John Hulsman: a Goldilocks assessment of Putin

In his latest posting for City A.M., John Hulsman, a leading expert on political risk, argues that the Western weakness in responding to the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine comes from a failure to grasp Putin’s motives.

John shows that on the one hand there is Senator John McCain, the leading American neoconservative hawk who believes that Putin is another Adolf Hitler, and that the West must quickly wake up to this horrifying fact. However, as John points out, “every foreign policy challenge does not approximate 1939. Hitler alone was Hitler, with very few other problems posing such a clear cut distinction between good and evil.”

On the other hand, ex-British Army head Lord Dannatt suggests that British troops be retained in Germany to force the Kremlin to realise that the British mean business. Again, John points out that the present crisis does not signal a reversion to the Cold War; Russia is simply not strong enough, and the West’s level of commitment has fallen since 1991. John adds that under-reactions are just as dangerous as over-reactions – the predicament of Goldilocks.

John believes that NATO’s present command has the correct assessment of Putin; they are worried about the Russian-speaking areas which are not covered by the alliance’s security blanket, particularly eastern Moldova and eastern Ukraine. Based on this insight, Putin can be said to be “intent on restoring the perception of Russian national greatness, after two decades of Western encroachments into what he regards as his sphere of influence…[he is] intent on snatching up as much Russian-speaking territory adjoining his country as possible.”

What is the “just right” response that the West should take? Click here to find out.

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