Putin covets Finland says former advisor
About the time that George Bush was telling us that he had looked into Vladimor Putin's eye and pronounced him "straightforward and trustworthy," Andrej Illiaronov, Putin's economic adviser between 2000 and 2005 and now working forf the Cato Institute, was digesting the Russian president's views on empire and what territories belonged to Putin by virtue of his predecessor's conquests.
The list is getting longer.
Andrej Illiaronov, Putin's economic adviser between 2000 and 2005 and now senior member of the Cato Institute think tank, said that "parts of Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic States and Finland are states where Putin claims to have ownership."
Putin's view is that he protects what belongs to him and his predecessors," he said.
When asked if Putin wishes to return to the Russia of the last tsar, Nicholas II, Illiaronov said: "Yes, if it becomes possible."
Illiaronov admits that Finland is not Putin's primary concern at present but, if not stopped in other areas of Eastern Europe, the issue will one day arise. Russian troops are currently massing on the eastern border of Ukraine, following Russia's recent annexation of Crimea.
"Putin said several times that the Bolsheviks and Communists made big mistakes. He could well say that the Bolsheviks in 1917 committed treason against Russian national interests by providing Finland's independence," Illiaronov told a Swedish news website.
He believes that Putin is not planning to invade Ukraine for territorial gain but rather "the goal is a pro-Russian puppet government in Kiev."
"Six years ago Putin conquered Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia. The west let him do it with impunity, and now he has got Crimea," he continued.
"Now, eastern and southern Ukraine is destablised so that the self-defence forces can take power there. If the situation allows, it may be a military invasion."
Finland was a part of the Russian Empire for 108 years but broke away in 1917 at the end of the first world war.
The Scandinavian nation was attacked at the beginning of the second world war by the Soviet Union, with Finland fighting the winter war and the continuation war in resistance and losing 10% of its pre-war territory.
It's no secret that Russia's near neighbors are extremely nervous about the Kremlin's adventurism in the Crimea. But how serious is Putin about wanting those territories back?
It's all a matter of cost. If the cost is negligible or manageable in conquering territory, does anyone doubt Putin won't jump at the chance? As I write this, the US and Russia are "negotiating" a "solution" to the Ukraine crisis that will give Putin the Crimea, and just about everything else he wants possibily in exchange for pulling his troops back from the border, as well as some solemn "guarantees." regarding Ukraine's territorial integrity. So Putin pulls his troops back a few miles, and gets to keep Crimea at no little cost after the sanctions are lifted.
Will this encourage or discourage Putin from meddling elsewhere?
I usually reject the easy analogy of Munich, or the Sudetenland, or the Rhineland from the 1930's, but sometimes the shoe fits. Putin is on a winning streak - Syria, Iran, and now the Crimea. He is waxing the west's tail and showing up President Obama. His confidence must be soaring.
Is this a man capable of doing anything? Stay tuned.