Tuesday, September 02, 2014

NATO Leaders Huddle and Fume While Putin Chuckles

NATO's Drang Nach Osten

There'll be an absolute glut of righteous indignation when NATO leaders convene this week in Wales to decide whatever to do with that big bad bully, the Russian Bear, Vladimir Putin.  Meanwhile, as The Guardian's Simon Jenkins writes, Putin will be kicking back in Red Square laughing his ass off.

It is currently impossible to hear a speech or open a newspaper in which defence experts do not beat their breasts, bang their drums and demand "the west stand firm... show resolve... teach Russia a lesson... show Putin who is boss."  They call for more economic sanctions - which have never seemed more counterproductive.  They demand backing for Ukraine, aid for Kiev, support for other border states, more spearhead battalions and seemingly endless rapid reaction forces.  But they all end up asserting "we cannot mean war" and "a diplomatic solution is inevitable.

All intelligence out of Moscow says the same, that this bombast merely emboldens Putin.  He can do what he wants in eastern Ukraine, because he has an army there and it enjoys widespread support among the Russian-speaking population.  There is no question Putin has infringed the integrity of Ukrainian sovereignty. But so did America in its Latin American "sphere of influence" during the cold war.  Meanwhile, Britain kowtowed to China for economic gain and Olympic glory when Beijing was treating Tibet far worse.

Foreign policy always involves double standards.  The best policy is to avoid one's own weaknesses and instead test those of one's opponents.  Peace and trade were slowly eroding the juggernaut of Russian power across eastern Europe. Now Nato's pseudo-support for Kiev has played to Putin's one strength: his support among Russian peoples along his borders.  Kiev, the EU and Nato have played a dangerous game with Russia over Ukraine for years.  Putin has laid down a marker for an armistice, talks on autonomy, one that is bound to look like a victory for him.  It is for Kiev to pick it up.  Nato can go on swilling champagne in Wales.

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