Russia keeps making threat after threat. And they just keep getting crazier: Say what you will about authoritarian regimes, but they are never short on issuing threats, even when they are incapable of carrying them out. As the world has seen in North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, and elsewhere, the countries with the least amount of freedom are always threatening to take it away from others.
Russia, under President Vladimir Putin, is right at the top of rattling its nuclear saber time and again. Perhaps after the dismal showing of its much-vaunted military against Ukraine since late February, that is the final card to play in his quest to reform his dream of a revamped Soviet Union.
Since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, Putin has masked his imperial quest under the guise of ridding Ukraine of non-existent Nazis. He compared himself to Peter the Great and paralleled his quest in Ukraine to reclaim traditionally Russian territory.
He has rattled his nuclear weapons capability and threatened to use them against any enemy, but mostly against the United States and Western Europe. And it continues.
Threats Against NATO Expansion Backfire:
Moscow warned the West about pushing the NATO alliance any further westward. But after invading Ukraine under the guise of a “special military operation” it has had the opposite effect.
Seeing the trajectory of Russia’s imperial aims, Finland, which shares a 1,300km border with Russia, and Sweden have asked to join the NATO alliance. At the time when the prospect of the two Baltic countries joining NATO first appeared, Russia threatened both NATO and the West if it went through with the expansion.
Finland, which has a checkered history with its bellicose neighbors to the east, has maintained an officially neutral stance for many decades even though they’ve taken part in NATO exercises. But Moscow’s Foreign Ministry through the official government-led RIA news agency threatened the Finns.
“Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to stop the threats to its national security that arise in this regard,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declared that Finnish accession to NATO would be an existential threat to Russia. The deputy chairman of Russia’s National Security Council Dmitry Medvedev threatened to move Russian nuclear forces into the Kaliningrad enclave.
“There can be no more talk of any nuclear-free status for the Baltic – the balance must be restored,” added Medvedev. But after the bluster, Russia has since softened its rhetoric, seeing that it, not NATO, forced the hand of Finland and Sweden.
“The Wrath of God” Faces the US:
Medvedev once again felt it necessary to rattle the nuclear saber when confronting the uncomfortable truth that the US may seek war crimes charges against Russia, especially with numerous examples of it across Ukraine.
The International Criminal Court sent the largest team of investigators and forensic experts in its history to investigate Russian war crimes back in May.
Medvedev said on his Telegram channel app, “The idea of punishing a country that has one of the largest nuclear potentials is absurd. And potentially poses a threat to the existence of humanity.”
Referring to the US as “rotten dogs of war”, Medvedev vented further. “The US and its useless stooges should remember the words of the Bible: ‘Judge not, lest you be judged; so that one day the great day of His wrath will not come to their house, and who can stand?”
Chechens Vow To “Not Stop Until Berlin:
The Chechens have a fearsome reputation and have made several boasts since arriving in Ukraine to augment the Russian invasion.
Chechen Parliament speaker Magomed Daudov speaking to the news media, boasted that the Chechen fighters will only stop when ordered to by Putin himself, saying that they will go to Berlin.
Stating that the Chechens were there to “defend Islam”, Daudov said, “There should be no doubt: The DPR [the Donetsk People’s Republic — a proxy Russian self-styled separatist republic], Mykolaiv, Kherson, Odesa, until Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin stops us. Inshallah [God willing] we’ll get to Berlin.”
The Chechens could be the poster children for authoritarian regime bluster. Despite their reputation, they are more hype than help for Russia, whose troops don’t have particularly close relationships.
Evelyn Farkas, the executive director of the McCain Institute, said the Chechen fighters have a deserved reputation when it comes to cruel reprisals against civilians behind the lines. “There is no formal relationship with the Russian military command and these Chechen fighters are known for their brutality. As for effectiveness, they certainly are effective at terrorizing populations,” she said in an interview last month.
Chechen troops are mainly being used as second-echelon troops coming in after Russian troops take a particular area. A column of 56 Chechen tanks was ambushed and destroyed early in the Ukrainian campaign.
Russia Wants Alaska Back:
As if the Russian bluster in Ukraine wasn’t enough, one Russian lawmaker has said that Moscow will one day reclaim Alaska from the United States. Speaking about the US freezing Russian assets over the Ukraine invasion, Vyacheslav Volodin, a Putin ally and speaker of the Russian parliament’s lower house (the Duma), said on Wednesday, “Let America always remember: there is a part of its territory that is Russia — Alaska.”
The United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867 for the tidy sum of $7.2 million dollars. At the time, US Secretary of State William Seward was excoriated in the American press, with calls of “Seward’s Folly” or “Seward’s Ice Box”. Then gold was discovered in the Yukon in 1896 and the narrative quickly changed. Alaska became a state in 1959.
“When they attempt to appropriate our assets abroad, they should be aware that we also have something to claim back,” Volodin added. Another Russian lawmaker, Pyotr Tolstoy suggested that a referendum be held in Alaska.
Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy, when he first heard about these latest Russian pipedreams posted on Twitter in March. “Good luck with that! Not if we have something to say about it. We have hundreds of thousands of armed Alaskans and military members that will see it differently.”
While the threats always can’t be totally discounted, much of Putin’s saber-rattling, like his threat to deploy Russian troops to Latin America, can be characterized for exactly what it is…more bluster.
Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com and other military news organizations, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for over 11 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.