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Chris Kremidas-Courtney: Putin Had Better Options Than Invading Ukraine

In this episode of Beyond the Headlines, I spoke with Chris Kremidas-Courtney, a former NATO and U.S. Army veteran of 32 years, and an expert on the Trans-Atlantic security partnership, who is currently a senior fellow at Friends of Europe, a think tank based in Brussels. In the midst of the Ukraine conflict, Chris spoke about what President Vladimir Putin of Russia wants, how we got here, and what the war means for Europe and the world.

Calling Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine an “emotional” one, Chris said that even though the Russian president had already made up his mind on the invasion, the West never believed that he was really going to do it. He argued that NATO should have done more in 2014 after the invasion of Crimea and that Putin calculated that there was not enough unity within Europe to stop him.

On the touchy topic of NATO expansion, Chris argued that the former Soviet states who joined NATO were all exercising their sovereign right in joining an alliance of choice, whereas Putin thinks of them as “children who ran away from home”. In fact, at one point in time, even Russia was being touted as a potential NATO member, Chris said, pointing out that during Putin’s invasion of Georgia in 2008, a Russian warship was part of a NATO standing maritime group in the Black Sea.

I also asked Chris what NATO would have looked like if Russia had indeed joined the alliance. In response, he talked about how NATO’s operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East might have turned out differently if Russia had been a participant.

Chris also talked about the broader geopolitical implications of the Ukraine war, whether China will in turn invade Taiwan, whether South Korea and others will develop nuclear weapons to protect themselves, and where India will stand in the evolving struggle between the West on one side and Russia and China on the other.

For more, listen to the conversation below, follow us on Spotify, and subscribe to our weekly newsletter for updates on these conversations.

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Mohamed Zeeshan is a Founding Partner and the Editor-in-Chief of Freedom Gazette. He is the author of Flying Blind: India's Quest for Global Leadership (Penguin 2021). He is currently a foreign affairs columnist for The Diplomat, South China Morning Post and Haaretz, and writes 'The Z Factor' - a monthly Sunday column in the Deccan Herald. He has previously worked at the United Nations in New York and with the global consulting firm Kearney in Dubai. He is a graduate of International Affairs from Columbia University.