IF (still a big “if” as far as I’m concerned, but still a possibility) – IF Putin really is primarily motivated by nationalistic concerns, and really doesn’t have a need for world domination, positioning nukes and other assets in areas on this side of the globe, then frankly I’m not terribly worried about what would happen with greater Russian/European cooperation. Let ‘em work out their own regional problems. And if that’s the case, we no longer have any business in NATO – that was concocted quite legitimately because of the Soviet Union that was intent on extending far beyond ethnic-Russian territory (including Cuba).
Of course the problem becomes one of belief. If we believe Putin now, and pull out of NATO, he and his successors become a potential threat down the road. On the other hand, if we assume that you can’t take the Soviet Union out of the old KGB officer, or erase the communist mentality that still exists among many in Russia, and we therefore stay in NATO, we represent a potential threat to Putin. We will never know the inner thinking of the old Soviet Union well enough to fully understand whether their projection of power back then was offensive or defensive in nature (or what combination of the two).
Thus, therein lies the problem in the 21st century. We really don’t know which Vladimir Putin we’re dealing with, and we certainly don’t know who comes after him. When we see increasing military cooperation between Russia and China even to large joint exercises, and we think back to the “old days” when there was actually cross-border firing between them, one might logically be concerned about Russia’s willingness to participate in the projection of power still. China certainly inserted itself solidly on our side of the pond and Russia looks much more like a friend to China than to the US. But again – is that because of our ever-present projection of power in everybody’s back yard, and often even right in many nations’ front yards? Oh, what a tangled web we weave…. (And people naively wonder why “games theory” is taught at a course level in political science degree programs. The possible consequences of ALL actions have to be played out in theory, and the possible actions of all the other players must likewise be played out fully, including our potential responses.)
Note: If anyone has watched the President’s responses to questions at the end of a news conference in Turkey on Monday (16 November 2015), I’m sure you had the same reaction I did – I cringed in embarrassment because of what he projects to the world about the United States’ people that elected this monstrosity of a so-called leader. If you haven’t, it’s on YouTube. It’s long, and you have to move well into it to start hearing the questions and answers, but it’s striking just how arrogant he is – and even as Chuck Todd of NBC News called him, “extremely defensive.”