According to Dr. Gordon Hahn yesterday’s violent clash between Right Sector and Ukrainian police does not bode well for the Poroshenko government in Kiev. Hahn notes, “President Poroshenko is now faced with the Hobson’s choice of either disarming PS [Right Sector] and other armed neo-fascist groups and their ‘battalions’ in order to establish the Maidan regime’s monopoly over the means of coercion or fashioning yet another compromise with neofascism.”
Russia and the United States, who have favored opposite sides in the Syria conflict…are beginning to see eye to eye on one key point: the current path in Syria leads nowhere.
Back in the Cold War, the Soviets used to refer to the United States as the ‘glavnyi protivnik’ (‘main enemy’). When presidential candidate Mitt Romney declared in 2012 that Russia was America’s ‘number one geopolitical foe’, he was roundly condemned for hyperbole. Now, his point of view seems mainstream.
America’s grand strategy, its long-term blueprint for advancing national interests and countering major adversaries, is in total disarray. Top officials lurch from crisis to crisis, improvising strategies as they go, but rarely pursuing a consistent set of policies. Some blame this indecisiveness on a lack of resolve at the White House, but the real reason lies deeper. It lurks in a disagreement among foreign policy elites over whether Russia or China constitutes America’s principal great-power adversary.
Kennan Institute Director Matthew Rojansky writes “At the present moment of obvious tension between Moscow and Washington, it may be tempting to dismiss the likelihood of progress on any diplomatic front, let alone in the complex multilateral format of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Yet the 1972–75 Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (csce) itself took place against a backdrop of intense rivalry between the u.s. and Soviet-led blocs, suggesting that reasoned dialogue and consensus on core issues of shared security in the osce space is possible…”
On a recent trip through Russia, longtime Russia-watcher Sharon Tennison writes: “the most startling fact for me is how well Russian people are withstanding being cut off from their normal long-standing markets and trading partners in Europe––and how they are faring since their ruble lost about half of its value in the past year. They were concerned about how long this period might last, but none registered serious fear or diffuse apprehension. Unlike us, Russians have gone through so much worse in their past. This is apparently rather small by comparison.”
Clashes between the Ukrainian government and Russia-backed separatists have occurred regularly along the Line of Contact (LoC) in southeastern Ukraine since the February ceasefire agreement was signed in Minsk. Both sides seemingly lack the will to fully implement the agreement, so the conflict looks likely to remain unresolved for the foreseeable future.
In the geopolitical arena, do the ends always justify the means? Is it wise to inflict damage on yourself and your institutions to hobble an enemy? The relationship between the West and Russia over the last few years offers an illustrative case.
In an interview this week with the Huffington Post, ACEWA Founding Board Member Stephen F. Cohen discusses the crisis in US-Russan relations and the ongoing Ukraine crisis with author Dan Kovalik. Among other observations, Professor Cohen comments that “Ukraine had been on Washington’s agenda for a very, very long time; it is a matter of public record. It was to that that Putin reacted. It was to the fear that the new government in Kiev, which overthrew the elected government, had NATO backing and its next move would be toward Crimea and the Russian naval base there. … But he was reacting, and as Kiev began an all-out war against the East, calling it the “anti-terrorist operation,” with Washington’s blessing. …”
Washington’s legion of escalation argues for “raising the costs” to Russia by increasing the number of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine…This rationale is logical on its face, but in practice does not account for the gap between the Russian and American stake in Ukraine. Kiev’s geopolitical orientation is supremely important to Russia, while American interests’ via-a-vis Ukraine are peripheral at best. It’s a case of “must have” for the Russians, versus “nice to have” for the United States.