walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
Feed
Features
Reviews
Podcast
AFP/Getty Images
Published on: May 8, 2014
Flipping the Chessboard
Don’t Be Fooled: The Kremlin Isn’t Backpedaling

What to make of Putin’s call for the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine to postpone their referendum? Nothing, except perhaps that it represents a shift in tactics.

show comments
  • Pete

    What concerns Americans is not what you think the future might hold for Putin and Russia but what the future is for the U.S. given the inordinate lust among many of the political elite and talking-heads gasbags to gets us involved in situations like Syria, the Ukraine, etc. where there is not direct linkage to our national security.

    As Pat Buchanan wisely noted, much of the world expects America to fight their wars for them. Those days are over.

    • adk

      Both WWI and WWII were at first “other countries’ wars” right until they became America’s, and in those times the US was less dependent on, or directly threatened by, the rest of the world. Now we have the Baltic states who are NATO members with significant ethnic Russian populations, and whom we are obligated to protect. Unlike other Obama’s “red lines”, this one would impossible to ignore.

      • Pete

        WWI was never America’s war until Wilson and the Anglo=-establishment made it so. What a mistake.

        And rest easy. The U.S. will not go to war against a nuclear powerhouse like Russia for the sake of the Baltic states no matter what some piece of paper says.

        • adk

          So what you are saying is that NATO is just a worthless piece of paper. I very much doubt that, even with the current crop of Western “leaders”. If Putin presses his luck further in Ukraine, the West will resist, however clumsily. Despite all Putin’s posturing, Russia is fundamentally weak, and a prolonged conflict with the West will make it weaker still. I also doubt that Putin’s domestic popularity will remain as high as it is now — nationalistic fervor is an extremely volatile substance.

          • Pete

            Of course you’re correct that Russia could not stand a prolong conflict with the West.

            But NATO is worse than worthless. It is against American national interest. It is an absurd thought that the US would go to war with a nuclear power like Russia for a handful of pipsqueak nations that nobody here outside of the blovating foreign affair ‘experts’ care about.

          • caap02

            You may disagree with the US being in NATO, but it is a member. And until it formally leaves NATO, it has the same obligations as all the other member states do. And that includes coming to the defence of any member state that is militarily attacked.

          • Pete

            And if the US was attacked, all those useless members — France, etc. — would come running to our aid in a meaningful way, right?

          • adk

            Channelling Mr.Chamberlain?

            “How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing. ”
            — Neville Chamberlain, 1938

        • Dave Ralph

          I don’t think anyone’s going to “rest easy” hearing your claims that NATO is a non-existent, phantom alliance…

  • Andrew Allison

    The Phew poll referenced elsewhere suggests that if, as I suspect, Putin want to reestablish Novorossyia there’s very little to prevent it. The issue for the West is what to do if his ambitions are greater than that. History tells us the answer, namely don’t vacillate.

  • Lev Havryliv

    What irony?
    While Russians celebrate the victory over Nazism, the gascist Putin regime is waging war against Ukraine.

  • Dave Ralph

    Lilia Shevtsova is actually writing pro-Kremlin propaganda is disguise, by massively over-estimating the power of Russia in today’s global economy. Anders Aslund recently wrote, and i assume he is approximately if not precisely correct, that the US and the Eurozone have a combined economy that is 16 times larger than Russia’s. This means that US and EU sanctions can have a massive impact on Russia even while suffering very little on their own side. To claim that sanctions can’t be effective, as Shevtsova does here, is pure defeatism. Such defeatism is often characteristic of the liberal movement in Russia. Russian liberals should not be trying to equate their own weakness with weakness in Western policy-making toward Moscow.

    • Rol_Texas

      I didn’t read her as saying sanctions can’t be effective; indeed she says they’ll work, but they’ll take time. Just don’t expect results in the short-to-medium term. There’s another problem she highlights w/ respect to sanctions: Though the West has the capability to bear the economic pain better, it hasn’t shown that it is willing to. And don’t underestimate the power of the financial lobby in the West when it comes to making sure that sanctions won’t bite them: You may recall the incident a few weeks back in which British govt. officials coming out of No. 10 accidentally revealed documents indicating that the City’s financial interests should *not* be threatened under any circumstance. I don’t think pointing out any of these things is “defeatist.” It’s more an indicator of where the West needs to get its own house in order, and a recognition that the situation we find ourselves in with respect to Russia will take a long time to control, if not reverse.

  • Julie Leighton

    Can the Ukrainian Crisis be Compared to Munich 1938?

    Situational and perceived motivational similarities have inspired many analysts to compare Hitler’s actions in 1938 to Putin’s current interference in Ukraine. Is this an accurate comparison?

    In 1938 Czechoslovakia was highly developed, had advanced weaponry and a large standing army, a fortified border, and allegiances with two of the strongest powers: France and the Soviet Union.

    In 2013/14 Ukraine is considered a “developing country”, it does not have advanced weaponry or a large standing army, it’s lacking a fortified border, and it does not have strong international allies.

    Germany in the 1930s was a state completely dependent on the war industry. It had spent astronomical sums to build up its military; large portions of the population were employed to work in this sector; and it was isolated diplomatically.

    Putin’s Russia has multiple economic outlets; it is a strong regional ties; and the president and his foreign minister have been lauded as peace brokers for their diplomatic finesse.

    Hitler justified his actions as 1) preventing the spread of Bolshevism; 2) a humanitarian measure designed to rescue the ethnic Germans living in the Sudetenland from “Czech oppression”; 3) the Czechs were preventing his eastern expansion itinerary.

    Putin so far has justified his actions by arguing that he was protecting ethnic Russians from the disorder and perceived fascist tendencies of the new government. He would like Ukraine to remain linked with Russia, rather than the EU, but this is not driven by conceptions of racial superiority or the need for lebensraum. He isn’t looking to absorb states, he’s more interested in requiring his neighbors to kowtow to him.

    These are not parallel situations. Putin is not Hitler. Ukraine is not 1938 Czechoslovakia. The West is not Chamberlain. We are not witnessing a repeat of history; we are seeing a shadow of past events.

    While those historically loaded associations may not be accurate, what is true is that the West embodies particular principles that conflict with those embedded in Putin’s regime.

    Going forward, the West’s ability to maintain the sanctity of these values while negotiating with authoritarian powers will play a formative role in determining the new world order.

  • Pingback: The Republican Benghazi inquisitor | VCCnews.com()

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2015 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service