Robin Niblett: the West should not blame itself for Putin’s actions

Robin NiblettIt was a great to catch up this morning with Robin Niblett, Director of Chatham House (the Royal Institute of International Affairs). Over breakfast on Piccadilly he shared some fascinating thoughts on the implications of the Ukraine crisis for the global political order – in particular what it tells us about the different approaches of Russia and China to their regional neighbours.

His thoughts are neatly summarised in a recent article of his for CNN.com. I have provided a brief summary below…

Many in Southeast Asia believe the West backed Putin into a corner over Crimea: what else did the West expect Putin to do in the face of NATO expansion and the EU’s efforts to bring Ukraine into it’s orbit? Instead of provoking Russia, the West should adopt the more accommodating tactics Southeast Asian states have been using vis-a-vis their own large assertive neighbour, China.

But, Robin argues, it’s misleading to compare Russia and China, because they have very differing approaches towards their neighbours. China has a win-win attitude: it has tried as much as possible to smooth over potential territorial tensions with its Southeast Asian neighbours, and has sought to increase  economic ties. The idea is that the increasing strength of their neighbours will support China’s rise, both politically and economically.

By contrast, Russia’s is a much more confrontational ‘winner takes all’ attitude. In the name of Russian security and regional hegemony, Putin has sought to weaken Russia’s neighbours, creating a series of economic ‘black holes’ and ‘frozen conflicts’ that have made the region highly volatile.

It is Putin, then, who has painted himself into a corner – the West is not to blame.

For further information about Dr. Robin Niblett, email Leo at leovbq@chartwellpartners.co.uk, or give him a call on 0044 (0) 20 7792 8000.

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