Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The West must prepare for a wounded Putin to become even more aggressive

By Editorial Board, July 30 at 7:51 PM, WashPost

A MONTH ago, Russian President Vladi­mir Putin appeared to be successfully executing his campaign to destabilize Ukraine. While Russian-backed insurgents consolidated a breakaway republic, weak and divided Western governments ignored their own deadlines for imposing sanctions. Now, suddenly, Mr. Putin faces twin reversals: relatively tough sanctions from the United States and European Union on Russian banks and oil companies, and a string of military defeats that have pushed back his proxy forces. It’s a dangerous moment for Mr. Putin — and, perhaps, an opportunity for Ukraine and its allies.

The Obama administration and European governments deserve credit for agreeing on joint action against Russia after months of haggling and hesi­ta­tion. But Mr. Putin is mostly responsible for his own setbacks. Having recklessly supplied his Ukrainian proxy force with advanced anti-aircraft missiles, he was surprised when one downed a Malaysian passenger jet, causing a heavy loss of European lives. Even then he might have avoided significant sanctions, but his response to the tragedy was to stonewall and deny responsibility even while escalating his weapons deliveries to the flailing insurgents.

President Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders have bent over backward to avoid a full rupture with Mr. Putin over Ukraine. Mr. Obama said Tuesday that the sanctions did not represent “a new cold war” but rather was “a very specific issue” related to Ukraine. Yet the combination of economic losses from the sanctions and Ukraine’s potential defeat of the rebels could pose a threat to Mr. Putin’s hold on the Kremlin. Having whipped up nationalist passions over Ukraine with his state-directed propaganda apparatus, the Russian ruler might have trouble explaining the rebels’ eclipse. While the effect of sanctions will take time to sink into the economy — the Russian stock market and ruble rose Wednesday — Mr. Putin has already been on thin ice with Russia’s middle class and its private-sector businessmen.

(More here.)


Blogger Tom Koch said...

Is this what Hillary meant by 'reset' or what President Obama meant by 'leading from behind?" Either way I'm not sure I like it.

8:40 PM  
Blogger Tom Koch said...

7257Is this what Hillary meant by 'reset' or what President Obama meant by 'leading from behind?" Either way I'm not sure I like it.

8:41 PM  

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