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A Wakeup Call For The West
Countering Putin’s Push

Russia’s challenge to the West has been building for a long time, and has reached a crescendo with the crisis in Ukraine. The window is closing, but there is still time to act and tip the balance.

Published on: February 5, 2014
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  • Atanu Maulik

    “Russia has been coming back into NATO’s strategic field for several years now, determined to reassert its ability to shape the post-Soviet sphere.”

    Russian economy is a one trick pony. A commodity pony. The decade admittedly went very well for Russia as it rode the commodity super-cycle. But the party is over. The shale revolution has dealt a death blow to Putin’s great geopolitical dreams. With oil prices remaining stuck around $100 a barrel, vast amounts of gas coming onto the market and commodity prices crashing, all of Putin’s wet dreams of resurrecting the Soviet empire will turn into nightmares. Just watch the fun.

    • El Gringo

      The Russian economy may indeed be a one-trick pony but it’s a trick that people have been willing to pay for for decades. Just look at Saudi Arabia. How many times have you heard people smugly say “just wait till they run out of oil.”

      Fossil fuel extraction may be a one trick pony but it’s the gift that keeps on giving. And with soaring energy demand in the Global South, I wouldn’t count the Russians out just yet.

      • Atanu Maulik

        It is one thing to cling on to power with oil money like the House of Saud does. Playing serious geopolitical games with the like of US and EU is a different matter altogether. It takes a lot more money. All of Putin’s hopes rested on two assumptions
        1) Oil prices going up to $150…200….300 per barrel.
        2) Russia maintaining absolute stranglehold on EU as far as gas supplies are concerned.

        Thanks to shale revolution neither of those two are happening. World is starting to get flooded with oil and gas from US, Canada, Australia, Israel etc. etc. Commodity prices are heading south (global south is also heading south these days). No wonder wheels are coming off Russian economy, Ruble is crashing. Putin won’t have the money to play such games much longer.

        Oh ! by the way, the party is coming to an end for Saudi Arabia also. It is not running out of oil, it is running out of oil to export, thanks to rising population and domestic consumption. The next ten years are going to be interesting.

    • James

      Yeah! Yeah… Russian economy is a bluff… But USA’s trillions debt is not, right? This sandcastle based on dollar can fall down anyday when chinese break crazy and start to sell their huge stash of dollars… So ok, let’s watch the fun…

      • James
      • Atanu Maulik

        US economy is not a sandcastle, its $17 trillion piece of solid rock. The most productive, innovative and dynamic economy is human history. Oh ! tell that cheap labor power to start selling their huge stash of dollars.

        • James

          Nice joke of yours calling a $17 trillion of national debt a “piece of solid rock”… Hopefully other currencies are being developed (still need time, of course… but euro is already a real alternative…) as international reserve… ’cause if this sandcastle fall right now it’d bury all of us…

          • Atanu Maulik
          • James

            “…are being developed (STILL NEED TIME…)” – which word of these you didn’t understand? – “The euro is currently the second most commonly held reserve currency, comprising approximately a quarter of allocated holdings” – by the way… And “Various political leaders from Russia and China have called the world to move towards a super-sovereign reserve currency.[5][6] Similar discussions have been had in Europe by the Board for Global Financial Stability.”

  • Cyril Sluchanko

    > At one level Ukraine is most obviously and intensely about the future of
    46 million people who are fed up with the corruption and the
    pro-Russian drift of the regime.

    Wow… Dr. Goebbels likes it! And the author and the editor should consult the results of sociological surveys before posting such stupid thing. There are no “46 million people that are fed up with … the pro-Russian drift of the regime”. There are two almost equal groups that supports “pro-Russian drift” and “pro-European drift”.

    However I completely agree that there are almost “46 million people who are fed up with the corruption”.

  • BobSykes

    It’s not about a unified, oppressed 46 million people resisting Russian aggression. A majority of Ukrainians voted for the pro-Russian government just recently.

    The Ukraine is part of the historic heartland of Russia. The Rus began in Kiev. The fight in the Ukraine is really between the Roman Catholic ethnic Ukrainian west and the Russian Orthodox ethnic Russian east. And the ethnic Ukrainians are not all progressive Euro-style democrats. A significant minority are paleo-Nazis, whose grandfathers fought in the German army against Stalin.

    The Russian perspective also deserves some consideration. Consider what has happened in the last 20 years or so. The US and NATO intervened in the Yugoslavian crisis without UN permission and forcibly partitioned Serbia, a Russian ally. The US invaded Iraq and removed Hussein, a Russian ally. The US, UK and France removed Qaddafi, a Russian ally. (And in the consequent spread chaos and war throughout Northern and Central Africa.) The US and NATO are now actively trying to overthrow Assad, another Russian ally. And now, US, NATO and EU leaders are actively supporting the overthrow of a democratically elected government who President is pro-Russian.

    It is entirely possible to read this history as a planned, coordinated war (as in shooting, bombing, killing violent war, not psychological or economic war) agains Russia itself. The perceived threat to Russia is existential, and a violent Russian response is possible.

    • Tom

      “A significant minority are paleo-Nazis, whose grandfathers fought in the German army against Stalin.”

      ‘Course, none of those grandfathers fought against Stalin ’cause he starved their countrymen. Nope, it was all because they were Nazis.

  • disqus_7ULtWVCEkj

    This is a disappointing article from the American Interest. The religious and ethnic loyalties are missing. The world is not made up of individual citizens loving liberty and autocratic authoritarians crushing them. Walter Russell Meade, Francis Fukyama and Adam Garfinkle all seem to understand that. Geopolitics is a subject worthy of more considered analysis. Mr. Michta has written some good paragraohs here about Russian foreign policy but the article as a whole about the Ukraine does not hold. Each of us has only so much time to learn about the world by reading–the American Interest owes us better.

  • Andrew Allison

    This is the second extremely disappointing article published by TAI in the past few days (the blatant, and utterly nonsensical, self-promotion by Lucas being the first). Not only has the Ukraine been Slavic since the middle-ages, but in it’s present incarnation is clearly a failed state. The effort to draw it into the orbit of the EU is incomprehensible.

    • Andrei Kushnir

      Since you don’t realize that the name of the country is not “The” Ukraine, the rest of your statements are equally suspect. Ukraine has had free elections for over 20 years (one of them even a “do-over” when the Russians got caught with their hand in the cookie-jar). The present mass peaceful protests only attest to Ukrainians’ aspirations to be a democratic society.

      • Andrew Allison

        I used the pre-1991 version deliberately. The rest of what you write has nothing to do with what I wrote.

  • Bretzky1

    If Putin wants influence in Russia’s near abroad, let him have it. Ukraine is hardly a prize worth having. There are far more important things for the US and EU to worry about.

  • Voevoda

    The Ukrainians are fed-up with the corruption, that’s correct, but the author fully ignores what is common knowledge now: the fact that Ukraine is a deeply divided country with one half wanting to restore historical ties with Russia and to become part of the Customs Union. Generally, the article tries to rouse obscure fears of a resurgent imperialistic Russia which are groundless. It’s more than natural when Russia wants a close neighbor and relative to take part in its integration projects to boost economic and cultural links with a high potential for both sides. Of course the West wants to prevent such East Slavic synergies and prefers the scenario where Ukraine is a poor and neutralized appendix in its own bloc.

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