It was the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, negotiated under duress, which deprived Russia of its Eastern European territory in 1918. The culprits were the Germans. However, soon after, the Germans capitulated to the Allied Powers. Ideally, all the Eastern European territories which were snatched by the Germans, through force, should have been returned to the Russians. However, it was pretty obvious that doing so would strengthen the Communist regime in Russia and would allow it to expand its sphere of influence to Eastern Europe. Hence, the instrument of ‘self-determination’ was deployed at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 in order to deny the Soviet Union its due right.
The Second World War unraveled this arrangement when the Red Army defeated Nazi Germany. The Yalta Conference of 1945 made it extremely clear that the Soviet Union would be able to establish its sphere of influence in Eastern Europe once again. However, the leaders of Western democracies, most importantly Winston Churchill, considered the strengthening of the Soviet influence in Eastern Europe as a threat for Western Europe. This refusal to allow the Soviet Union to govern Eastern Europe, which was previously a part of Tsarist Russia before World War One, proved to be a decisive factor in the commencement of the Cold War.
Russia has never harbored any aggressive designs against Western Europe in its recorded history. On the other hand, the Western European states have been guilty of invading Russia on one pretext or the other. It was Napoleonic France which attacked Russia in the year 1812; and once again, it was another Western European state, Nazi Germany, which launched an all-out assault against the Soviet Union, even though a non-aggression pact was signed between Hitler and Stalin in the year 1939.
The recent occupation of Crimea by Russian forces is not an act of aggression. Contrarily, it is a response to the rebellion which was instigated by the Western powers in order to oust from power a pro-Russian Ukrainian leader, Victor Yanukovych. Similar tactics were deployed by the “Western World” during the Cold War. The ‘revolution’ against Mohammed Mossadegh of Iran was orchestrated by Britain and America in order to protect their economic interests in Iran. The nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company by Mossadegh resulted in the coup which brought the Shah into power.
Russia, under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, has decided to adopt a proactive foreign policy and has refused to concede further ground to the Western World. It is time that America and Western Europe realize this vital fact that Russia will not tolerate Western influence in Eastern Europe. Any attempt to force Russia to completely eliminate its influence from Eastern Europe would only backfire and shall only lead to further increase in tensions between America and Russia.
Perhaps it is time that a ‘Putin Doctrine’, on the lines of Monroe Doctrine, is expounded to the international community. The world has not forgotten the insurrections and invasions that America has financed and perpetrated in the Latin American countries over the past several decades. As America refuses to tolerate any interference and intervention of any other foreign country in the Western Hemisphere, similarly, Russia should also be granted the right to assert its supremacy in Eastern Europe. A policy of hypocrisy and double standards would only make it more difficult to create a world order based on the principles of ‘peaceful coexistence’.