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Putin’s Ukraine Formula

Summary:
Historical considerations loom large in the Kremlin's latest provocations against Ukraine. But while Russian President Vladimir Putin openly dreams of a greater Slavic empire, his behavior is driven even more by his own miscalculations over the past decade. STOCKHOLM – As reports pile up about Russia’s military mobilization on Ukraine’s border and the Kremlin’s diplomatic demands, questions abound. What is going on? What will come next? Will Russia invade? Does Japan Vindicate Modern Monetary Theory? loveshiba/Getty Images PS Commentators' Predictions for 2022 PS OnPoint smshoot/Getty Images

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Historical considerations loom large in the Kremlin's latest provocations against Ukraine. But while Russian President Vladimir Putin openly dreams of a greater Slavic empire, his behavior is driven even more by his own miscalculations over the past decade.

STOCKHOLM – As reports pile up about Russia’s military mobilization on Ukraine’s border and the Kremlin’s diplomatic demands, questions abound. What is going on? What will come next? Will Russia invade?

In fact, Russian President Vladimir Putin is following an eight-year-old script.

In the fall of 2013, Putin’s government launched a multifaceted offensive to prevent Ukraine, Moldova, and Armenia from signing free-trade agreements with the European Union. That set off a gradually deepening crisis that would profoundly alter Ukraine’s domestic politics, Russia’s position in Europe, and the future of NATO. Less than a year later, Russia annexed Crimea and embarked on a barely disguised effort to dismantle the rest of Ukraine. The Kremlin then launched two more incursions into eastern Ukraine to save the separatist statelets that it had managed to set up there.

Since then, 14,000 people have died in this low-level “frozen” conflict. The EU and the United States regularly renew their sanctions on Russia, and the United Nations General Assembly regularly condemns Russia’s behavior and reaffirms the sanctity of state borders. Not only did Putin fail to derail the EU-Ukraine free-trade agreement; he also managed to transform Ukraine from a friendly neighbor into a country that regards Russia as dangerous and hostile. Invading other countries is a historically proven way to make lasting enemies.

Putin now faces the embarrassing prospect of being...

Carl Bildt
Co-Chair European Council on Foreign Relations @ecfr. Among many other things. På svenska på @cbildt.

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