Ukraine volunteer soldiers women cryng Russia Sergii Kharchencko/ZumaPress

A War of Values With Russia

No one should be fooled by the Kremlin’s spin doctors: The conflict in Ukraine is not about Ukraine, Russia, or even NATO. Russia’s policy is being driven by its leaders’ fear and loathing of democracy, and the West must respond accordingly.

COPENHAGEN – Russian authorities recently threatened to aim nuclear missiles at Danish warships if Denmark joins NATO’s missile-defense system. This was obviously an outrageous threat against a country that has no intention of attacking Russia. But it also reflects a more fundamental factor in the Kremlin’s foreign policy: desperation to maintain Russia’s strategic influence at a time of unprecedented challenges to its authority.

Of course, Russia’s leaders know very well that NATO’s missile defense is not directed at their country. When I served as NATO Secretary General from 2009 to 2014, we repeatedly emphasized that the purpose was to defend Alliance members from threats originating outside the Euro-Atlantic area. Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of physics and engineering – two subjects at which Russians excel – can see that the system is designed to do precisely that.

Russia’s nuclear threats, against Denmark and others, are the hallmark of a weak country in economic, demographic and political decline. NATO has not aggressively victimized Russia, as Kremlin propaganda claims. The current conflict between Russia and the West – centered on the crisis in Ukraine – is, at its core, a clash of values.

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