Monday, March 17, 2014


The Crimea referendum was a "slam dunk" ab initio. The presumed irregularities of the ballots do not infringe on an outcome ("independence" - sic-) which was foreseeable. Russia pocketed a willing prey while the West and others were confined to the onlookers category in a geopolitical farce.  Unfortunately, this latest development is also a bitter pill for all to swallow, a blatant violation of international law and a precedent for other "piracy" incursions in Central Europe and the Stans, not to mention China and India. 

As a result Ukraine might as well risk becoming what Samuel P. Huntington called a "praetorian state," in which "participation in politics has outrun the institutionalization of politics".  The United States and the European Union have decided on first range of timid sanctions such as a few freezes and travel restrictions.  If those will impress Putin is another question.  All this did not interfere with the finale of the Paralympic Games in Sochi presided over by a poker face President Putin.

Meanwhile the US media, even the New York Times, question the credibility of President Obama's foreign policy, at a time when uncertainty prevails over expectancy (Syria, Middle East, Egypt, Iran ).  The President sees his approval rate nosediving and the similitude with President Carter's melancholic exit comes up in all corners of the political spectrum.  It has nevertheless also to be recognized that there is little one can do in terms of equal retaliation. Sanctions are needed but they had better be calibrated, directed at Putin's "best" and NOT at the rest. The Russian oligarchs in Cyprus, London, Manhattan or the Cote d'Azur should be in the firing line. The same goes for their spoiled kin in US and British schools. In the short term however Europe has a weak hand in all matters related to energy supply.

Ukraine needs to be supported, not as an anti-Russian buffer but as a "composite" of multiples, democratic, non-aggressive and non-revanchist. One has to bare in mind possible unpleasant things to come in Belarus, Moldova, Poland, the Baltic States and the Stans in Asia. No need to repeat a "light" version of the 1938 Sudeten crisis. Putin needs to remain engaged rather than being shunned. He has created a new Russian/conservative/orthodox model which is closer to the Romanov dynasty than to the ideology of the Soviet Union. He wants the oyster and doesn't care for the former shell. His calculus is clear.

It is high time for the West and NATO to regroup. A first step should be a rapid conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Congress must grant the White House the TPA bill which gives the President a fast-track authority. Senior Democrats, under pressure from the trade unions, oppose such a grant!  They had better think twice.  A coalition around the so often heralded "non interference" principle could also be activated with a majority of like-minded countries in these uncertain times.  NATO should wake up and give tangible logistic support for its members close to Russia's borders, in first place the Baltic States.

The dialogue with Russia should not remain frozen. Empty gestures such as uninviting Russia in the G8 are counter-productive. A bad mood leads in general to a bad policy decision. Better let Moscow "pay" until it feels the "pain in the purse."   Putin's popularity will follow the path of the ruble. The West had better play its trump card before Putin & Co. make their next move!

No comments:

Post a Comment