The violence in Ukraine has subsided somewhat as both sides react to the new deal to end the violence. It’s still not at all clear whether the agreement will hold or even what it will mean if it does, but in the meantime, it’s time to take a step back for a wider look at the strategic blunders by western powers that got the country into this mess in the first place. WRM does just that in a new piece at the WSJ, (written before the deal was announced), which examines how the West’s repeated attempts to ignore geopolitics allowed Putin to gain the upper hand:
Neither the American policy makers nor the European ones who stumbled into this bear trap are stupid, but this episode is confirmation that the problem that has haunted Western statesmanship since 1989 is still with us. Both President Obama and the many-headed collection of committees that constitutes the decision-making apparatus of the EU believe that the end of the Cold War meant an end to geopolitics.This helps explain why American diplomacy these days is about order and norms. The objectives are global: an environmental climate treaty, the abolition of nuclear weapons, the creation of new global governance mechanisms like the G-20, the further expansion of free trade agreements, and so on. When the U.S. voices its objections—to Bashar Assad’s slaughter in Syria, say, or to the Ukrainian crackdown this week—they are stated in terms of global norms. And so U.S. diplomacy with Russia has focused on order-building questions like nonproliferation, while gravely underestimating the degree to which Russia’s geopolitical interests conflict with those of the U.S. […]There are many things that Vladimir Putin doesn’t understand, but geopolitics isn’t one of them. His ability to identify and exploit the difference between the West’s rhetoric and its capabilities and intentions has allowed him to stop NATO expansion, split Georgia, subject Washington to serial humiliations in Syria and, now, to bring chaos to Ukraine.