From the 1700s through World War I, the Russian Empire consisted of many more states than the already sprawling country of Russia.
“Weakness is provocative, and Joe Biden has given our adversaries like Vladimir Putin every reason to believe that he will respond to a crisis with weakness — that’s what he did for 50 years as a senator and vice president,” Cotton said.
“But it counts now that he’s president,” he continued. “So if you look at how we got into this situation, I think it frames the question well: Vladimir Putin has been talking about pretexts, red herrings. He can’t let NATO’s include Ukraine. Well, there’s no plan for Ukraine to join NATO. He can’t tolerate military exercises in Ukraine. We don’t conduct military exercises in Ukraine.”
“The real reasons why Vladimir Putin has sparked this crisis is he wants to fulfill his long-held ambitions. First, he wants to reassemble the Greater Russian Empire.”
Many of the former empire lands as well as states of the defunct Soviet Union, including Ukraine, are today independent nations with sovereign governments.
Putin previously invaded Ukraine to annex its eastern Crimea region, which essentially gave him valuable access to the Black Sea.
Many of the Baltic States and those in the Caucasus region like Azerbaijan and Georgia were once part of the Russian Empire.
Cotton referenced how one of the former Soviet states, Belarus, can already be viewed as a “puppet government” friendly to Putin by way of its authoritarian leader, Alexander Lukashenko.
Part of Putin’s vision is to have Kremlin-friendly “buffer” countries between it and NATO member-nations, Cotton said, adding that invading Ukraine would further that goal.
“He doesn’t want any successful democracy on his borders because he’s afraid his own people will look at democracies in places like Ukraine and Georgia and say, ‘Well, why can’t we have that here in Russia?'” Cotton said, as Putin has been in high office since 1999, save for a few years when he was prime minister under his political ally, former President Dmitry Medvedev.
“So why has [Putin] sparked this crisis now?” Cotton asked. “It’s because Joe Biden has projected weakness to him for the last year and appeased him.”
“[Biden] gave away the store in his first week in office on a one-sided nuclear arms control treaty. He waived sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. He basically looked the other way on the Colonial Pipeline hack. He released a Russian cyber criminal early at the request of Russia. And then, of course, the Afghanistan debacle exposed Joe Biden’s inept and incompetent military leadership as commander-in-chief.”
“It’s that series of appeasement and weakness over the last year that has caused Vladimir Putin to think now is the time to go for the jugular in Ukraine.”
Cotton reminded Levin that ex-Defense Secretary Robert Gates once said Biden had been “wrong about nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the last 40 years.”
“Now you can make it 50 years as well,” Cotton said. “I think Vladimir Putin’s view of Joe Biden is central to what’s happening in Eastern Europe right now.”