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Exit Strategies
Playing the Long Game with Russia

The West’s Russia strategy should focus on stopping it softly, not on humiliating it.

Published on: September 25, 2014
Vladislav Inozemtsev, professor of economics, is director of the “Russia in the Glo­balized World” Research Centre at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and a fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna.
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  • Pete

    “For more than six months now, Russia has been the world’s primary disturber of internati­onal tranquility.”

    I guess the guy is so buried in Moscow that he doesn’t hear much of Iraq and Syria.

  • Duperray

    Looks good. But west shall stop groundless hysterical media campaign against Russia (this alone can lead to real war). Also, NATO shall return to 1991 agreed terms and borders: Expanding NATO coverage is agressive, as would be the extension of russian military forces into ex-soviet peripheral states. But core of present problem is the bling 100% support to Kiev skin-head parties from EU (I should say from “US-driven EU”).

    • Nathaniel Greene

      Anything you say, Comrade!

  • BobSykes

    Russia??!! Good grief!! Russia is merely responding to US/EU/NATO in-your-face aggression. The US is plainly the most aggressive country in the world and its chief source of violence, terror and war. The US has been almost continuously at war since the sinking of the Maine 116 years ago. No other country has participated in so many wars, large and small, for so many years and actually world wide as has the US. Actually, we have been almost continuously at war with someone since Roanoke. Or would that be St. Augustine?

    Just think of the sheer number of them: Cuba, Puerto Rico, Philippines (Morro insurrection), China (boots on the ground), every country in the Caribbean and Central America several times, Columbia (creation of Panama), Mexico, WWI, Russia (boots on the ground), again every country in C. A. and Caribbean several times, WWII, Korea, Cuba (Bay of Pigs) Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, again the Caribbean and Central America, Chile (the Allende thingy), Columbia (again and ongoing, the drug wars), Iran (set up Shah), Angola, Somalia (boots on the ground, ran away), Iraq (now three times), Afghanistan (defeated), Yemen, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Ukraine (boots on the ground). JHC!!! Did I forget someone? Oh, yes, the American Indians. Isn’t Canada due for another try?

    There is a real chance of nuclear war in Europe and the US because Russia’s stated policy is that if it is attacked conventionally it will respond with nuclear weapons. This policy reflects the weakness of Russia’s conventional forces v. v. NATO. Russia also many more nuclear options than US/UK/France because it retained large numbers of tactical nukes.

    The real threat to world peace is the unbridled hubris of the Western Ruling Class They think that their economic and military power are so transcendentally overwhelming and and their own moral rectitude so obvious and unquestionable that Russia must of necessity grovel and beg for crumbs.

    Vlad here simply expresses their arrogance and self-righteousness.

    • MikeB

      Nuts. Self-hating, value-free and above all context-free load of obfuscating bull from comrade BobSykes.

  • MikeB

    Brilliant, incisive thinking, and kudos to the professor. What he is proposing is plain common sense, but common sense is not very common in our world. Therefore I am afraid the chances are zero to none that anything like this package of proposals would ever get implemented, except perhaps after a major nuclear clash between Russia and America (Europe/Eurabia does nor count), which might bring the contending parties to their senses. Having said this, I will be the first to admit that America’s Russia-policy has been catastrophically stupid from the word go after the collapse of the Soviet empire, particularly its drive to encroach on former Soviet territory by expansion of NATO (talk about scattering blank cheques without the slightest credit cover!) and by covert and overt support of dissidents within Russia and anti-Russian political movements in Russia’s near abroad. Because it wasn’t enough for America to win the Cold War, they couldn’t resist in rubbing the Russians’ nose in the dirt. Well, they that sow the wind will reap the whirlwind, as the good book tells.

  • Anthony

    Essay obviously has been composed by someone both familiar with land mass in question and concerned about its geopolitical and economic well being going forward. The essay is a quite insightful (and as previous commenter noted incisive) exposition vis-a-vis long game between Russia and West. Here’s hoping others beyond TAI reading audience examine authors three steps and their legitimate applicability to international diplomacy post Cold War.

    “…the West’s strategy toward Russia should probably not be focused on the search for a final decision, but rather on developing a mechanism that would allow such decisions to be tabled for the future.”

  • Big Bad Vodoo Daddy

    Absolutely dumb… His steps in part I essentially allows Putin a domestic victory in his media, and, means nothing (in terms of western media) by saying, “perhaps we jumped the gun in invading the Crimea, and East Ukraine”, and the west renounces the sanctions. His step in part II creates an new international security architecture that accepts Russia in its near abroad and far abroad strategy and there is no gain in any way for the west. Step III is a bumbling of words. I give the article and the author an “F” He completely ignores the aggressive nature that the Kremlin has taken, and instead rewards the Kremlin by saying “promise me you won’t do it again”. Further, he ignores the metamorphosis of Russian state media into ultra nationalistic propaganda and its effect on populace. In effect, you can’t put humpty dumpty back together again once you rouse the people for Putin’s self-determined goals of maintaining his Kremlin in power amidst the Kremlin’s failure to govern democratically, and for the people of Russia. And finally, there is no mention of the geo-political nature of Russian soft tools in Syria, Iran, Egypt, and Turkey let alone in Moldova and Georgia and Kazakhstan.
    I’ll end with this, Ukraine is a symptom of the problem and not the problem itself. Anyone who can’t identify the problem should have no right to claim the answers to the problem. Please take away his car keys as an author….

    • MikeB

      Getting a tad hysterical, aren’t we? Contrary to the position expressed in the above comments, I doubt that we hold too many aces in our hands in the current game of thrones in Eastern Europe to justify any kind of truculent approach to counter Kremlin expansionism. We must also remember that for Russia its near-abroad is like Canada for the US, and I doubt if Washington would have sat on its hands if the Soviets attempted to incorporate Canada in the Warsaw Pact, even if the majority of Canadians were enthusiastically for it. Suggest some cool-headed rethinking of the comments above in light of the realistic options America actually has in its current attempts to contain Russia.

      • Big Bad Vodoo Daddy

        Yeah, got it. Other than the fact you are acting as an apologist for the Kremlin….
        You talk about Canada hypothetically joining the Warsaw Pact. The difference is the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact states were directly controlled by Moscow. Canada is a democracy and so its a poor corollary. On the other hand, Ukraine is seeking to be free of Russian interference and a more democratic future. The Kremlin is trying to maintain weakened states on its borders. Again, a weak corollary between Canada and Ukraine.
        Nothing suggested in the article was about containment realistically, but more about avoiding conflict with Russia despite Russia’s aggressions. Stop playing the game gopnik, you won’t win here…
        I could go on and on, but I made the point. You are just another apologist at best, and under the NASHI umbrella at worst.

        • MikeB

          Apologist for the Russians? Hardly. As a teenager, I fought against them in Budapest in 1956, and never forgot their depredations in Hungary. In the early nineties I made extensive visits in Russia and the Ukraine to facilitate the emigration of dozens of Jewish families to Israel and America. In matters of civic virtue and ability to organise themselves and get their act together politically, economically and socially, the Russians seem almost as retarded as the Arabs, and I have nothing but the the deepest contempt for the average antisemitic drunkard bully there.

          What the Kremlin has done and is attempting to continue on doing in the Ukraine is of course akin to Hitler’s grab at Sudetenland (which at least occurred with the acquiescence of France and the UK in Munich), and just as dangerous and disruptive of international order. (And never mind that it was just as unfathomably stupid of the Entente powers after World War One to allocate solidly ethnic German areas to what became Czechoslovakia, as it has been unfathomably stupid of America to holus-bolus accept the internal administrative boundaries of the Sovietunion, or for that matter of Yugoslavia, as international borders of newly emerging East European countries, regardless of the ethnic realities on the ground, thereby repeating the catastrophic errors of the Brits in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere, for which we contine to pay a heavy price to this day.)

          Now, the Ukrainians are of course perfectly entitled to their own independent country without being bullied out of parts of it by Russian proxies conducting an assymetric war. Unfortunately however, Ukraine has become an irredemably corrupt and misgoverned failed state over the past two and a half decades (no doubt in part due to Russian machinations) incapable of effectively defending and protecting its own interests, and never mind joining the EU and NATO as a permanent economic, social and political liability. It did not have to turn out like this, but sadly, in the case of the Ukraine we really are talking about the Lower Slobbovia of the Li’l Abner cartoons. America should not have touched the place with a forty foot pole, and should ahve known better than meddling there with the Orange Revolution and the Maidan insurgency. Had America desisted from meddling there, and continued to respect it as a Russian zone of influence, and at most a Finlandized buffer between Russa and Central Europe, none of the disaster that has befallen the Ukraine of late would have occurred, and the place would have continued as a quiet, if irredemably corrupt backwater that might as well have been located on Mars.

          Now, given the actual current realities and power relations on the ground, two things must be achieved simultaneously. On the one hand, war needs to be avoided, if at all possible: there is no American dogs in the fight, and the ukraine, or for that matter the Baltics, are simply not worth a possibly nuclear clash with the Russkies. On the other hand, the Kremlin’s expansionist ambitions must be contained, brought to a dead stop, then gradually reversed over time. To achieve both these ends, will need a lot of fancy legwork and some pretty tricky tactical and strategic moves on the part of America, and this is where the professor’s suggestions can come in as very useful thought starters.

          It is of course an open question whether America, which has the attention span of a fly on the wall these days (sadly), still has the capacity to formulate a coherent strategy and the staying power to see it through to implementation. If not, then the game will irretrievably be lost. This is, unfortunately, the Achilles’ heel that probably makes this entire discussion moot.

          • MikeB

            Thinking about the unthinkable, it seems to me, furthermore, that if the people of the Ukraine really and truly wished to join the West, including membership of the EU and NATO, the ultimate Russian price tag on this would be the partitioning of the country, with a contiguous land bridge ceded to the Russians around the entire North of the Black Sea from the Donetsk/Luhansk region to Transnistria on the Moldovan border. The remaining Ukrainian territory from Lvyv across to Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Kharkiv, with Ukrainian Catholic in the West and Ukrainian Orthodox in the East, could then come under Polish mentorship (as has also been historically the case for long periods of time) and guided through a graduated catch-up program over a decade or two.

  • David Lanceburg

    Putin doesn’t get “softly”… he only understands brute force. Look at how he lies and manipulates EU…. and now USA wants to kiss Russia’s behind… shame.

  • bscook111

    What a bunch of crap. When Canada, Mexico and Cuba morph into Germany, Mongol-China and Turkey, complete with their histories; then we may begin to understand Putin’s foreign policy at more than grade school level. Presently, and notwithstanding all their warts, God bless Putin and the Russians for providing at least a modicum of check to the incredible incompetencies of the West and Islam.

  • Brett Champion

    The only reason that Ukraine has become an issue for the West is that the West made Ukraine an issue. Trying to bring Ukraine into the fold without Russian approval was an idiotic move by the EU.

    The West should have the good sense to know when a cause is lost. Setbacks happen quite frequently in international relations, but the main structure of the system persists nevertheless. And the main structure of the world system is highly favorable to the West and even more unfavorable to Russia. In 20 years, when Russia is an economic wreck and a political bomb about to implode, we’ll all be wondering what the fuss was over Ukraine.

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