Russia is waging aggressive proxy wars in two theatres. It’s no doubt expensive, and they are the subject of ongoing sanctions. They’ve said “screw it” because they believe they’re facing a real threat. Russia feels as though the West is forcing their hand.

They’re being pushed toward the brink of war and aren’t afraid to fight. For every American soldier that died fighting the Nazis, eight Soviets were killed. Likewise, with their own troops on the ground in Syria, the tension is rising between the U.S. and Russia at the UN. But, how long can Russia stand up against the West? No doubt in their mind that is the last stand because if they fold, it’s over for them. However, it’s not necessarily the case, and the Russians can live to argue and complicate world events another day.

It’s reported there are still 7,000 Russian troops in eastern Ukraine as advisors. The little green men phenomenon has not ceased. The tensions and Russian activity in Syria is on the incline. The goal might be to force the West towards an unwanted confrontation and demand for a cancellation of sanctions. In Russia, and for Putin, being seen as strong and powerful is important. They, underneath it all, might not want to provoke a war. But it’s how they do business. They feel as though the sanctions and their actions in Crimea, Ukraine, and Syria are justified. On principle, they’re uninterested in being bullied by the West. For whatever reason Russia is not slowing down. Amid sanctions, their currency suffering, and low oil prices Russia has pressed on. Whatever they’re making in arms trading is unlikely to make up for the economic hardships they’re enduring.

According to Foreign Policy Magazine:

“Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intervention in the Syrian conflict to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad hasn’t made a dent in the ability of Russia to send more equipment to Ukraine, either. Over the past year, Russia has shipped new rocket launchers, artillery, drones, and advanced electronic warfare equipment to the eastern Donbass region.

“I think they can sustain this for a considerable period,” the official said. “Our view is that they could sustain this easily for 24 months” even if oil prices remain low and the Russian economy continues to stagnate. Despite an announcement last month that the Russian military would begin to withdraw forces from Syria, instead Moscow sent more advanced helicopters, and the level of daily airstrikes has remained steady.”

Russia has a strategic exit in sight. It’s just difficult to see from the West. But, one thing is for sure, part of this is about their perception of western expansion as a clear and present danger.  “I don’t think many people understand the visceral way Russia views NATO and the European Union as an existential threat,” Adm. Mark Ferguson, the U.S. Navy’s Commander in Europe, told the New York Times. It might be scary, but Russia may be willing to see this through to a larger scale confrontation. The next world war.

Editorial cartoon courtesy of Robert L. Lang