West’s weak response in Crimea empowers Russia

IvanKrastevWhile European and American leaders recognize that the world order is undergoing a dramatic change, they cannot quite grasp it, says a prominent analyst.

“They remain overwhelmed by Putin’s transformation from CEO of Russia, Inc., into an ideology-fueled national leader who will stop at nothing to restore his country’s influence,” according to Ivan Krastev, Chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies, Sofia, and Permanent Fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) in Vienna:

International politics may be founded on treaties, but it functions on the basis of rational expectations. If those expectations turn out to be wrong, the prevailing international order collapses. That is precisely what has happened in the course of the Ukrainian crisis….Just a few months ago, most Western politicians were convinced that in an interdependent world revisionism is too costly and that despite Putin’s determination to defend Russia’s interests in the post-Soviet space, he would not resort to military force to do so. It is now clear that they were sorely mistaken.

Russia envisions Ukraine becoming something akin to Bosnia – a radically federalized country comprising political units that each adhere to their own economic, cultural, and geopolitical preferences, Krastev writes for Project Syndicate:

This creates a dilemma for Europe. While radical federalization could allow Ukraine to remain intact through the current crisis, it would most likely doom the country to disintegration and failure in the longer term. As Yugoslavia’s experience demonstrated, radical decentralization works in theory but does not always work in practice. The West will be confronted with the uneasy task of rejecting in the post-Soviet space solutions that it promoted two decades ago in the former Yugoslavia.

Confronted with Russia’s revisionism, the West resembles the proverbial drunkard searching for his lost keys under a streetlight, because that is where the light is. With their assumptions invalidated, Western leaders are struggling to craft an effective response, argues Krastev, a council member of the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum:

The EU is oscillating between rhetorical extremism and policy minimalism. Though some have recommended an ill-advised expansion by NATO in the post-Soviet space, most are limiting themselves to support for symbolic sanctions, such as visa bans that affect a dozen or so Russian officials. But this could ratchet up pressure on non-sanctioned Russian elites to prove their loyalty to Putin, possibly even triggering a purge of the more pro-Western elements in Russia’s political class.

Indeed, no one actually believes that the visa bans will make a difference. They were imposed because doing so was the only action upon which Western governments could agree. 

RTWT

Krastev’s latest book is In Mistrust We Trust: Can Democracy Survive When We Don’t Trust Our Leaders? read more

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