The American government tends to see sanctions against Russia as a low-cost policy that will eventually force Vladimir Putin to change course in Ukraine.
But this conventional wisdom obscures significant costs. Just as using drones to target suspected terrorists in Pakistan may have created more converts to Islamic militancy than it has eliminated, sanctions advocates haven’t reckoned with the unintended consequences of the policy — consequences that could prove far more damaging to American interests than the Kremlin’s aggression in Ukraine.
First, by employing commercial and financial sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine, the United States — the architect and largest beneficiary of the globalized system of trade and finance — is exploiting post-Soviet Russia’s integration into that system.… Seguir leyendo »
As the polls closed during last month’s snap presidential elections in Ukraine, violence broke out in the east of the country. Insurgents took over Donetsk airport and the government responded with airstrikes.
Eastern Ukraine has become a breeding ground for an armed insurgency. And if a comprehensive political settlement isn’t reached soon, Ukraine could descend into outright civil conflict. Western governments should make working with the Ukrainian authorities to pursue such an arrangement their top priority.
Until now, the West has prioritized holding a free and fair presidential election and is now celebrating a mission accomplished. As a senior American official put it, “It was a spectacular day for the people of Ukraine who went out in force to choose a new president and to say to their government and to the world that they want a future that is unified, that is democratic, that is prosperous and that is rooted in Europe.”
Without question, having a legitimate head of state is a positive development — all the more so since the president-elect, the oligarch Petro Poroshenko, won over 50 percent of the vote and therefore avoided a second-round runoff (always divisive in Ukraine) for the first time since 1991.… Seguir leyendo »
The outcome of Viktor F. Yanukovich’s trip to Moscow on Tuesday was sobering for Western officials.
After backing away at the last minute from a major trade and integration accord with the European Union, Mr. Yanukovich, Ukraine’s president, signed a wide range of economic agreements during a meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
The European and American policy toward Ukraine — urging it to pursue the path of reform that proved so successful in Central Europe — has reached an impasse. This failure stems from a consistent misreading of Ukraine by the West.
Listening to recent commentary from Western officials, you would think that a new nation has been born on the Maidan in Kiev, that Ukrainians are united in their desire to divorce themselves from Russia and return to the fold of Europe, and that it is only their current leaders — bolstered and bullied by their patrons in the Kremlin — who stand in the way of a “Europe whole and free.” This all makes for a nice sound bite, but it bears little relationship to reality.… Seguir leyendo »
With all the high-level diplomatic visits to Moscow and accompanying news headlines, a casual observer might easily conclude that Russia holds the key to resolving the Syrian crisis. But as the latest round of failed talks this weekend — this time between Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations and Arab League envoy on Syria — conclusively demonstrate, Russia will not be part of the solution on Syria.
Senior Russian officials have made that clear for months, but some members of the international community, perhaps until recently, just didn’t believe them.
This confusion could stem from the frequent reporting on the ties that bound Russia to President Bashar al-Assad’s Syria — military, religious, intelligence-sharing and so on.… Seguir leyendo »
On Saturday, the world learned that Vladimir V. Putin, Russia’s current prime minister and former president, will return to the Kremlin in May 2012.
When Mr. Putin stepped down as president in 2008, handing the responsibilities of head of state to the newly elected Dmitri A. Medvedev, it did not diminish Mr. Putin’s personal authority. But it did increase the chances that Russia would evolve into a stable democracy over time. His return in 2012 will drastically reduce those chances.
Mr. Medvedev’s presidency, which began in May 2008, in many ways pushed the boundaries of Russia’s political system, which maintains democratic procedures without true democratic practices and allows its citizens free exercise of some human rights while severely limiting others.… Seguir leyendo »
Despite the improvement in U.S.-Russia relations over the last two years, the belief that the “reset” is doomed remains widespread in both countries.
According to the naysayers, Russia and the United States are fundamentally and inexorably at odds on many issues, in particular their approaches to the countries neighboring Russia.
This view is based on flawed, dated assumptions. A closer look at the facts tells a very different story.
“Reset” skeptics in the two countries have little in common with one another — as they will be the first to tell you. Yet, paradoxically, they are united in their fervent belief that the only way for Russia and the United States to avoid confrontation in the former-Soviet region is through a Yalta-style “grand bargain”: a delimitation of spheres of responsibility and a pledge of mutual noninterference in each other’s sphere.… Seguir leyendo »
The bill on President Dmitry Medvedev’s desk that expands the powers of the KGB’s domestic successor would seem to confirm our worst fears about Russia’s political development. But the story of how it got there shows that Russia’s political transformation is still unfolding and reminds us that the United States has a role to play in shaping it.
The proposed law would give the Federal Security Service (FSB) authority to issue warnings to individuals whose actions, though not illegal, «create the conditions for a crime.»
Human rights activists and opposition groups have condemned the legislation, citing fears that the powers will be used to preemptively silence the government’s political opponents.… Seguir leyendo »