Listen to Dr Stephen F. Cohen's discussion last night with John Batchelor for the latest on the gathering storm. (podcast). And by the way, the John Batchelor Show is just like the movie "Any Given Sunday" in the key respect. The people who left the theater when the credits started rolling on the screen missed how the story actually ended. Just so, Batchelor will often take an interview down to the last seconds on the clock before delivering the really big news..
Moving along, the storm has been gathering for more than year, prodded along by the Get Russia crowds in London, Brussels, and Washington. Putin is now under great pressure from hardliners in the Russian military and his own administration to make a stronger stand against what almost everyone in Russia believes is American-led provocations. This is even among Russians who hate Putin or want the country to get closer to the kind of government the European Union favors.
By the end of the Cold War one couldn't find a more pro-American people than the Russians so it took a lot to bring them to the point where they are today. They believe America as trying to wipe out their country.
So it's no longer a question from the Russian side about whether NATO is serious about going to war with Russia over Ukraine. In their view NATO, pushed by the United Sates, is already at war and setting up conditions to escalate it. In their view NATO won't stop at anything. No amount of negotiations, no concessions from Russia, nothing will stop NATO. Whatever agreements Russia makes to deescalate the situation in Ukraine, NATO finds ways to sabotage them.
Is that last true? The truth in this case is a matter for debate just because there's so much fog of war and propaganda from all sides about the fighting in Ukraine. What is true beyond debate is that NATO has never stopped trying to expand.
Add that to big gaps in reporting from Ukraine and even a minor accidental incident can light the powder keg. Should the possibility be enough to deter overt U.S.-NATO military actions against Russia? No, provided NATO governments in the original alliance ask how they plan to act coherently these days with Turkey as a member.
There are several other questions West European governments, and indeed the entire European Union, need to ask about NATO's continued existence before they can develop a coherent cause for overt military action against Russia.
From its side Washington doesn't want to do soul-searching about NATO.
So the real question right now is how serious NATO is about itself. Because nobody wants to resolve the question the United States and Europe are blindly slouching toward war with Russia.