Keeping the Pressure on Mr. Putin
To Give Ukraine a Chance, Sanctions on Russia Must Continue
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD OCT. 3, 2014
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany knows a bit about dealing with Russia. She has spoken with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, more often than any other Western leader, and, more to the point, she grew up under Moscow’s yoke in East Germany. So when she says that it’s far too early to lift the sanctions imposed on Russia, Western capitals should listen.
But why, some may ask, should lucrative economic dealings with Russia be curtailed when a cease-fire with Ukraine was agreed to on Sept. 5 and the crisis has abated? Russia has pulled most of its forces out of Ukraine — not that it ever acknowledged having any there — and negotiations are underway over a buffer zone along the Ukraine-Russia border and about resumption of gas deliveries to Ukraine.
Here’s why: Even setting aside the illegal annexation of Crimea and continuing fighting around Donetsk, the fact is that in the absence of pressure from the United States and the European Union, Mr. Putin has little incentive to make any concessions to Ukraine. Freezing the conflict, with pro-Russian insurgents in effective control of Ukraine’s industrial southeast and negotiations plodding along indefinitely, suits him just fine.
One of Mr. Putin’s advantages in the conflict is that he has never revealed his hand. Even the annexation of Crimea was regarded in Western capitals as unlikely until it happened. In the Donbass region of southeastern Ukraine, Mr. Putin has simply denied that Russia is involved while actively backing Russia’s proxies with arms and soldiers. When Ukrainian forces actually began to get the upper hand over the insurgents, Russia sent in more troops and arms, finally forcing the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, to settle for a cease-fire that was essentially a tactical victory for Mr. Putin.
Mr. Putin’s plan now seems to be to keep Ukraine out of NATO and the European Union, achieve de facto recognition of the annexation of Crimea and keep Ukraine weak. Control over southeastern Ukraine is one lever; gas supplies, trade and Ukrainian debt are the others. Mr. Poroshenko hopes to gain enough breathing room to start straightening out Ukraine’s flailing economy so that he can start moving his country toward Europe.
While the fighting may have ebbed, the struggle continues, and will for a long time to come. The Western sanctions are hurting Russia’s sputtering economy, but that has not yet weakened popular support for Mr. Putin. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s economy continues to disintegrate.
Mr. Poroshenko has demonstrated courage and realism in dealing with Russia while insisting that his goal remains to join the European Union. If Ukraine is to have a fighting chance, the European Union and the United States must not waver in their support for Kiev or in their sanctions on Russia. “Sometimes in history one has to be prepared for the long haul,” Ms. Merkel said recently, “and not ask after four months if it still makes sense to keep up our demands.”
10 CENTS WORTH:
As politically popular as sanctions are for Americans, they have proven ineffective and counterproductive. Among other things, sanctions occupy a middle ground between condemnation and war.
Does the US really want to seriously escalate tensions with a major nuclear power and a potential ally?
Meanwhile, Europe is warning Russia not to use gas as an economic weapon (EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger).
Europe (with the US as water boy), has recklessly expanded NATO and shows no interest in stopping. Russia has legitimate interests in reigning in NATO (as does the United States).
Likewise, the EU has barely survived its crisis with its PIIGS and has yet to begin to integrate Romania and other Eastern members, and has neither the need nor the ability to spend the resources to reform Ukraine. It is past time for the West to get real about negotiating with Russia and stop mindlessly escalating a problem into a catastrophe.
I am sick of the US handing out money to this country or that country. No wonder Americans are broke. They should not be wasting money on Ukraine – let the EU spend the money! Why should the Americans [yes, the taxpayers pay for the wars]. They are forced to spend billions in Afghanistan, they are now [again] spending billions in Iraq to defeat ISIL with little or no possibility of winning.
Let some other countries worry about and pay for Ukraine. The U.S. should be spending the money in their nation, and letting the countries facing civil wars take care of their own problems. President Obama is not the savior of the world – these are illusions not the reality. He has very serious problem in his nation that he’s not addressing: poverty is growing at fast pace, crime, racial problems that need to be addressed, and veterans of wars, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, that are dying because they have been ignored when requesting an appointment to see a doctor – many of whom are dying from cancer and other serious illness. Needless to say, the infrastructure crisis in the United States.
Let Europe deal with Ukraine. It is high time for Europe to learn instead of pointing a finger at Russia. The EU should pay for Ukraine’s gas bill owed to Russia, and ask the Brussels mafia for help, instead of the U.S. Let Russia and Ukraine solve their problems. It’s the appropriate time for the U.S. with all the problems at home to stop intervening in other countries’ affairs even if the countries ask for help, unless they have a health or other humanitarian crisis. But NO WARS. Get it? Got it?