walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
© Getty Images
Published on: April 15, 2014
Strategy After Crimea
Playing Putin’s Game

It’s time to start thinking strategically about how to deal with Vladimir Putin in a post-Crimea world.

Whatever the ultimate outcome of Vladimir Putin’s Crimean Gambit, now threatening to become a Donbas Gambit, it reminds us that the United States still has some unfinished business in Europe. Putin’s dramatic move into Crimea, and his subsequent sporting with Ukraine like a cat playing with a wounded mouse, is devastating to liberal aspirations about the kind of Europe, and world, we would like to live in. It affronts our moral and political sensibilities, and it raises the specter of a serious and unfavorable shift in the regional balance of power. But so far, Western leaders have signally failed to develop an effective response to this, to them, an utterly unexpected and shocking challenge.

Since the end of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union, successor state to the old Tsarist empire, fell apart, the former Russian empire has been divided into eleven separate republics. The closest parallel, an ominous one to many of these states, would be to what happened the last time the Russian state collapsed, in 1917-1919. Then as in 1990, the former empire splintered into a collection of separate republics. Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, the Central Asian states and the Baltic republics set out on an independent existence. Then, as Lenin and his heirs consolidated power in Moscow, the various breakaway republics returned (in some cases more willingly than others) to the fold. By 1939, when Soviet troops invaded the Baltic Republics, from Central Asia to the Baltic Sea, almost all of the far-flung dominions of the Romanovs were once more under a single flag. Only Poland and Finland were able to resist incorporation into the Soviet Union, and the Poles were forced into the Warsaw Pact.

Lenin and Stalin were able to rebuild the tsarist empire first because they succeeded in creating a strong state in Russia, second because many of the breakaway states were divided and weak, and finally because a permissive international environment posed few effective barriers to the reassertion of Moscow’s power.

There should be little doubt in anyone’s mind today that the Kremlin aims to repeat the process, and from President Putin’s desk it must look as if many of the pieces for a second restoration are in place. Many of the ex-Soviet republics are weak, divided and badly governed. Many are locked in conflicts over territory or torn by ethnic strife. President Putin, whatever one may think of his methods or of the long-term prognosis, has rebuilt a strong Russian state that is able to mobilize the nation’s resources in the service of a revisionist foreign policy. And the international environment, while not perhaps as permissive as in the immediate aftermath of World War One (when Lenin gathered many of the straying republics back to Russia’s bosom) or the prelude to World War Two (when Stalin completed the project), nevertheless affords President Putin some hopes of success.

At the military level, the United States now has its weakest military presence in Europe since the 1940s, and with large defense cutbacks built into budget assumptions and significant commitments elsewhere, it would be extremely difficult for the United States to rebuild its military presence in Europe without a 180 degree turn by the Obama administration. The European members of NATO, meanwhile, have continued their generational program of disarmament even as Russia rebuilt its capacity. Russia’s military capacity is limited and its ability to project power over significant distances is small, but the military balance of forces in the European theater hasn’t been this favorable to the Russians since the end of the Cold War.

But Putin doesn’t need military parity or anything like it. Lenin and Stalin were much weaker than their potential opponents when they rebuilt the Russian empire under the Soviet flag, but leaders read world politics shrewdly enough to understand that their opponents’ greater military power wouldn’t actually come into play. Once Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire collapsed, the western allies of World War One could have imposed almost any settlement they liked on eastern Europe, had they been willing to back their designs with military force and sustained political energy. But war weary publics at home, divided counsels among the allies, and a western preoccupation with the chaos elsewhere in Europe allowed Lenin and Trotsky to regain much of what was lost in the chaos of transition and civil war. Similarly, the grotesque parody of foreign policy that shaped British and French designs during the illusion-ridden 1930s ultimately created a situation in which Moscow could act in the Baltic, despite its military weakness and economic difficulties.

Putin today must believe that western division and confusion offer him solid assurances that he can disregard the prospects of western military intervention as long as his activities are confined to the non-NATO republics of the former Soviet Union. It could be worse. Under certain circumstances, he may think that the Baltic Republics are fair game. While all government officials will unite in a hissing of denunciation and denial if anyone says it out loud, there isn’t a lot of appetite in any of the NATO governments west of Poland for military action on the Baltic coast. If Russia moved quickly across a Baltic frontier to ‘liberate’ some ethnic Russians, would NATO send troops to drive the Russians back out? We are no doubt telling the Russians that the frontiers of NATO countries are another one of our now-famous red lines, but Putin may think he knows us better than we know ourselves.

From Putin’s point of view, the EU must present a particularly contemptible picture. Paralyzed by the poisonous consequences of the euro, divided north and south by the question of debt and east and west by the question of immigration, the EU is even less effective and fast moving than usual. George Soros (whose views, one believes, the Kremlin follows carefully even if it loathes his influence) argues that the minimalist ‘solutions’ the EU adopted to prevent the euro crisis flaring into devastating financial crises have locked the Union into a path of gradually worsening political crises over austerity and its consequences. While developments like the Greek return to the bond markets suggest that even in Europe bad times don’t last forever, Putin apparently not only believes the Soros analysis; he is acting on it. Russia is pursuing an aggressive, influence-expanding program inside the EU and NATO as well as outside it. Linking up with anti-Brussels, anti-Berlin politicians like Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, Russia is developing deeper financial, economic and even political links well inside the divided Union. With business and especially the energy business increasingly converted into an arm of state power, Russia is developing the kinds of connections inside the EU that have proved so effective in the post-Soviet space still outside it.

The staggering incoherence of European energy policy (with Germany racing to dismantle nuclear reactors even as Putin brandishes his energy weapons) is another sign to the Kremlin that the Europeans are likely to remain both divided and ineffective against anything short of a tank offensive aimed at the Fulda Gap. As Lilia Shevtsova demonstrates, the German intellectual and diplomatic worlds now re-echo with excuses for and rationalizations of Putin’s new course.

Meanwhile, it is not at all clear that the key members of the Union view the eastern borderlands in the same way. For Poland and the Baltic states, the new Russian activism is close to an existential threat. Others may actually welcome a newly assertive Russia as the answer to what is perceived in some quarters as an over-mighty Germany in the EU. This would not be the first time that influential voices in Paris called for an entente with an ugly regime in Russia in the interests of the European balance of power. It was in 1891 that the archconservative Tsar Alexander III stunned the world by standing as a French naval band played La Marseillaise at Kronstadt; the secular French Republic was willing to side with an Orthodox absolute monarch to balance the scales against Bismarck’s Germany.

A century later in 1989 there were many in France who questioned the wisdom of breaking up the Soviet Union while uniting Germany. The last 20 years cannot have lessened French doubts about the wisdom of that course, and French qualms about the proper policy toward Russia find echoes elsewhere. Italy and the members of Club Med will not want money spent in the east that could go to the south.

None of this would suggest to President Putin that he has much to fear from Europe; despite the ritual war dances and expressions of hostility in Washington, one doesn’t see much happening here that would change his calculation about western plans. Is there a groundswell of public support to boost US deployments in Europe? Are voters circulating petitions to position US forces on the border of the Baltic states? Is there a serious move to sign bilateral defense treaties with the endangered states (Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus) or to bulk up the US presence in Central Asia?

No, there is not, and President Putin knows it very well. The United States is a stronger power in the military sense than Russia, but there is no thirst for war. The United States today is no more willing to contest Russian power in ex-Soviet space than it was to stop Hitler’s march into the Sudetenland in 1938.

Policy must always begin with facts, and as western leaders grapple with the new Russia, western division, weakness and lack of will are where we must begin. Thumping our chests and making rash, hypocritical boasts about a devotion to freedom and international law which we do not, in fact possess—at least if it involves spending real money or running real risks—will only set us up for more humiliating failures. The strategist must know himself, warns Sun Tzu; we must stop pretending to ourselves at least that we are more united and strong willed than we really are.

We must also acknowledge the pervasive failure of the Ukrainians and many of their neighbors to build strong states. It’s not simply that their governments are corrupt and incompetent and that they aren’t very effective at problem solving or policy making. It’s not simply that any aid we send them is at high risk of being stolen or wasted. It means that their institutions and their national establishment are riddled top to bottom with people whose loyalty has been or can easily be suborned by the Kremlin. It also means that their military establishments are overwhelmingly likely to be poorly prepared, badly trained, incompetently led and corruptly managed.  There are no doubt exceptions to these dismal generalizations, but we cannot plan without taking a hard look at the real state of affairs.

Whatever can be said about the medium to long term, in the here and now we have allowed ourselves to be outmaneuvered and outwitted, and we don’t have many good cards to play. Imposing what sanctions the Europeans will accept, and gradually tightening them over time, may be the best we can do right now; if so, Washington needs to remember that barking loudly when you can’t bite will be seen as a sign of impotence and incontinence rather than as exhibiting high principles and moral commitment.

The West has a Russia problem, and we need to think clearly about our overall strategic relationship with Russia as the first step in formulating a response to Putin’s aggression against a peaceful neighboring state. There are two issues here; America’s generic attitude to Russia as a great power independent from the question of who wields power there and what his policies are, and America’s specific attitude toward Vladimir Putin’s regime.

It is on the question of America’s generic relationship to Russia considered abstractly that the ‘realists’ who would like to reconcile with Putin as quickly as possible have the strongest case. The Obama administration’s attempt to reset relations with Russia was an embarrassing failure, but it was rooted in real truths about American interests. While there are and always will be problematic aspects to the relationship of the United States with all strong and vigorous powers around the world whose interests and values sometimes run athwart our own, a strong Russia is or at least can be a good thing from an American point of view. We would like to see a government in Moscow that is strong enough to undertake such necessary tasks as the protection and guardianship of its nuclear arsenal, able to prevent the spread of terrorism, anarchy or organized crime across its vast territories, and able to play a strong and effective role in ensuring that the balance of power in northeastern Asia contains a large number of significant powers.  A healthy oil and gas industry in Russia is by no means necessarily a thorn in America’s flesh; Russian production both stimulates global prosperity by helping to keep prices lower than they would otherwise be and limits the danger that supply disruptions in the Middle East can create global economic crises.

The failed reset policy recognized that American policy toward Russia after the Cold War has been consistently flawed. It was an error of the Clinton administration to proceed with the construction of a post-Cold War Europe that had no real place for Russia, and the rise of Putin and Putinism can in part be ascribed both to unwise western policies and to the attitudes of arrogance and condescension against which Putin and his allies so vigorously rail.

From these facts, some are already constructing the case for appeasement. Our bad behavior in the past has made Russia angry and resentful—perhaps angrier than in strict justice it has the right to be, but emotions often run high. We can and should now soothe Russia’s frayed sensibilities, flatter its self esteem, and demonstrate that it has nothing to fear by our generous and far sighted behavior. We should welcome a strong and perhaps somewhat larger Russia into the circles of great power and turn as blind an eye as possible to the dismemberment of Ukraine and to future Russian expansion in the ex-Soviet space. As Putin realizes that the United States and its allies have repented of our past errors and are willing to allow Russia some ‘reasonable’ room for expansion and assertion, we can move to a pragmatic new relationship based on a more stable balance of interest and power.

If only this were true, so that with a small, almost unnoticeable sacrifice of principle and honor we could buy a quiet life. But life isn’t that easy. Putin, as I have said before, is no Hitler. But neither is he an Adenauer or Brandt, ready to stand in partnership to build a liberal world. As Lilia Shevstova notes on this site, Putin has chosen the path of repression at home and war abroad because these in his view offer the best hope of preserving his power. Because of the logic of his domestic situation, he has chosen the dark path of fascism, and is out to change the way the world works in ways that the United States must, out of its interests as well as its values, resist.

Victories like those Putin has notched up in Ukraine will awaken rather than slake his ambition. He needs triumphs abroad to vindicate and justify his rule and his repression at home, and foreign policy victories are like cocaine when it comes to their impact on public opinion: the buzz of each hit soon wears off, leaving only the craving for another and larger dose. Putin has grown and will grow hungrier and more reckless with each gain notched, each victory achieved. His contempt for the moral and political decadence of the West will be confirmed, his ideas of what he can attempt will grow more audacious, and his power to advance his agenda will grow as weakness and concession undermine our alliances and tilt the political balance in a growing number of states to lean his way. And other leaders around the world will have observed that the world order so laboriously erected on the ruins of World War Two by the United States and its allies is a hollow façade.

We are on track to repeat all the follies of the tragic period between the two world wars. At Versailles and through the1920s, the West fanned the flames of German rage by treating the defeated enemy with open contempt and by erecting a new European order that flagrantly ignored German wishes and interests. This is how we treated Russia in the 1990s. The West provided economic aid to the “Weimar Russia” of Boris Yeltsin much as the Young and the Dawes plans helped Germany relaunch its economy in the 1920s. But in the 1990s as in the 1920s the West was uninterested in addressing nationalist grievances or in strengthening genuine moderates. For democratic Weimar politicians, the West had nothing to offer on the Rhineland, nothing on the Saar; for Hitler, all of that plus Austria and the Sudetenland were suddenly on the table.  We weakened our friends and empowered our enemy. We cannot and must not repeat this mistake now. Russia may have legitimate grievances and it certainly has interests that ought to be taken into account, but as long as Vladimir Putin stands at the head of affairs, Moscow must expect no favors from the West. Our message should be that the West will concede nothing to Putin, but is prepared to work constructively with a different Russian government to make Russia powerful and respected at home and abroad. Through continuing study and reflection in the West combined with track two exchanges and back channel conversations, we should develop a joint vision for an attractive and realistic Russian future so that Putin will be seen more clearly as what he is: an obstacle to rather than an instrument of Russian national power and prestige.

Back to the Basics: NATO and Hard Power

Our new policy towards Putin’s new Russia must begin with NATO. Before we can hope to induce Putin’s Russia to respect anything else, we must teach it that NATO is real and that we are in earnest. This probably cannot be done at this point without substantial and visible upgrades to NATO’s presence in the periphery states of the alliance. There will have to be more NATO installations and more US troops in places like Estonia and Romania. Right now, there is a non-negligible chance that Russia might try to create facts on the ground inside one or more of the Baltic Republics. The border defenses of those republics must be reinforced to make that impossible. That move may infuriate Putin but it will also be a healthy reminder of his impotence in the face of genuine allied resolve, and will make a serious war crisis less likely. There is a real security threat to the Baltic states, and any failure to address that proactively would be reckless imprudence.  There are burglars in the neighborhood and the windows and doors must be bolted shut.

Words, given the plethora of empty ones we have uttered in the recent past, are no longer enough by themselves, but as we take effective steps to shore up NATO’s defenses, the President should ask both houses of Congress to pass resolutions reaffirming America’s solemn commitments to its treaty allies. It would be the duty of Republicans who are serious about defense to support him in this. One cannot expect unanimity in a large, diverse and free country like ours, but rallying the nation to the cause of NATO is in the President’s job description now, and it is incumbent on Republicans to support any constructive steps the President takes to shore up the national defense. Every manifestation of public unity and political will around the Atlantic alliance will have an impact on the Kremlin’s calculations, especially when these are backed by concrete steps to secure the frontiers.

That does little for Ukraine, and this is regrettable, but Ukraine never requested much less obtained membership in NATO. There is a fundamental difference between countries who are members of an alliance and those who are not; we are not obliged (beyond the gauzy sentiments of the UN Charter) to defend every country in the world against every predator. Reinforcing the boundaries of NATO will demonstrate the value of an American alliance to current and potential allies. In that way, we can transform Putin from NATO’s aspiring gravedigger to its chief publicist; if we now bolster NATO to make our allies safe we can still emerge from this crisis with an invigorated rather than a weakened alliance network. There are things the United States can and should do to help the people of Ukraine in this time of crisis, but in the immediate future our military measures must aim at reinforcing our existing alliances rather than expanding them.

Additionally, President Obama should review planned cuts in the defense budget and, while continuing to eliminate waste, scale back planned cuts in American forces. Even anti-tax Republicans in Congress should agree to raise new revenues to cover these costs; few things would send as powerful a signal of American purpose as a bipartisan commitment to raise taxes in support of our alliance obligations. If far Left Democrats and isolationist Republicans want to oppose these measures, let them do so—but the sensible center can and should prevail.

It is also worth remembering the role that Ronald Reagan’s high tech military buildup played in bringing the Soviet leaders of the 1980s down to earth. The United States has the ability to deprive Russia’s nuclear arsenal of much of its utility through improved missile defense and the development of other high tech weapons and systems. Russian nationalists might rethink their strategy if it was clear to them that provoking the United States triggers a response that further undercuts Russia’s military claims to strategic parity.

Beyond NATO: American Policy in Europe

The United States has tried to disengage from Europe three times since the end of the Cold War, and each time the disengagement failed. The Clinton administration tried to outsource Yugoslavia to the Europeans in the 1990s and was ultimately pulled into the Balkans. George W. Bush tried to conduct foreign policy around and over the heads of “Old Europe”; the experience was not a success. President Obama has similarly sought to relegate America’s European engagement to the rearview mirror, and President Putin has demonstrated yet again that the consequences of American disengagement are bad.

European peace and prosperity without close American engagement and support has been impossible since World War One, and since World War One it has been impossible for the United States to ignore the consequences when things go badly for Europe. Perhaps after more than a century it is time to face up to the reality that our political and military as well as our commercial interests are tangled up in Europe for the long run and that we must manage our engagement more effectively and actively than we’ve done for some time.

Given what we’ve seen in Ukraine, the US and the EU need to work much more closely together on policy vis a vis the non-Russian former Soviet states. This policy can’t be seen as simply legalistic or commercial, expanding free trade zones or supporting the rule of law and the development of institutions; security issues are also involved.

More, Europe’s failure to develop coherent energy policy is clearly a contributing factor to Putin’s transparent contempt for the bloc as well as to Europe’s continuing vulnerability to Russian pressure. Europe’s countries have many voices when it comes to energy policy; the United States needs to play a larger and more constructive role in the continent’s musings over energy policy, and the new American reserves now coming on line could be part of a long term strategy to reduce Europe’s vulnerability to energy blackmail.

The US may also need to consider how it can play a more useful role in Europe’s internal debates over economic policy. Europe’s weakness before Russian pressure is both directly and indirectly attributable in part to the fallout from the euro disaster. Economic pain has divided the union, alienated many voters both from Brussels and their national authorities, reduced Europe’s energy and resources for external policy ventures, contributed to the bitterness over immigration and fueled the rise of the extreme right wing parties Putin now seeks to mobilize. Important American interests have been seriously harmed by the monetary muddle in Europe, and Washington needs to think more carefully about how it can play a more consequential and constructive role.

The rise of fascist and near fascist parties across the European Union is a much more serious concern of American policymakers now that President Putin has embraced the toxic cocktail of ultra-nationalism, street violence and open hatred of liberal order as part of his international program. Russia is once again prepared to wage ideological war against the liberal west as it did in Soviet times, and a significantly enhanced and upgraded Ministry of the Dark Arts is now working overtime to spread propaganda, recruit supporters and make mischief for the liberal west whenever and however it can. In Europe and elsewhere, the United States and its allies will once again have to dust off some of our Cold War methods and programs, and here we are currently operating at a serious disadvantage. Putin the old KGB man has made substantial investments in the Dark Arts; they are cheaper than other forms of power projection, they build on the considerable legacy of the Soviet era, and they exploit the weaknesses of open societies. Today’s neo-fascism is capable of uniting the far Left and the far Right in anti-liberal ‘popular fronts’ in various ways and in Europe and elsewhere, the United States will once again engage in ideological battles with an unscrupulous and intelligent foe.

The Troubled East

Naked Russian aggression in Ukraine and the potential that Russian adventurism will spread chaos in the rest of the neighborhood have drawn world attention to the former Soviet states on Europe’s frontiers. Europe’s eastern problems don’t begin where the EU and NATO end. In Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania, the process of European expansion has run into deep trouble, and the situation in many of the former Yugoslav territories leaves much to be desired. Greece and Cyprus remain alienated from the west, members of the EU but drawn to Russia through cultural and in some cases economic ties.

It is difficult to guess Putin’s next steps, and it is far from clear that he is acting from a master plan rather than improvising in the heat of battle. Nevertheless, the most important objective for him may not be the southeast of Ukraine, where his forces are running rampant through the country’s industrial heartland. Instead the great prize may be the southwest, an area that includes the Black Sea port of Odessa and gives him a boundary not only with the pro-Russian breakaway Transnistrian statelet, but with NATO and the EU itself. To fan the forces in the EU that resent the technocratic dictates of Brussels, to cultivate a sense of pan-Slavic unity that looks to Mother Russia, and to provide aid and encouragement for anti-western leaders like Hungary’s Orban would suit Putin very well.

The EU is currently struggling in the southeast of Europe. The Balkans and Hungary are not doing well, and efforts to build western style states and institutions in countries with very different histories and traditions have not had the hoped for success. The euro crisis did not affect these countries directly, as none of them other than Cyprus and Greece have the exquisite happiness of belonging to the currency union, but the continental recession and crisis dealt a damaging blow to western prestige.  Western countries who can’t agree on much else agree that welfare-scrounging immigrants from the Balkans are a curse and scourge, and the list of western countries looking to limit immigration from the southeast is long. This does not go over well with public opinion in the Balkans. Should Russia continue to gain economic clout and work more consciously to build political relationships with important parties and leaders in these EU and NATO member states, both NATO and the European Union could soon become houses much more divided than they already are, and Russia could gain significant influence in the internal councils of the EU, not to mention de facto vetoes over decisions like NATO expansion. We should not confuse all of this with a global contest on the scale of the Cold War; even if Putin succeeds in uniting all the ex-Soviet states under the Russian flag, his Greater Russia would be a smaller and more poorly situated power than the Soviet Union. Germany remains united, Poland is free, and Russia cannot hope to dominate Central Europe as the USSR once did.

European fecklessness dragged the Clinton administration kicking and screaming into the morass of the bloody wars of the Yugoslav succession; the Obama administration, despite its eagerness to scale back, is already feeling the tidal pull back into a larger and potentially even more difficult region at a time when the options are all unappealing. Appeasing Putin won’t work; opposing him is going to be difficult and expensive, but ignoring him will be impossible.

President Obama once hoped he could manage a kind of global triage. We could pivot away from a Europe that didn’t need us and a Middle East that didn’t want us into an Asia that both needed and wanted our presence. These days the White House is facing a harder but perhaps more durable truth: the United States needs to pivot back toward the world.

show comments
  • brad lena

    That this situation is a surprise, unexpected, a moral outrage, et al. is an indication of an ideological worldview rather than one tethered to the historical record.The people who expect their favorite ideology to trump reality will disappointed and puzzled.

  • S.C. Schwarz

    What we “need” to do, and what we can and will do, are two very different things. Europe is weak, divided and leaderless, just as your essay states. The US is preoccupied with more important issues such as free contraceptives for the Sandra Flukes of the world. The left has always believed that the real problem in world affairs is American belligerence and now they have a president who agrees. He is busy dismantling our military and issuing occasional, laughable, empty threats.

    The west will do nothing.

    • Stephen W. Houghton

      Well we could raise money for the Ukrainian Army here in the US. Just because the president is an ass doesn’t mean the American People have to do nothing.

      • valwayne

        Putin and the rest of the world’s tyrants surely can’t believe their luck at getting Obama. We’d be in worse shape, but they clearly have been stunned motionless in disbelief that we would put someone like Obama in the White House. It couldn’t last. Putin finally figured out that Obama wasn’t a trick of some kind and decided to make his moves. The rest of the tyrants won’t be far behind.

      • john700

        Don’t bother. What happens now in Ukraine is a result of a deal between the US and Russia: “we get Western Ukraine, you get the rest”. The rhetoric is just smoke and mirrors.

    • Jim__L

      Obama is following Europe’s lead, emasculating the country for the sake of a bloated welfare state. The only thing that will help is to reverse this trend.

      The simple fact is that Putin has demonstrated the abject failure of Eurosocialism. What “every other industrialized country has done” is destroy its own capacity to defend itself.

      Raising taxes to turn this around is ludicrous. Every NATO country will have to pitch in and help. Can France raise taxes? Didn’t Mead himself point out that Hollande’s plans to raise taxes were impossible? How about the rest of the countries of the EU?

      No, the only solution is to cut excessive social spending — to finally admit to ourselves that National governments cannot be responsible for everything the Left believes they must be responsible for.

      The center must move Rightward. Europe has to admit that its philosophy has failed, and instead of the Leftists of America pushing us to become more European, Europe needs to become more American — privatizing health care would be the obvious place to start.

  • Andrew Allison

    A magisterial exposition! Just a couple of points: “Putin’s dramatic move into Crimea . . .” overstates the case, as does “Naked Russian aggression in Ukraine “. Putin did not invade Crimea: he had more than enough military presence there at the invitation of the Ukrainian government to give the Autonomous Republic cover to vote for annexation. The subsequent pro-Russian activities elsewhere in Ukraine lack both legal and Russian military cover. Changing their status would actually require an invasion, which might happen, but appears to me to be unlikely. It’s much more likely that Putin is hoping the the threat of invasion will, as it appears to be doing, cause the Ukraine government to grant the east more autonomy. Secondly, I assume that “. . . . , but Ukraine never requested much less obtained membership in NATO.” needs some context. Ukraine was ineligible for membership in NATO as long a Crimea, with its significant Russian military presence, was part of the country. The fact that Ukraine didn’t accept the (obviously fait accompli) annexation and immediately apply for membership is as inexplicable as the recent plea for a UN peacekeeping force (which requires Security Council approval).

    • markbuehner

      Well stated comrad.

  • Anthony

    Eric Posner, an outstanding political analyst and not someone who can
    be characterized as a naive Jeffersonian, does not believe that we should
    be overly concerned about Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

    “Putin’s annexation of Crimea gave him a short-term political boost at
    home that will eventually dissipate. In the long term, Russia gains
    nothing from the annexation but an arid peninsula of no economic or
    military importance, and the distrust of its neighbors. Putin’s foolish
    move will be its own punishment.”

    • adk

      “Putin’s foolish move will be its own punishment.” You could just add that “Putin is on the wrong side of history”, so need to worry less do anything. Just sit back and relax watching “regional power” self-inflicted destruction. History itself will take care of Putin, right?

    • markbuehner

      Magical thinking.

  • Pete

    ” ….and more US troops in places like Estonia and Romania.

    Oh sure. Use american kids as a trip wire. And note: Mead called for America troops to be place in these inconsequential countries. Why not German and French and British troops? Let the EU lead the parade instead of being just token decorations on military efforts. And if the EU can or won’t do it, then it is not worth doing.

    • fzk5220

      You may have a point there, but it does not necessarily involve troops on the ground. France and the UK have missiles and can help install such in Poland, Czech, Lithuania, Estonia,etc. It does not have to be the US all the time. If nothing else there is more of an affinity between these countries than between them and the US. After all they are Europe and have a more direct interest in what is now a Putin challenge or provocation.

    • markbuehner

      Because the world is how we find it, not how we want it. They wont go unless we do, perhaps not even then. Holding our breath and stomping our feet at European intransigence would be a full time job.

    • David Heller

      Unfortunately Estonia is a NATO member, and your advice is for the U.S. of A. to abrogate it’s NATO responsibilities. Thus, you directly advocate the destruction of NATO as a defensive alliance.

      Somehow I doubt the Estonia Army can handle the Russian Army on it’s own. Or the French, or the Hungarians, or the Brits……….

      Somehow destroying the only force that can check Russian aggression doesn’t seem like progress.

      Your bad !

      • Andrew Allison

        The failure to honor the obligations assumed in the Budapest Memorandum may be weighing on the Baltic States. I agree that we should defend NATO members, but am not sure that we would.

        • RTO Dude

          I began convinced that economic sanctions were the answer. The more I learn about the direction of credit flow (EU debt to Russia) and the utter simplicity and robustness of the single commodity Russian economy, the more I realize how little leverage the West has.

          The EU is only going to shoot themselves in the foot (then freeze in the dark) with an embargo or economic sanctions. In a non-trivial, 2008 crash sort of way. I’m starting to think it may actually be cheaper and even safer to position deterrent forces and bolster local militias. Difficult to wrap my head around. The opposite of normal risk mitigation strategy.

          Aside – I’m also actively tweaked at those initial, ” oh, Russia’s economically weak” articles.

      • Pete

        “Thus, you directly advocate the destruction of NATO as a defensive alliance.”

        NATO stopped being a defensive alliance when 1) the USSR disintegrated and 2) NATO moved into countries in Russia’s comfort zone. If you find the second point hard to grasp, tell us how you’d feel if Mexico became a member of the Warsaw pact back in the cold war days.

        “Somehow I doubt the Estonia Army can handle the Russian Army on it’s own. Or the French, or the Hungarians, or the Brits……….”

        Let’s let them try at least.

        And because others can’t or won’t does not mean we have to.

  • fzk5220

    That Europe is “weak, divided and leaderless” is nothing new. During my lifetime the only “leaders” were Hitler and Stalin. If one defines Europe as territory between the Urals and Greenland, then Putin is the current leader of the geographical Europe. However, in times of real and direct crises Europe always managed to somehow bring forth a true leader, eg. Churchill as an example. IMHO if Germany somehow either decreases or abolishes its dependence on Russian natural gas and trade, that may be the turning point as Merkel will emerge as the new “Iron Lady.”

    • Andrew Allison

      Um, Winnie? Charlie (de G)? Maggie?

      • fzk5220

        Winnie for sure. Charlie only with a small “c”, Maggie for sure as Hail Brittania!!

  • Gary Hemminger

    Here is the problem as I see it. Obama and other Western leaders can’t follow the advice in this article and say nothing. They won’t do anything from a NATO or military standpoint until Russia ups the ante a lot. Neither will they make the case for intervention to the American people (or in the EU for that matter). But they can’t not say anything or they will look weak to their own people. So they speak loudly and carry no stick. This is what American’s want. They want symbols, but do not want to actually do anything. They will continue to do this until (or if) Russia invades the Baltics. If this happens the sleeping tiger will awaken (not the politicians, but the people in America at least).

    I have never seen an administration like Obama’s that is so weak and the media is an excuse making engine for him. Ultimately it is the people and the media that allow this president to essentially abandon actual important foreign policy decisions and outsource them to dictators like Putin. It is very strange. Prof. Mead’s recommendations are right on, but they will be ignored because Obama pays no price for ignoring them. Please someone tell me I am wrong!

  • Gary Hemminger

    One more item. As even Dr. Mead points out, German energy policy is a dismal failure but a vast majority of them still want to go full bore into their fantasy green future. There is no way that Germans will abandon their green fantasy and there is no way Europe is going to get off of Putin’s cocaine oil and gas. It isn’t going to happen. Europeans live in a fantasy land and the question is are we going to join them in their fantasy. As a Californian it looks from where I stand that we are headed down the rabbit hole. One can only imagine what China and Iran are thinking at this point.

  • adk

    Well, the US is just warming up preparing its strong response, Here’s from the Wall Street Journal:

    U.S. Tries to Help Ukraine, Reassure Allies Without Riling Russia

    By ADAM ENTOUS And JULIAN E. BARNES, April 11, 2014

    Ukrainian forces got the MREs late last month, about two weeks after requesting aid. The White House says it is still reviewing other items on Kiev’s wish-list, including medical kits, uniforms, boots and military socks.

    “You want to calibrate your chest-thumps,” a senior military official said of the step-by-step American response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military moves. “He does something else in Ukraine, we release the socks.”

    • RTO Dude

      That’s actually *not* an Onion article?

      • adk

        I first thought so, but it did appear in WSJ — see the link.

  • markbuehner

    Our next question ought to be if Poland is a state more like Germany or more like Ukraine. Its not a simple answer.


    Chris Matthews and Dana Millbank have said Putin is obviously a racist or he would not do this to Obama.

  • Fatvito

    Ha Ha what a laugh. Raise taxes to fund our already gigantic military to put more American troops in Europe. Bi partisan, Ha Ha Ha. Better we take our new immigrants and train them for warfare in Europe and if they survive let them pay a fine and wait 10 years to become a citizen anywhere they want in Europe.

    • Andrew Allison

      Not sure if it’s still the case, but joining the military used to confer citizenship. What a great way to solve the illegal immigrant problem.

  • inthisdimension

    While intriguing, the column posits no reason other than legacy for further American intervention in a continent that cannot stop warring with itself. Yes, the West is much like that described by Churchill in The Gathering Storm, and, yes, all the points made by Dr Mead are true. But… At the very core of any civilization are its citizens, and not ONE european country, not even Russia, has been making enough more of them to survive. Why, realistically, should America invest lives and treasure, why should Americans lower their standard of living, yet again, to support and/or save a continent none of whose people believe in their future enough to populate it? To what end would we make such an investment? Logically, within two-three generations there will BE no “europeans;” that is how low their fertility has become. So, again, WHAT sense does it make to “save” a people voluntarily making themselves extinct?

    • johnwerneken

      cause we need customers, rivals, allies, and a modicum of stability?

      • inthisdimension

        But if they aren’t going to be there in a few generations – and they aren’t – why sacrifice our generations to “save” them? From what? From themselves?

        • Jim__L

          Ideally, we could save them from despair — demonstrate that there are in fact ways to organize the body politic that will allow them to defend themselves and survive as a culture into the future.

          How cynical are we feeling?

    • RTO Dude

      The article is idealistic. Your post is nonsense, I’m sorry. Demographic contraction is an interesting fact of life for Europe (some parts more than others), but as a justification for American isolationism? wtf? That’s just silly. I mean, there’s no causal link.
      Whether the USA should involve itself in Europe’s affairs is a complex question. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I don’t see how it has anything to do with their rate of reproduction.

      Edit: checked your other posts, I don’t understand, you’re not a crackpot. Partner, how does Europe’s average family size factor in to our foreign policy? Puzzled.

      • Jim__L

        If we can predict that Europe’s values and priorities will change to be utterly unrecognizable in the next twenty years (and, very likely align with parts of the world with which we are having severe problems), our long-term plans should reflect that.

        Unless we can convince Europe to defend itself and reproduce itself, our strategic priorities should be to determine how to deal effectively with the world that actually will be. That means rearranging our allocation of scarce resources.

  • art

    Nice article, pretty much right, but your solutions have a snowball’s chance in hell of happening- welcome to the USSR, bitch!

  • wheezer

    When will Europe defend Europe?

  • elaineland

    Call it Karma. The new Ukraine (non) government are crying over something that put them into power. What goes around comes around

  • Amused

    Great analysis but it is not realistic.

    What is Obama going to actually do?

    Go down to a union hall and give a speech telling Putin that “he’s gotta sit in back”?

    All Obama is good for is passing out “free stuff” to his supporters and attacking and insulting everyone that does not agree with him.

    (And, no, Obama is actually not good at golf!)

  • rakesh wahi

    i was reading intently until I got to the ‘regime change” in Russia. The arrogance of my countrymen knows no bounds.

  • mnemos

    For the most part, spot on.

    Some things I see as overly optimistic:

    “Even anti-tax Republicans in Congress should agree to raise new revenues to cover these costs;”. I don’t doubt that it is possible to get Republicans in Congress to raise taxes to cover the expenses of NATO activity, but I don’t think they could raise the taxes quickly enough to cover both the NATO activity and increased social spending that would be required by the Senate to allow funding the NATO activity.

    “It is also worth remembering the role that Ronald Reagan’s high tech military buildup played in bringing the Soviet leaders of the 1980s down to earth. The United States has the ability to deprive Russia’s nuclear arsenal of much of its utility through improved missile defense and the development of other high tech weapons and systems.” It is worth remembering, but we no longer live in that world. Remember we have been developing 2 things since the Reagan era – bankers and lawyers. They are the current “weapons” we are committed to and neither is particularly interested in protecting the country. Close observation of this is part of the reason for Russian confidence.

    Last thing: the best weapon we can have in this conflict is openness – which we are currently throwing away on both sides of the Atlantic. In Europe, they have unilaterally disarmed and are focused on minimizing democratic input in government via the EU. In the US we have complete regulatory capture by the financial industry, again minimizing democratic input. If our elite doesn’t start to balance their constant power grabs with some actual governing we really won’t have anything left to defend. That is the proper defense against some of these “Dark Arts”.

  • dannyboy116

    Overall, a pretty well written article. But I would add a different perspective. Not every fight is our fight. The Ukraine/Russia situation is very
    complicated and does not come close to fitting the simple Ukraine is
    good, Russia is bad narrative that is usually fed to us. Half of
    Ukraine wants to lean West, and the Eastern and Southern parts where
    there is heavy industry and their primary market for goods is Russia,
    wants to lean east. So far, Ukraine has alternated every election cycle between
    pro-Western leaders and Pro-Russian leaders. The problem is that all
    of their leaders (pro-Western and pro-Russian) have been absolutely
    corrupt, and have been stealing the country blind.
    Russia is primarily
    involved because it is too “close to home”, and because their navy fleet
    is based in Crimea – and they do not feel safe with the very anti-Russia
    government which just took over (ousting the duly elected, but very corrupt,
    president of Ukraine). Two quick points. 1) Ukraine is a lot more
    important to Russia than it is to us (just like Mexico is a lot more
    important to us than it is to Russia). This one is not our fight. 2)
    The new Ukrainian government has cleverly positioned themselves as
    needing protection form the West against the big bad bear – Russia.
    What they really want is someone to pay off the $40 Billion of debt that
    they have managed run up in the last decade – and yes, we the west – will end
    up being the suckers who foot the bill.

    • Charles

      Something sensible at last. All the hand-wringing and war-mongering in the article and the comments don’t change the fact that Putin is merely trying to restore some shred of Russia’s buffer space and sphere of influence. Of course, sphere of influence is an outmoded concept now that Russia’s is gone and the US sphere of influence encompasses almost the whole world — according to Prof. Meade, we have to steer all events in the Pacific, the Middle East AND Europe. And again of course this is because our values are better than Russia’s, notwithstanding our stellar record in imposing brutal dictatorships for generations in Latin America, Egypt, Iran, and myriad other places.

      The hawks should simmer down. Not every tinpot crisis is a Munich. Draw a NATO red line in the Baltic republics and stick to it, for real, period, no ifs, ands or buts. We can all agree on that. Help Europe meet its energy shortfall, which makes it vulnerable to Putin, with our growing reserves of natural gas. And then let Russia’s sick economy and its over-reliance on the shrinking role of its oil in the world eat away at it from within.

  • Gerald

    Interesting analysis, but short on a reality check. Despite its economic and military resources (with the exception of the U.K.), Europe has neither the leadership nor will to defend itself, much less other states like the Ukraine. If there is a leader in Europe he or she has been well hidden. Europe will do well to cope with the influx of Muslim immigrants and the rising Sharia law issues, much less deal with Russia.
    The United States is little better from a leadership perspective and is faced with issues in Asia as well as with Russia and the Middle East. We will have to choose where our national interest lie, as well as which allies are essential and reliable. We have already squandered world respect as well as instilling a lack of confidence in our tradition allies, and that is not likely to begin to be regained until the current administration is out of office.

  • JamalPigSheite

    brak gonna be sho dis putin sum leson

  • ShadrachSmith

    The idea of going to war to control who rules eastern europe was a bad idea the first time it was tried.

  • Anthony

    “Whatever the ultimate outcome of Vladimir Putin’s Crimean Gambit…it reminds us that the United States still has some unfinished business in Europe….At the military level, the United States now has its weakest military presence in Europe since the 1940s….Policy must always begin with facts…the West has a Russia problem…. Appeasing Putin won’t work; opposing him is going to be difficult and expensive, but ignoring him will be impossible.”

    WRM, what are you asking for – strengthening NATO; Increase military presence in Europe (NATO countries); hard power politics supplementing soft power back channels; full EU foreign policy engagement reminiscent of post World War II with U.S. doing heavy lifting – and are we prepared to sustain and afford such an undertaking? Your essay WRM brings to mind importance of geography (starting point for understanding everything else). Recognizing that one Vladimir Putin may be motivated by geopolitical interests (space and power) inter alia, can U.S. strategically pivot towards Russia (Europe) for purpose of “containment” given our current domestic and global responsibilities (not to mention politico-socio arrangements). The narrative you write calls for foreign policy strategy vis-a-vis Russia that is “imperial like” but can we (world) afford not to engage.

  • RTO Dude

    I think we need to make a distinction here.

    Avoiding entanglements is NOT equivalent to abandoning commitments.

    I’m a libertarian, as are seemingly a high percentage of other posters here, fine, that’s good to see. We’re a touch isolationist and also skeptical of our current administration’s ability to make good decisions on foreign policy. Consequently there’s an understandable element of unreality to articles like this one.

    But we need to guard against rationalizing actions we know aren’t honorable, just because they seem inevitable.

    • Chadnis

      Good point.

  • tantorsea7

    Another clever neoconservative chicken hawk journalist egging us on, like they did with Iraq, Libya, Syria, and want to do with Iran, Russia, etc. Enough. How many times are we going to be neo-conned?

    Instead, let us attend to our own borders, which are a joke, as millions of unauthorized

    people invade us; and let us focus on our other problems since we have a 17

    trillion debt and growing, and our inner cities are terrorized by a series of

    urban underclass gangs numbering in the

    mugging, trafficking in drugs, hooking teenage women into drugs and

    then prostituting them in vast sexual trafficking rings, stealing, vandalizing, graffiti writing, etc. . In Chicago alone, the Vice Lords gang, just one gang,

    numbers 70000 according to the Chicago Crime Commission. We don’t talk about all this?

    most recent feats of foreign meddling to

    “help human rights” and secure “freedom” and “punish tyrants” include bombing

    Libya (on BO’s orders and with complete GOP and Democratic Establishment

    backing) a country that had not attacked us or threatened to attack us, deposing

    its ruler, and causing a terrible chaos that has led to the burning of our

    in Benghazi and the killing of an ambassador and other Americans and to the

    filtering of weapons to Islamists in Lybia as well as Mali and other African nations. Great success.

    In Iraq, on Bush

    Jr.’s orders and with complete GOP backing, we bombed and invaded a country

    that had not attacked us or threatened to attack us and deposed another guy and

    created a similar ongoing chaos that has resulted in the destruction of the

    Christian population of Iraq. We are doing the

    same in
    Syria, a country that has not attacked us or threatened to attack

    us, by
    supporting the Islamists (on BO’s orders and with almost complete GOP

    and Democratic Establishment backing), who are destroying the Christian

    population there too, with our help. In Serbia, on Bill the Sexual Predator

    Clinton’s orders and the backing of the entire GOP and Democratic

    Establishment, we bombed to smithereens a nation

    had not attacked us and approved a referendum that gave independence to

    now a Muslim state in the midst of Europe, from Serbia, a Christian

    nation, to which it had belonged for centuries. Now we dont like a referendum

    in Crimea. And now, under BO, again with almost total GOP and Democratic Party

    support, we want to “punish” Russia, a country that has not attacked

    us or threatened to attack us. Give us a break. Enough

    • Chadnis

      Well, hey let’s just let Russia have the world! History proves that isolationism does’nt prevent wars, it provides the environment for world wars. But I guess that’s not the history you’re interested in…

      • RTO Dude

        Nearly as I can tell this gentleman cut-and-paste’s the same post on every discussion thread.

  • CapitalistRoader

    Perhaps after more than a century it is time to face up to the reality that our political and military as well as our commercial interests are tangled up in Europe for the long run and that we must manage our engagement more effectively and actively than we’ve done for some time.

    Why? What strategic interests do we have in Europe? If the Europeans themselves are unwilling to defend themselves – they typically spend half as much as as the US in percentage of GDP – why is it that we should defend them?

    The EU has a population of 500 million vs. the US’s 330 million. The EU has a GDP of US$17 trillion vs. the US’s 16.8 trillion. They’re both bigger and richer than us…why is it that we have to fight their wars?

    • Chadnis

      That same question was asked in the 1930’s. Let’s see, if we allowed Russia to invade Europe do you think that would be a good idea? I guess you would have been an “appeaser” in the 30’s. Sure, let’s just let our allies fall to our enemies…

      • CapitalistRoader

        Again, Europe is richer and more populous than the US. Why not have their 18 – 30-year-old men dying on the front line? Why not have them crank up their defense spending? Why should it only fall on our shoulders? Germany is the richest and most populous EU country, and the majority of their citizens wouldn’t lift a finger if Putin invaded Eastern Ukraine:

        The Forsa poll for magazine Stern found 50 percent of respondents were against greater Nato engagement in eastern Europe and 42 percent were in favour.

        A clear majority were also against a military escalation of the conflict with 77 percent rejecting Nato intervention – even if Russian troops invaded eastern Ukraine.
        9 Apr 2014

        Why should we lift a finger if they’re not willing to put their asses on the line? The US lost 180,000 men in the European Theatre in WWII, 120,000 in WWI…and you think we should go bail out their lazy asses again? For what? So the idiot, EU-PC lefties can continue to call us war mongers?

        Never again. They either rearm or start teaching Russian as a second language.

  • Ron Cook

    your analysis does not address the treaty obligations to Ukraine the US and others assumed in the 1990s in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nuclear arsenal. I know this administration doesn’t believe it is bound by treaties entered, or for that matter laws enacted, before it came to power, but the failure of the US to make some attempt to fulfill its treaty obligations will not go unnoticed by Russia and every other predatory power.

    Since Putin denies that there are any Russian troops in the Ukraine, assisting the Ukrainian government with arms to allow it to put down the Russian sponsored hooligans in various cities in Eastern Ukraine cannot be construed by Russia as an attack on its military. At some point, we will have to stand up to Putin. The sooner, the better.

  • Fred

    President Gelding use the military? Not bloody likely. And spend money on the military he could use to upgrade the Obamaphones of the people who actually keep him and the Democrats in power? Yeah, that’ll happen.

  • valwayne

    Reagan and Bush I faced down the Evil Empire with strength, and watched it collapse. Obama has been in office less than 6 years, but his weakness, ineptness, and absolute INCOMPETENCE is resulting in Putin starting to reassemble the Evil Empire. Its mind boggling how Obama could let this happen after so much blood, sweat, and treasure was spent by so many President, but we are watching it nightly on TV. Putin has Obama’s number. He knows the U.S. has cursed itself with the weakest, most inept, and INCOMPETENT President in our history. One that makes Jimmy Carter look like Superman. Putin has Obama’s number, and its so coincidence that every time he speaks to Obama the next day he starts moving his forces to grab another piece of Ukraine. If the rest of our Government was smart they wouldn’t allow Obama to speak or ever get anywhere near our foolish pathetic President. Putin can no doubt sense the weakness and INCOMPETENCE and meeting or speaking to Obama only encourage him. Fat chance that Obama will stop gutting our military or our economy. He is stuck on his ideology and stupidity no matter how badly it fails. If I were the President of Poland, or any other former country in the former Warsaw pact I would be working all out to get some nukes. Without those its only a matter of time before Putin is knocking on their doors again. Obama is going to do anything except make Putin laugh.

  • valwayne

    The Roman “Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus” gave us the quote “If you would have peace, prepare for war”! Neville Obama’s policies of decline, weakness, and appeasement is proving to us a la Assad, a la Putin, just how true that quote is. Obama thinks his policies of gutting our military, craven weakness, and appeasement will “Give Us Peace in Our Time”! He will give us war. War for which we are totally unprepared because of him, and which we well could lose.

  • Steve S.

    I want to see if and when Putin moves on Moldova, East Ukraine and the Baltic States if NATO will enforce Article 5. Obama will pass the football to NATO to deflect any criticism of his weak foreign policy. His attitude that we need to be taken down a notch or two will prove fatal to these countries. The EU has no military or no stomach for confronting Putin. History repeats itself, welcome back to the 1930’s.

  • Elie Nammour

    A strong Russia is very important to the world peace, yet this doesn’t mean to expand its borders on behalf of self determination or independence of other populations. The expansion of Nato east at the time, was a good move as it controlled a fluid situation which resulted from the dismemberment of the soviet union. There was no intention in NATO to use this against Russia at any time, and the US decision to stop antimissile deployment in Poland is a clear signal. In any case what seems to me rational is what the US and Ukraine must not do, and that is to engage in any military action ( the airport control by UKRAINE special forces action can be considered as affirming an intention to stand firm rather than a military engagement). The US response should be pondered, incremental and mixed ( diplomatic,
    expanding sanctions to utilities and diversifying this where it can hurt , and military deployments 2 f22 in warsaw, drones in estonia and some special laser canons in lithuania ) yet without any military fire. The
    Ukrainian riposte needs to concentrate on deploying military resources
    along the virtual line from Kharkov to SIMFEROPOL in Crimea , and
    UKRAINE to propose that eastern to this line, there is a reasonable zone of
    influence for Russia , where major autonomy will be authorized, and that
    can be agreed upon tomorrow during the meeting between the Russian and
    Ukrainian foreign ministers in respect of the collectivity and the
    nation/state sovereignty and legality . The main objective should be in any case to
    hold presidential elections and to stabilize the UKRAINE, although the civil war can be a tempting scenario, draining Russian hard reserves. For this
    purpose of stability , the EU must flood the UKRAINIAN market with low cost goods of
    all types and create a major zona franca where all consumption items can
    be retrieved at very low prices, and this will induce a movement of
    citizens from east to west and an exchange between communities. Kiev
    must do all possible to maintain a semblance of peace and happenings,
    and to generate an image of control, even if the east is shaking very
    badly and Putin’s athletes are already in Tiraspol and circumventing
    with their military movements Odessa and creating immense pressure on
    the west Ukraine to cede under threats and arrogance. Putin is doing
    what he can to bring back all Ukraine to his Orbit, the game is not to
    let him have this back , yet it has to be done with style, without fire. It is a dance with the devil, where the devil will do all possible for the ballerina to lose control and be seduced by him, while she must master her moves and be vigilant. So Ukraine should deploy
    military assets in Odessa and along the virtual line mentioned to create a buffer
    security and to get to round 3 or 4 at least and then to control the breath and make extra time in the dance. UKRAINE needs to talk about
    presidential elections and widen the horizon of the population rather
    than get involved in the provocations of the Russian secret services.
    Creativity is on demand, as much as traditional deployment of muscles.
    At the end Putin will not rest until he will grasp all UKRAINE, and the
    free citizens should defend their liberty by resorting to innovation, and by maintaining control of the land . Of course big oil, the
    financial masters of the universe, other vested interests will see in
    all this a great opportunity in the game of the nations to widen the
    market from Lisbon to China as per existing rules, especially now that
    Beijing is under an immense economic strain, and its president is
    looking to become a space super power, more than to sponsor free
    municipal elections. There is a Chinese prism to be looked at where the
    base is social and the angles are historical, to represent small
    government of the elites, and this is per se’ acceptable, what is
    unknown is the model of Russian bravados where the system is ruled by a
    militia mentality accepting the Westphalia concept only for its own
    geopolitical interests. The end game of Russia is much blur to me, how
    this country will evolve with high male mortality , no free flow of
    ideas and an oil oriented economy ? Is the Eurasian dream of Moscow a
    possible reality , where an order similar to a Khanate will be instated ?
    In any case the game is heating up and Moscow doesn’t feel low
    temperature as usual. Putin ultimately by his actions is weakening Russia and acting against the main interest of world peace, which is to have a strong Russia. Hence he should be stopped .

  • TS Alfabet

    The most obvious answer to Putin and Russia is their “simple, one commodity” economy.

    If we had an Administration that would encourage gas and oil development (not to mention XL Pipeline), export of LNG etc… we could, in relatively short order, have a significant effect upon the oil and gas markets, robbing Putin/Russia (and Iran and the other petro-terror states) of vital cash. Reagan used a military buildup including the SDI to bankrupt the Soviets and win the Cold War. We have oil and gas. (And coal, too, actually, which could be used better for domestic and export consumption). The oil and gas fracking revolution is the single, greatest development in the U.S. in the last 10 years. It solves a host of problems for the U.S. both domestically and internationally if we would only embrace it. Employment, middle class jobs, energy costs, manufacturing, transportation, trading deficits, budget deficits… on and on.

    Bottom line: oil and gas generate real, national wealth and power. With billions of dollars in energy wealth flooding into the Treasury, we can reverse the military cuts and start making sensible choices about reforming entitlements.

  • Chadnis

    From the posts I’ve read, I gather that isolationism is alive and well here in America. While I can understand the impulse, I would like to remind those who share that view of the lessons of 20th century history. History has proven time and again that isolationism doesn’t prevent wars- it encourages them.

    • Fat_Man

      I am firmly opposed to intervening in Ukraine or the rest of Eastern Europe. In my view it is a European problem and Europeans should settle it.

      I am not an isolationist. But, I believe that Europe should be close to the bottom of our priority list. Our priorities should include Central America and Caribbean, the Pacific Rim, and the Arctic.

      We need to understand that NATO was a peculiar historic situation. In 1949 most of Central and Western Europe the extensive damage caused by the Wars had not repaired, the UK was bankrupt, and the Soviet Union had an enormous battle hardened army. They could have rolled up Central and Western Europe without too much difficulty, and we would have faced a much wealthier and larger global foe.

      All of that has changed. Russia is not the Soviet Union, Europe is united, free, and wealthy. NATO, which was a shield in 1949, has been a crutch since 1989, which has allowed European states to neglect their own defense in favor of paying social welfare benefits.

      NATO shouldn’t be strengthened, it should be dissolved. Europe has the resources to provide for its own defense. We should help them, especially by providing military technology (for a fair market price), but we should not be more deeply involved.

      P.S. the Middle East should be the penultimate item on our priority list. We should limit our further involvement to carpet bombing. First Iran, then Pakistan.

      • Chadnis

        I disagree. Europe is an important ally, I understand your criticism of Europe’s reliance on America’s military might but that doesn’t change the fact that Russia just invaded a soveriegn eastern european country. If we do nothing, what will Putin do next?

        • Fat_Man

          Europe is an important ally to whom and in what circumstance? Important trading partner, yes. ally. not so much.

          It is like having an alcoholic relative. You can’t solve his problem for him. You can reflect to him that he has a problem, and you can give him a ride to his weekly meeting, but that is about it.

          • Chadnis

            Would you let Putin invade your drunk uncle?

          • Fat_Man

            My uncle was born in Ukraine, but Ukraine is no kin of mine.

  • Luba Sargeant

    Ukraine’s non membership in NATO is not the only argument for the U.S. not to get involved in Russia’s undeclared war on its sovereign neighbor. The U.S. signed the Budapest Memorandum in 1994, along with the U.K. and Russia, to defend Ukraine against aggressors in exchange for Ukraine disposing of the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal. So, the U.S. by treaty, is in this crisis. No discussion, no questions, otherwise every other bit dictator in the world will learn to copy this aggressive tactic in his quest for nuclear weapons.

  • AndrewL

    As we’re broke, we should pursue strategies that require as little of our resources as possible. My proposal:
    – In Europe, let Germany re-arm itself to counter Russia.
    – In Asia, let Japan re-arm itself to counter China.
    – In the Middle East, let Israel do whatever it wants.

    If war breaks out, we’ll wait for everyone else to exhaust themselves before we swoop in and pick up the pieces.

    Yes, this strategy is not glorious, but it’s how we ascended to superpowerdom after WWII.

  • javier millan

    talking about reckless behavior by president putin you must have in mind that he could try an incursion in the western hemisphere like the intervention in cuba by the ussr that led to the missile crisis in the sixties. right now he could try a similar approach in association with venezuela where the chavista dictatorship would be a willing partner.the usa must take necessary measures to prevent that, including supporting colombian armed forces.another possible partners to putin could be nicaragua and cuba.

  • Tatiana

    No fresh ideas. Many words repeating the same things which were written and said earlier…

  • Ignatich

    While you admit that anti-Russian course of Clinton administration is a mistake, yet you advocate for even stronger anti-Russian course. And why you say US can work with Russia, but not Putin? He didn’t really say anything new today concerning Russia-US relations that he didn’t say back in 2007 on Munich Security Conference, before US announced a ‘reset’ policy on relations with Russia.

    I believe one of the main reasons that Russia does not feel safe is forced export of “color revolutions” that the West funds. And coincidentally all those revolution attempts on ex-USSR territory are based on strong anti-Russian ideology.This policy essentially resulted in a short Russo-Georgian war and this crisis in Ukraine.

    Sure, Russia may not have the standard of democracy the West wants it to have, but they believe they can deal with it on their own eventually. And lets be frank, US doesn’t have the golden receipe of transition to modern state for developing countries it pretends to have. Even within the developed West there are democratic countries that fully embrace liberal economic principles, while failing to create efficient and corruption-free governments. There is certainly more to being successful than democracy and Washington consensus. Hey, look at corruption and crime ridden Mexico on US borders – US has failed to help even it’s closest neighbor. Or perhaps that was never the plan?

    As it seems now, Obama’s ‘reset’ policy was never about changing relations with Russia and respecting it’s strategic interests, it was merely about using public anti-war sentiment at home to stay in power. There is firm understanding in Russia and other ex-USSR countries both in establishment and the masses that the US pushes it’s agenda for it’s own benefit only. And if US ever decides to truly reformat it’s relations with Russia and countries de-facto in Russian sphere of influence it will have to be very convincing.

  • Bretzky1

    The future of American interests lies in Asia and Latin America. It’s high time we left Europe to its own devices. It’s long past the time we exited NATO. Maybe without the US to lean on the Europeans will rediscover their backbones. If not, it’s their funeral, not ours.

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