Sunday, October 26, 2014
7

Let Europe Lead in Ukraine

WASHINGTON, DC – As Russia’s annexation of Crimea proceeds, the United States must step back; the European Union must step forward; and the international community must ensure both that Russia pays a steep economic and political price for its actions, and that Russian and Ukrainian nationalists do not lock both sides into a deadly spiral of violence.

Thus far, Western leaders have played their cards about as well as they could, barring early missteps by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who described a calculated assertion of Russia’s regional interests as the behavior of a leader who was out of touch with reality. Escalation of the crisis by the US at this stage would merely play into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hands and expose the West as a paper tiger.

To see why, it is useful to recall some history. Throughout the twentieth century, the US intervened repeatedly in Latin America to topple or subvert governments it did not like: in Cuba, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Guatemala, Haiti, El Salvador, Chile, and Grenada, to name only the most prominent cases. During the Cold War, successive US presidents were perfectly happy to send in troops, directly or indirectly, to ensure that friendly governments prevailed in the Americas (and beyond).

Now recall Western responses to previous Soviet and Russian incursions into strategically important countries: Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, or Georgia in 2008. Each time, the US refused to engage militarily with a state possessing the largest number of nuclear weapons on earth.

To recite this history is not to approve it, but rather to try to understand how Russians might understand the legitimacy of Putin’s actions. There is also the universal political dynamic whereby a foreign threat or crisis strengthens a leader domestically. Putin is getting the same bump in popularity from his Crimean adventure that then-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher got from the Falklands War in 1982. Even left-wing intellectuals are lining up to support Putin for protecting ethnic Russians from what the Kremlin and its allied media portray as “fascist” Ukrainian nationalism.

Against this backdrop, US Secretary of State John Kerry is right to make clear that NATO is not contemplating a military response of any kind. He would do even better to hand off responsibility as lead negotiator and spokesman in this crisis to a group of EU leaders: EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, Merkel, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

The EU as a whole has far more extensive economic ties – and hence influence – with Russia than the US does. The EU is Russia’s largest trading partner – the US is in fifth place, behind China and Ukraine. Roughly half of Russian foreign direct investment in 2012 went to the Netherlands, Cyprus, and Switzerland (which is not an EU member, but is subject to EU pressure), while an estimated 75% of Russia’s inward FDI comes from EU countries. Finally, Russian oligarchs own more property in London and the south of France than they do in New York or Miami.

Moreover, EU pressure on Russia is less likely to whip up Russian nationalism than US “interference” in Russia’s neighborhood. For starters, Ukraine is in the EU’s neighborhood as well. But, more important, the EU does not remind Russians daily of their post-Soviet losses and humiliation on the global stage in the same way that the US does. The US has far fewer Russia experts in politics today than it did two decades ago, because most American foreign policymakers have been paying far more attention to China, India, and the Middle East. No country, much less a former superpower, likes to be ignored.

Finally, if the US steps back, the EU, the United Nations, and even China can remind the Russians of the political consequences of flagrantly violating international law and swallowing up impoverished, restive territories that will prove far harder to digest than the fixed referendum results would suggest. The Muslim Tatars – roughly 15% of Crimea’s population – strongly oppose joining the Russian Federation and may become a permanent thorn in its side, along with the 25% of Ukrainian-speaking Crimeans who have been silenced over the past ten days.

The US and European decision to impose some economic sanctions now, with the possibility of adopting tougher and broader sanctions later, is not a sign of weakness but of strategic calculation. Heavier weapons remain in the diplomatic arsenal to deter Putin from trying to carve off further sections of Ukraine; in the meantime, markets are imposing additional economic costs on all Russians.

It is now equally important to strengthen the moderate members of the new Ukrainian government and to reduce the influence of right-wing nationalists who would trample on the rights of Russian-speaking Ukrainians. From the French Revolution to Egypt and Syria, extremists have repeatedly overtaken moderates and then proceeded to mimic the tactics and politics of the government they originally united to overthrow.

That is not to say that the US, the EU, and other concerned actors should not do everything possible to ensure that Ukraine’s people, whatever language they speak and religion they practice, gain the rights and prosperity that they desperately seek. For the US, the defense of universal values is, according to President Barack Obama’s National Security Strategy, a core American interest.

But the way to pursue that interest in this case is not to invite a Cold War-style face-off. It is to backstop the countries that have the most influence over Russia and the most at stake – strategically and economically – in resolving this crisis.

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  1. CommentedDavid Morgan

    What happened to the agreement from the US UK and France to protect the integrity of the Ukraine borders if they handed over their nuclear weapons?

  2. CommentedGerry Hofman

    Suppose nobody had engaged in this whole bullshit game that has been played so far. Suppose Russia would have stated clearly right from the start: We have no intention to let the control over the base for our Black sea fleet fall into the hands of this revolutionary, western oriented regime. All efforts to disenfranchise Russia from its naval fleet base will be met with severe retributions. It would have made their intentions clear right from the start and stop all this pissing around with sanctions this and that and they are going to hurt so much. It's just pathetic.

  3. CommentedHayda do Baydy

    I don't understand, how Mr. ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER unreflected imagine herself, why people speak in Ukraine Russian?

    They speak Russian, while they view Russian media... And Russian media are mostly under Kremlin’s influence, like the whole Russian economy isn’t a free one.
    Hence, we have here even a question referring to “Russia Today”, “Euronews” in the West.

    While the communists in Ukraine want be part of Russia?
    That's, while they have "privatization" in Ukraine, which is controlled from Moscow, and not, while they want protect “ethnic Russians”.
    You know, the Soviet Union don’t exist anymore! But, it seems, someone wants it in essence revive.
    That's I cannot understand, that the West don't reflect his own statements, which are often only a copying of Russian sophisticated propaganda.

    "Ethnic Russians" is only a code word for FORMER CITIZENS OF THE SOVIET UNION, which comes Kremlin very handy not only in Ukraine. Where they speak of “ethnic Russians”, you have an indicator, that someone has established a Soviet protectorate, growing slaves for his purposes.

    I think, that the West often don’t understand, that Ukraine is not Latin America with dictators from the pampas.
    Moscow understands to “protect itself”, which his KGB background.
    Often work in Western institutions, related to the area of the former Soviet Union, a false opposition. Even is used a pseudo opposition, terrifying the West, like in the case of Zhirinovski, so Putin gets his support from the West.

    It seems, that the West hasn't understand, what means in detail “sovok”, and so on.

    I don't share as well the common assertion of Mr. ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER, that it was in the interest of the USA as a nation, that the USA have assist dictatorships in Latin America.
    It is rather a misuse of free society in the USA.
    A good example is the former Foreign Secretary of the USA Henry Alfred Kissinger. Only he has in the West for money propagated the dictator Yanukovych. Not to speak of the problems, which the USA now have with illegals not only from Latin America.
    It seems, THAT THE USA IS ITSELF UNDER THREAD from “radicals” like the Tea Party, buying the elections... The US employer extinguishes like the wildlife in Africa, and on his place appearing oligarchical structures.
    It appears, that this is the actual source of the US support of dictatorships in Latin America. It isn't in the state's interest, but money can influence politics in the USA. Which in the current time has become a danger for the constitutional order of the USA, like the separation of powers, which is rather the actual power source of Putin.

  4. CommentedHayda do Baydy

    I don't understand, how Mr. ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER unreflected imagine herself, why people speak in Ukraine Russian?

    They speak Russian, while they view Russian media... And Russian media are mostly under Kremlin’s influence, like the whole Russian economy isn’t a free one.
    Hence, we have here even a question referring to “Russia Today”, “Euronews” in the West.

    While the communists in Ukraine want be part of Russia?
    That's, while the have "privatization" in Ukraine, which is controlled from Moscow, and not, while they want protect “ethnic Russians”.
    You know, the Soviet Union don’t exist anymore! But, it seems, someone wants it in essence revive.
    That's I cannot understand, that the West don't reflect his own statements, which are often only a copying of Russian sophisticated propaganda.

    "Ethnic Russians" is only a code word for FORMER CITIZENS OF THE SOVIET UNION, which comes Kremlin very handy not only in Ukraine. Where they speak of “ethnic Russians”, you have an indicator, that someone has established a Soviet protectorate, growing slaves for his purposes.

    I think, that the West often don’t understand, that Ukraine is not Latin America with dictators from the pampas.
    Moscow understands to “protect itself”, which his KGB background.
    Often work in Western institutions, related to the area of the former Soviet Union, a false opposition. Even is used a pseudo opposition, terrifying the West, like in the case of Zhirinovski, so Putin gets his support from the West.

    It seems, that the West hasn't understand, what means in detail “sovok”, and so on.

    I don't share as well the common assertion of Mr. ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER, that it was in the interest of the USA as a nation, that the USA has assists dictatorships in Latin America.
    It is rather a misuse of the free society in the USA. A good example is the former Foreign Secretary of the USA Henry Alfred Kissinger. Only he has in the West for money propagated the dictator Yanukovych. Not to speak the problems, which the USA now have with illegals not only from Latin America.
    It seems, THAT THE USA IS ITSELF UNDER THREAD from “radicals” like the Tea Party, buying the elections... The US employer extinguishes like the wildlife in Africa, and on his place appearing oligarchical structures.
    It seems, that this is the actual source of the US support of dictatorships in Latin America. It isn't in the state's interest, but money can influence politics in the USA. Which in the current time has become a danger for the constitutional order of the USA, which is the actual power source of Putin.

  5. Commentedhari naidu

    The bla..bla...is typical of this Princeton lawyer.
    But let's be a bit cynical and ask who is the Paper Tiger?
    Is it POTUS, EU and Nato or Putin?
    I've been reading Chinese official commentary, and it's more than obvious POTUS/EU/Nato are the paper tiger.
    There is nothing they can do without hurting themselves...long term.

  6. CommentedKeshav Prasad Bhattarai

    Encroachment in an area of influence of any major power- have never been greeted by any such major power- whether it is USA, India, China or Russia. European Union under a banner of NATO is doing the same. When Soviet Union collapsed ,Warsaw Pact was dissolved , the new Russia was getting closer to Western Europe and learning democracy with the West, the West tried to take revenge with Russia for all those USSR did during soviet regime. In spite of the American and European commitment the West moved east , extended NATO membership next door to Russia. Every day they tried to humiliate Russia and undermine its existence as one of the oldest European country.

    the greatest political and moral gain for the West was already achieved after the fall of communism and had NATO member organizations restrain themselves to exploit the new political and strategic situation after the disintegration of USSR, birth of a new Europe - an EU with Russian membership was possible. EU with Russia could become a formidable economic and political force to maintain and assert global peace and order.
    On this backdrop,I would like to suggest rather -TAKING RUSSIA INTO CONFIDENCE LET EUROPE LEAD IN EUROPE AND FACILITATE A NEW ERA OF EUROPEAN RESURGENCE.

  7. CommentedZsolt Hermann

    I fully agree with the article.
    But how could Europe "lead"?
    How can anybody lead in a way that people, nations follow willingly?
    Only through positive example.
    Otherwise we need to apply trickery, or pressure, as we have been doing all through our history and this is why things are not sustainable.
    So what positive example could Europe provide?
    The example of a truly working Union, where nations, individuals are capable of rising above their self-interest, their historical differences, even hatred and work together mutually for a common goal.
    Such an approach could easily solve all the deepening and more and more worrying problems Europe is facing, and could make the continent a very attractive example for others follow, and join into.
    As it stands Europe is nothing more but an economic and financial market, struggling to cope without natural foundations, trying to compete with other regions without any intrinsic cohesive force, falling apart at the seams.
    The present "leadership" would have to rely on empty promises or on threatening with (mostly empty) sanctions.
    It is becoming clearer each day that such policy does not work any longer, everybody is standing empty handed and naked.
    We need to try new methods, policies, and in a global world, where everybody is interconnected and interdependent that can only happen through mutually complementing, mutually responsible cooperation.

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