“Dobry den” is the first word that I can recall from my Russian Foreign Policy class when I was twenty years old. From as long as I can remember Russian foreign affairs and history are topics I enjoyed delving into.
Tzar Nicholas II, The Russian Revolution, The Soviet Union and all the Russian tactics that make absolutely no sense to Americans, such as: out suffering the enemy with harsh cold conditions, the pride that still remains left over after the USSR has long crumbled, the fear of NATO and US troops in Russia’s former satellite countries and the habit of showing off the purchase of new weaponry in public ceremonies. These make Russian tactics fascinating.
The partnership between the United States and Russia has never been easy. After the Cold War, there was not much else to say: America:1, Russia: 0. It seemed that this competition and the obsession over the defeat of the Cold War was never going to be over no matter how many summits the US share with the Russians. It seemed that the former KGB Putin was still harbouring ill-will and was determined to let America know that the Cold War is far from over.You can hear the shrill rhetoric of the Kremlin about the idea that Ukraine would be a member of the European Union and NATO or that South Ossetia and Abkhazia would ever claim independence without Russian support.
Russia was never here nor there, it was never clear if it is a European country that sought to never join the EU or it was comfortably placed in Asia amongst its other Asian allies. It is no secret that Russia keeps a close eye on European politics, desperately trying to play nice with the big powerful countries club: America, UK, Germany and France. Russia was determined to be thought of as a superpower and its quest for this status never stopped when at the same time, it partnered with a regional rising superpower, China. Understanding Putin’s head is like trying to take a stroll in the Kremlin, dangerous and impossible. Time after time, Putin managed to resist staying out of Georgia, Crimea and Ukraine. Meddling in the affairs of the Middle East, which had been the playground for the Americans and the Russians in the Cold War, and even having a say about the Iran Nuclear Deal proved that Russia is not easy to ward off.
Moscow’s latest dealings with Crimea and Ukraine have put a strain on Russia’s economy through western sanctions. Merkel has constantly warned Russia against its Ukrainian involvement and Washington has given Moscow the cold shoulder with its no show at Russia’s propaganda filled Veteran Day parade in May this year. Russia is willing to endure this to get what it wants despite the sanctions taking a toll on its economy, the Russian oligarchs’ pocket money as well as its oil prices. So what do you do with a Putin controlled Russia?
It is not clear whether or not Putin’s sought after control of Crimea and Ukraine will show that Russia is still in charge of its former states or whether it will prove to Obama and the leaders of the western world that Russia is too a superpower and that their involvement is unwelcome. Perhaps it will be a combination of both. What is clear however, is that the economic sanctions are not working and an end to Kyiv’s battle with Moscow is far from over.
“Sanctions do constrain capacity, they do not constrain behaviour” said James Sherr when sharing his opinions about whether or not the west should go beyond sanctions in order to provide assistance to the Ukraine’s dealings with the Russian military force. Perhaps, the Russians did not see the possibility of the attack escalating in Ukraine the way it did and assumed it’s a sure win that would turn the state of Ukraine to a 2008 Georgia. However, the Ukrainians are fighting back and their morale seems to only grow with war. Up until now the Russians are controlling less than five per cent territory in Ukraine. However, Ukraine’s capacity to fight in the long run will lack the means to combat well-armed Russian troops. It seems that the current western approach to halt Russia’s actions in Ukraine is to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons. Although this request was denied before by Obama, many now believe that NATO’s contribution and Ukraine’s military force are not enough to handle the current escalated situation.
I, on the other hand belong to another group that believes in resisting lethal military support to Kyiv. Ukraine is with out a doubt unequipped to handle the lethal weaponry that they are asking for. Ukraine’s military defence is worn out, underfunded and over time Ukraine has struggled to employ capable defence minsters.
Ukraine is also endemic to chaos and political, economic and social problems. The idea that the weapons might fall into the wrong hands is a bigger possibility than the lethal weapons actually contributing to the war against the separatists. As Scott Sagan once warned, the repercussions of giving weapons to an already unstable government and risking these weapons ending up in the wrong hands are far more dangerous than not being involved. An example of this is Taliban in Afghanistan that got a hold of US weaponry.
If Ukraine obtains lethal weapons, the war would escalate even further, causing more bloodshed. What remains a viable option is further efforts to take a dab at diplomacy with Russia and perhaps, helping Ukrainian forces with better guidance from the United States and NATO.