At this critical moment for the future of Ukrainian, European and U.S. interests in the region, the U.S.-Ukraine strategic partnership lacks both strategy and partnership. This much is clear after meetings with Ukraine’s political leaders, journalists, academics, civil-society activists and volunteers active in the conflict zone during our recent trip across the beleaguered nation. Ukraine’s appeals for U.S. support have only grown louder and more desperate as renewed fighting flared around Donetsk in the past week.
Despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars on foreign-language propaganda, all that President Vladimir Putin has achieved outside Russia is the status of a Bond movie villain. He may enjoy it, especially since there’s no 007 in sight to tackle him, but his variety of pop stardom is growing into a problem for his country: He is seen as a bigger threat to the West than his actions warrant.
WITH THE Cold War’s demise, the menacing Russia that long loomed over Europe seemed to vanish. The Russia of 1992 was just a fragment of its historic self in military punch and economic weight. Not even Russia’s still-formidable nuclear arsenal deflected perceptions of decline. It was inevitable, then, that Western policy makers would feel that this shrunken Russia was more to be ignored than feared. They were wrong.
The situation in Ukraine and in insurgent areas of the Donbass is steadily deteriorating. This is proved by the clashes of the last few days, which, though limited, have certainly been the most violent since January 2015. The “Minsk 2” agreements are in a process of dissolution, and this largely due to the Kiev government. This was predictable. We must therefore review the situation in order to attempt to understand how we got here.
It is hard, given the tenor of the policy discussion on Capitol Hill over the past week, to escape the conclusion that President Obama is under intense pressure—not only from both political parties, but also, disturbingly, from the NATO supreme allied commander—to wade ever deeper into the Ukrainian morass.
For the Russian government to take timely measures in the ongoing crisis situation and prevent long term negative consequences for its economy, it would be better if the pain so many people are experiencing were given due coverage and explained.
What to make of the ongoing ceasefire violations and the constant remobilization and deployment of Russian forces along the border? Some have suggested that the same mindset that pushed for the rapid annexation of Crimea will inform the suggestion that Russia needs to consolidate the separatist territories in eastern Ukraine now before Ukraine has the ability to field better military forces.
This December, the world will witness the 70th anniversary of a publication best known for tracking the end of the world. Founded in 1945 by veterans of the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was launched in the wake of the devastating nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with the goal of informing the public about nuclear policy. But since 1947, it has been known largely for a metaphorical device it introduced in June of that year: the Doomsday Clock, which measures how close humanity is to extinction.
In 2014, history returned to Europe with a vengeance. The crisis over Ukraine brought back not only the spectre but the reality of war, on the 100th anniversary of a conflict that had been spoken of as the war to end all war. The great powers lined up, amid a barrage of propaganda and informational warfare, while many of the smaller powers made their contribution to the festival of irresponsibility.
AFTER THE Soviet Union collapsed, Richard Nixon observed that the United States had won the Cold War, but had not yet won the peace. Since then, three American presidents—representing both political parties—have not yet accomplished that task. On the contrary, peace seems increasingly out of reach as threats to U.S. security and prosperity multiply both at the systemic level, where dissatisfied major powers are increasingly challenging the international order, and at the state and substate level, where dissatisfied ethnic, tribal, religious and other groups are destabilizing key countries and even entire regions.