Writing on the continued crisis in Ukraine, Dr John Hulsman, president and co-founder of the global political risk consultancy John C Hulsman Enterprises, has look at how and why sanctions have become a busted flush for the West, and why Putin holds most of the cards in Ukraine.
With Putin upping the ante by sending in military reinforcements across the border, the strategic tide has turned, bolstering separatists and forcing the West to reveal its hand. However, with war against Putin rightly off the table, and as truly crippling sanctions – originally threatened to be implemented within the week – are unlikely to happen as they could harm a sclerotic Europe at least as much as Russia, John argues that “Europe has made it very clear that it’s bluffing.”
John believes this situation has occurred because “Russia simply cares more about what happens in Ukraine than either the US or any of the major European powers. Moscow is therefore prepared to invest more to achieve its desired outcome.” Europe’s energy dependence on Russia remains it’s Achilles Heel, as John argues that at present “imposing Iran-style sanctions on Russia would certainly throw Europe into a desperate energy crisis.” Read the full report published in The Telegraph.
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It 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.
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Ambassador Dennis Ross, US Middle East envoy under President Clinton and, more recently, Special Assistant to President Obama and Senior Director for the Central Region (2009-11), wrote a recent op-ed in The New Republic on the strategic implications of the Ukraine crisis for Obama’s Middle East policy. Fascinating stuff. Read it here.