Superb, balanced piece on the Ukraine crisis.
But perhaps not. There is a road to deescalation. It does not consist in showing Putin “who’s boss,” as the US Russophobes (a majority of the commentariat and political class) wish to do, but rather in acknowledging certain basic principles. The framework for a settlement has been set forth by Henry Kissinger, writing in The Washington Post, and Thomas E. Graham, in The National Interest. Kissinger’s contribution was especially welcome; he has retreated from the hawkish stance he adopted after 9/11. He has come, it seems, to a greater appreciation of the limits of military force: “In my life, I have seen four wars begun with great enthusiasm and public support, all of which we did not know how to end and from three of which we withdrew unilaterally. The test of policy is how it ends, not how it begins.”
Kissinger rebukes all the main external players: Russia must understand that it cannot coerce Ukraine into satellite status; the West must acknowledge that Ukraine is a country in which Russia takes a deep and abiding interest; the EU should understand that “its bureaucratic dilatoriness and subordination of the strategic element to domestic politics in negotiating Ukraine’s relationship to Europe contributed to turning a negotiation into a crisis.” He wisely counsels against steps that look like domination:
Any attempt by one wing of Ukraine to dominate the other — as has been the pattern — would lead eventually to civil war or breakup. To treat Ukraine as part of an East-West confrontation would scuttle for decades any prospect to bring Russia and the West — especially Russia and Europe — into a cooperative international system.
Like Anatol Lieven and Thomas Graham, Kissinger stresses the close electoral competition since independence and doubts that street demonstrations in one part of the country can adequately represent the whole. The drawn-out contest between Viktor Yanukovych and Yulia Tymoshenko, he notes, was a struggle in which each side sought the domination of the other. Outside powers, he in effect observes, should seek to mitigate or contain that destructive competition, not feed it. That is not what they’ve been doing.