- Historically speaking, Russia has all the reasons in the world to have a belligerent relationship with Europe and the West, and a missile shield may appear challenging.
Robert Mood, former Lieutenant General, former Head of the UN Observer Mission in Syria and Head of the UN Observation Mission in the Middle East, and former Inspector General of the Norwegian army, is crystal clear: - Russia has larger reason to fear the West than the other way around.
In this interview with High North News, conducted after his participation at an event in Stormen, Bodø’s Culture Hall, last week, Robert Mood expands on why Russia perceives the balance between East and West to be shifting.
- Moscow has almost been captured twice; once by Napoleon and the second time by Hitler. It is no wonder that Moscow has a belligerent relationship with Europe and the West, and sees us as a challenge, Mood says.
Cold War rhetoric
Mood, who in 2016 received the Freedom of Expression Prize from the Fritt Ord Foundation, believes that some of the reason for the tense situation between Russia and NATO lies in our lacking ability to see the world from a different perspective than our own, such as that of Moscow.
- Therein lies some of the rub, possibly, in our perhaps not handling this well enough when we surround ourselves with a kind of new Cold War rhetoric, Robert Mood says to High North News.
A diplomatic game
- Is this rhetoric dangerous in and of itself? We often hear NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Norway’s Foreign Minister Børge Brende speak of Russian forces building up in the north and increased Russian aggression that need addressing from the West. Does the rhetoric support the Russian tension?
- We must be aware that there is a diplomatic game going on, one in which Russia has a most professional propaganda apparatus. Foreign minister Lavrov is perhaps the most professional diplomat in the world, and he maneuvers most impressively.
Missile shield causes concern
Seen from such a point of view, no one should be surprised if, for instance, Russia uses the new American presence near Trondheim, Norway for everything it is worth in a propaganda setting. That is one side of the matter.
However, should Russia’s analysis indicates that what Norway and NATO do puts the Russian and its strategic military bases in the north at risk, then that represents a serious situation, Mood emphasizes.
- Is it your impression that the Russians consider the activities on the Norwegian side of the border as a threat?
- No, I don’t think so. However, I do think that the plans about the missile shield may be more of an open question, though I don’t think they perceive it as a direct threat, Robert Mood says.
- Nevertheless, if you are in a duel and your opponent makes himself “invincible”, then that is a definite advantage for him if entering into offensive operations. It is a simple and ancient military strategy, and Russia obviously fears that image.
The former lieutenant general points at the balance that existed during the Cold War, during which both sides knew – and were supposed to know – that the other party could strike with lethally destructive force, the so-called Mutually Assured Destruction.
Terror balance and low tension
- This terror balance was based exactly on the fact that neither party had a protective shield, but rather had to live with the knowledge that the enemy could strike you, and vice versa. This knowledge made both sides have an interest in tensions being low.
However, in the very moment that one side can hide behind total protection and still strike the other side, then this balance has shifted. It is not hard to understand that it may be perceived as a problem.
- It may appear that professional military analysts have a more balanced view on the Russian activities in the North than the political leaders?
- Well, at least those working with high-level military strategy have this as their profession. And it is true that Russia has a lot of catching up to do in the North, following many years of neglected maintenance and decaying military installations, rather than force build-up.
In 1994 Russian officers were ice fishing in order to sustain their families. They did not get paid for six months; they attended the military academy and did not get their salaries. Imagine that humiliation. Russia definitely has some catching up to do, Robert Mood says in closing.