The international community is reeling from comments made this week by Andrej Illarionov, president Vladimir Putin's former chief economic adviser, that the Russian strongman has long term plans to reclaim parts of "Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic States, and Finland."
With the recent takeover of Crimea by Russia, and with Russian troops amassed on the border with Ukraine, international observers are eager to predict the Russian leader's intentions. However, it is difficult to gauge whether Illarionov's remarks actually reflect Putin's plans.
Illarionov, who served in Putin's cabinet from 2000 to 2005, characterized the scheme to seize independent nations formerly under Russian and Soviet control as, from Putin's perspective, "historical justice." Finland achieved its independence from Russia in the wake of the October Revolution in 1917; Illarionov described Russia's recognition of Finnish independence as "treason against national interests."
“The West’s leaders seem, from what they say, entirely to have forgotten that there are some leaders in the world who want to conquer other countries," Illarionov added. He is a libertarian economist and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity in Washington, DC.
Finland is not a member of NATO. The Nordic country has increased its aerial surveillance operations over the Baltic Sea in recent weeks. The Soviet Union invaded Finland during World War II; and although the Finns successfully defended their nation, they lost 10% of their territory.
As for the current situation in Crimea and Ukraine, Illarionov said:
"Six years ago Putin conquered Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia. The West let him do it with impunity, and now he has got Crimea. Now, eastern and southern Ukraine [are] destablised so that the self-defence forces can take power there. If the situation allows, it may be a military invasion."