Monday, September 07, 2015

Putin won his war in Ukraine

By Marvin Kalb September 7 at 7:48 PM, WashPost

Marvin Kalb is senior adviser at the Pulitzer Center and a fellow at the Brookings Institution. His book “Imperial Gamble: Putin, Ukraine and the New Cold War” will be published this month.

The war in Ukraine has slipped off the front pages. Eighteen months ago, when Russian President Vladimir Putin seized Crimea and then instigated a pro-Russian rebellion in the Donbas region, Ukraine was hot news. Putin was roundly denounced, and Russia was hit with damaging economic sanctions. East-West relations soured badly, and diplomats wondered whether they were witnessing the beginnings of another cold war. Now Ukraine, as a European crisis, has lost its urgency. One reason is the rush of other news, from global economic jitters and the flood of desperate Arab and African migrants to Europe to the preoccupying nuttiness of the U.S. presidential campaign. But there is another equally important reason. Putin seems to have won his little war in Ukraine, and his Western critics watch from the sidelines, sputtering with helpless rage.

Roughly a year ago, Putin faced one of the biggest decisions of his presidency: whether to strike a compromise deal with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko or openly commit his troops and tanks to the war. Much to the surprise of many observers, the Ukrainian army and militias seemed a battle away from defeating Putin’s rebels. Putin, facing defeat, doubled-down and ordered his forces to cross the border and turn back the Ukrainian advance. He clearly wanted to prove to Poroshenko and his Western backers that in a war between Russia and Ukraine, Russia would win.

(More here.)

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