How Do You Solve A Problem Like Vladimir?

by Dish Staff

Russian President Vladimir Putin Visits Samara

Jeffrey A. Stacey and John Herbst argue that the international community needs to do more to combat Putin’s aggressive behavior:

The time has come for the West to make a decisive move to counter Putin’s irregular war against Ukraine. The Russian president has introduced a perilous new norm into the international system, namely that it is legitimate to violate the borders of other countries in order to “protect” not just ethnic Russians, but “Russian speakers” — with military means if necessary. Putin has notoriously threatened to annex Transnistria, the Russian-speaking territory of Moldova, inter alia. The Putin Doctrine represents a serious transgression of the status quo that has guaranteed the continent’s security since the end of World War II; moreover, it violates the most essential tenet of the post-1945 international order.

They recommend a comprehensive approach to increase the cost of Putin’s meddling in Ukraine, including “even tougher economic sanctions; military armaments to Ukraine; and an updated NATO strategy.” But Eugene Rumer thinks the situation may be hopeless:

With force off the table, the West’s response to Putin’s actions in Ukraine has been sanctions and more sanctions. They have failed to dissuade and deter Russian support for the separatists. Yet, the West is threatening more sanctions if Russia attacks. Albert Einstein supposedly described insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

The West can double down on sanctions and threaten more of the same, but the result is also going to be the same. The United States and its allies have made it clear that Ukraine is not as important to them as it is to Russia. Russia is prepared to go to war for it. They are not. It is tempting to say that all parties need to talk and reach a reasonable, mutually acceptable compromise. But it looks less and less likely or feasible at this stage of the conflict. Kyiv senses victory and appears poised to go for it. Putin fears defeat and is not prepared to accept it.

Masha Gessen is chagrined at how far Putin’s lies have gotten him so far:

Bald-faced lying is the one tactic Putin has used consistently through the six months of his Ukrainian incursion. It works every time, precisely because he and his Western counterparts are playing by different sets of rules: Every time, the West has to accept Putin’s version of events until it can be disproved beyond a reasonable doubt, and even then he gets to claim any area that remains gray.

He got to annex Crimea before his assertion that the Russian military was not there was exposed as the lie it was. Because his claim that the Russian military is not in eastern Ukraine has not been definitively disproved, Western media and politicians continue to call the fighters “separatist rebels” or “pro-Russian” or “Russian-backed separatists.” We all know that these are armies formed and armed by Russian military and intelligence officers, but we know this the same way we know the “humanitarian convoy” is a lie: without being able to prove it. So the strongest term Western media or politicians have applied to these fighters is terrorists, which is not strong enough—calling these people terrorists defines them as nonstate actors. Nor is the suggestion that Russia should be labeled a state sponsor of terrorism strong enough. Russia is not sponsoring other people’s terrorism; it is waging an illegal war against a neighboring country.

(Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)