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Pushing Back or Moving Forward?
Dealing with Russia on Ukraine and Syria

Walter Russell Mead sees a major, zero-sum geopolitical contest unfolding between the United States and Russia over Ukraine and Syria. Washington, he argues, should abandon its policy of seeking better relations and push back against Russia. But on its own, pushing back isn’t enough. America has to strike the right balance.

Published on: February 25, 2014
Thomas Graham was the senior director for Russia on the National Security Council 2004-2007.
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  • PKCasimir

    So Putin is going to compromise with a President of the United States whom he sees as a weak-kneed, spineless little jellyfish afraid of anyone who isn’t a Republican member of the House and a bunch of Europeans (to include the current Polish government) who make Neville Chamberlain look like Superman and abandon his dream of a new Soviet Union? Right, and pigs will fly.

    • Clayton Holbrook

      Well Putin certainly can’t negotiate with Yanucovych anymore. At this point if he’s interested in Ukrainian influence he will have to do so by force, or by engaging in the influential powers that will be helping Ukraine transition past this most recent revolution. That apparently includes the U.S. and E.U. In this case of Ukraine, some of Putin’s (or Russia’s, however you want to put it) interest align with that some of the U.S. and the E.U.

      • PKCasimir

        And what happens if Putin uses his allies and sympathizers in eastern Ukraine to secede from the Ukraine? Does Western Ukraine use the army to stop them? I hardly think so. What happens if Putin stops natural gas shipments to the Ukraine? He has a fleet in Sevastapol that employs 25,000 Ukrainians in well paying, by Ukrainian standards, jobs. That’s just for starters. Ukraine is not only broke, it needs an immediate $35 billion to stay afloat. Almost all of the heavy industry is located in the East and is dependent on the the Russian market. What happens when the IMF imposes conditions for a loan that demands the end of subsidies for gas. What happens when Ukrainians freeze? The FSB is a master at propaganda and subversion. And, sadly, this entire generation of Ukrainian politicians is incompetent and the country has systemic corruption, no democratic institutions and no real Central Bank.
        You underestimate the problems and the leverage Putin can employ. This Ukrainian tale has only just begun.
        P.S. Please list the interests in which Putin’s aligns with that of the EU and US.

  • Инна Холод

    New delirium U.S. government during the Cold War)) Wake up! Now the 21st century!

  • znanab

    “Putin in recent months has proved much more adept than Obama at advancing his country’s interests.” What would those interests be and what are the successes Putin has to show for his efforts? I know it is fashionable to portray President Obama as some dim, light-weight in comparison to the grand-standing Putin, but what exactly has Obama and the U.S. lost to Putin and Russia?

    As far as I can tell, Syria was always a client state of Russia (and the former Soviet Union) housing the largest Russian military base outside the latter entity. Syria is now in shambles and Russia has not been able to do anything to stop its decline. How exactly is that a win for Putin and a loss for Obama or the U.S.? Would a similar decline in say Japan (for whatever reason) be seen as a win for Obama and a loss for China for example? Nobody in their right mind would suggest that, but that is what everyone seems to be suggesting in the case of Syria.

    Similarly, what exactly has Obama lost to Putin when it comes to Ukraine Sebastopol? In the end, for all his adeptness, Putin could not keep his man in charge in Ukraine and is reduced to staging military exercises to flex his muscle and remain relevant. Sure things could change, but at this juncture, the clear losing party is Putin. To suggest that Obama or the U.S. has “lost” on Ukraine is just absurd.

  • Pedro Zozaya

    American journalists and politicians are mad from hate to Russia! American politicians are sick “delusions of grandeur” and “Russophobia”. Why in America believe that Russia can not be their “national interest”? Russia is an independent state. If Russia does something, it is not for to “resist America,” but because has “national interest.” In America, any “different positions” is understood as “anti-Americanism” and try to influence the “internal affairs” of other countries. Of course, this causes irritation in independent countries, but still no one “is opposed to America.” This is America, “is opposed to” countries that behave independently. I have the feeling that American politicians want to establish a dictatorship in scale whole the world.

  • Pedro Zozaya

    Western media often write about “anti-Americanism” that exists in Russia, but it is a very controversial statement. In Russia belong to the Americans are better than the Americans belong to Russia (recently saw poll on “Voice of America”, which is funded by the State Department). The Russian press, most mentions of America or “positive” or “neutral”, in the U.S. almost all the articles of “negative”.

    In general, if in Russia is “anti-Americanism” that he is much lower than the “anti-Russians sentiments” in the American press.

    It seems that the American elite needs “image of enemy” for its manipulation, therefore, in recent years, on the Russia poured tons of mud. It comes to the point of absurdity: from best of ruler in the history of Russian make “scarecrow”.

  • Pedro Zozaya

    Are you sick of “delusions of grandeur”? Why do Americans always try to interfere in our “internal affairs”?

    Each year in America there are high-profile racially motivated crimes, where the innocent suffer black-people… If Russia is to pay attention to these crimes, will impose sanctions, boycott, etc. you yourself will begin to resent that Russia interferes in the “internal affairs” of America. But you yourself are constantly interfering in our affairs.

    America is mired in hypocrisy and has no “moral authority” to criticize other countries.

    You consider yourself infallible gods of democracy, but in some respects Russia better than America.

    • Joezifu

      Read China’s Human Rights report on USA printed last week. Says same thing

  • Eightman

    It’s time for “realistic” realism with regard to Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine.

    Putin is a KGB thug who has not gotten over the verdict of 1989.

    If you appease him he’ll come for more. If you confront him with credible force he’ll back off and wait for a better opportunity.

    No negotiated deal with Putin is worth having.

    To deal with Putin and his allied thug regimes you must at minimum do the following:
    a) Rebuild the American military (1980’s Peace Through Strength)
    b) Reinvigorate NATO (reinforce Poland, the Baltic states and other “front-line” states)
    c) Inaugurate a vigorous missile defense initiative program for the U.S. and its allies.
    d) Impose export controls for strategic goods especially oil and gas development capital goods.
    e) Freeze Russian bank assets and impose travel restrictions for Putin’s oligarch allies.
    f) Initiate an all out energy development policy of the United States (Drill, Baby, Drill)
    g) Respect and support (where practical) the desire of people to be free from tyranny (foreign or domestic)

    And above all you must support the brave Freedom Fighters of Ukraine and settle for nothing less than the full sovereignty of the Ukraine nation.

    And this means a “Putin-Free Ukraine” and if the world is lucky a “Putin-Free Russia”

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