost all NATO countries have transitioned to an all-volunteer military force, which has further decreased the motivation of their military personnel, or at least suggests that they are motivated more by money than by patriotism.[…]

Since the downturn in East-West relations following the 2014 crisis in Ukraine, it has become popular to claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin has “reenergized NATO.” Such statements appear to be exaggerations to say the least. Aside from the limitations of its military capacity, NATO’s inadequate capabilities are also a consequence of its psychological disarmament, which in turn is a product of the prevailing ideology in the West. Trends of pacifism and Europeans’ reluctance to use military force, the transition to all-volunteer militaries, the tendency to treat any combat veteran as a victim of post-traumatic stress disorder, and the pursuit of gender diversity amount to a powerful psychological barrier that makes it impossible for Europe to wage an offensive or a defensive war against Russia. […]

Any claim of a NATO revival is taking place only in rhetorical terms. Western elites seem eager to punish Russia for its perceived bad behavior; that is, its willingness to violate the West’s monopoly on trampling international law. But this punishment is hardly sufficient to change the mentality of Western societies.

Khramchikhin also says that NATO does not need fear Russia. The Russians are – apparently – much better prepared for a war than the West, but Russia has no incentive to attack NATO.

And this leads to a more abstract point about Khramchikhins analysis. The actions of the adversary – in this case the West – are judged as a reflection of capabilities, whereas one’s own actions are interpreted on the basis of intentions. He doesn’t give much thought to the possibility that perhaps the West wouldn’t attack Russia, even if they could.

Unfortunately this is a very normal tendency in Russian security discussions.

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