Vladimir Putin keeps pushing while the foolish West just keeps relenting. Having secured a decisive military victory in eastern Ukraine, Putin is now demanding that the EU engage in a humiliating revision of its trade agreement with Ukraine to meet Russian red lines.The Financial Times reports on the trade agreement demands:
Mr Putin’s letter argues that a 15-month delay in implementing part of the deal—which Kiev and the EU agreed to earlier this month—should be used to “establish negotiating teams” to make wholesale changes to the deal.Ukraine and the EU agreed to the delay under Russian pressure but view it only as a means of reassuring the Kremlin that it will not harm Russian economic ties to Ukraine.
Neither the Americans nor the Europeans seem to be in the same class as Putin when it comes to assessing power realities and crafting strategies. Russia remains a weak power with a poor long-term outlook, but its two greatest resources are the even greater weakness and incoherence of neighboring states like Ukraine and the fecklessness and moral posturing of the leadership of Europe and the United States. One would think that Western leaders would have noticed by now that caving into Putin’s demands doesn’t satisfy him but rather only emboldens him to demand more. One would have hoped that repeated exposure to Putin’s mix of clear vision, bold action, and lack of scruples would have led Western leaders to raise their game appropriately. So far there is no evidence of this happening. Putin is still able to outmaneuver and surprise the West, still able to inflict serial humiliations on it, and still able to out-think it.The Western approach to Ukraine has been nothing but “stupid stuff” right from the get-go, as we don’t tire of pointing out. Those mistakes are already made, however, and we’re just going to have to deal with the results. What’s truly galling, however, is that we just don’t seem to have learned much from the experience at all.