Beyond the Euromaidan: Will the West ever stand up to Putin?


ukraine carnegieRussian President Vladimir Putin is likely to expand the invasion of Ukraine in January, according to independent Russian military analyst Pavel Felgengauer. Such a development would retard Ukraine’s fitful reform process and further exacerbate U.S-Russian relations.

“Relations between Russia and the US, and the West in general, have been dragged down to the bottom, to a level below which it is difficult to fall,” Konstantin Kalachev, the head of the Moscow-based Political Expert Group think tank, told AFP.

As in the Cold War, there is an ideological element to U.S.-Russia competition today, according to Thomas Graham, a managing director at Kissinger Associates, and Matthew Rojansky, the director of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute.

“However, rather than advocating Communist class struggle, Moscow is focused on diminishing American credibility,” they write for Foreign Policy. “This theme has been evident in the disconcerting overlap between damaging cyber-leaks from apparent Russian-related sources to favorable coverage in the Russian press of [Donald] Trump’s harsh attacks on the U.S. establishment.”

Ultimately, a 12-month extension of the sanctions against Russia’s actions in Ukraine would send a powerful message, Anders Fogh Rasmussen writes for The Financial Times. It would demonstrate to those like President Vladimir Putin who challenge a rules-based order, that European governments, alongside the US, can still find the resolve to respond to the big challenges of our difficult decade.

It is a misleading distortion to portray the current conflict in Ukraine as one based on ethnic divisions, photographer Justyna Mielnikiewicz tells The New York Times.

“It is a little more complex than Russian versus Ukrainian because people are choosing more between Western European values or a ‘managed democracy’ or totalitarian approach than along purely ethnic lines,” she said.

The sheer pressure of individuals and civil society movements across most of Ukraine is leading to reforms, says Carnegie analyst Judy Dempsey. This is despite the continuing ubiquitous power of the oligarchs, who are agile at adapting to new circumstances, especially Western sanctions.

But Ukrainian democrats are increasingly frustrated at what they see as Western weakness in confronting Russia.

ukr hopko“Continental Europe talks a lot about values, but from Kyiv it looks like just that: a lot of talk,” notes Hanna Hopko (right), a member of Ukraine’s parliament and chair of its foreign affairs committee. “Negotiating with a tyrant using the language of appeasement is pointless,” she writes for The Atlantic Council:

We were hopeful that the West’s response might change this fall. Even after the interim report of the Joint Investigation Team on the MH17 tragedy demonstrated that Russia provided the Buk missile that killed 298 innocent people, and even after Russia and Syria’s inhumane attacks on hospitals and civilians in Aleppo, the West’s response was inadequate….. The weak and conciliatory reactions of the West deeply concern us, and they concern others in Eastern Europe as well. The sad truth is that the West does not seem to know how to confidently stand up to Putin any more.

Kremlin propagandists call Ukraine, independent since 1991, a fake nation, Sohrab Ahmari writes for The Wall Street Journal.

ukraine-tim-judah-20161012But despite the calamities of the Holodomor famine of 1932-33, occupation and collaboration under Nazism and Soviet totalitarianism postwar, and two lost decades of post-Communist graft and oligarchy, a distinct sense of Ukrainian-ness persisted, he writes in a review of Tim Judah’s “In Wartime”:

That identity is a lot messier than either Ukrainian nationalists or their enemies will admit: a mix of Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Jewish and even Muslim influences. Ukrainians both shaped and were shaped by Soviet culture. Even the country’s national heroes seem to have a schizophrenic quality. During the German occupation, for example, the Greek Catholic archbishop of Lviv, Andrey Sheptytsky, “blessed the foundation of the SS Galicia Division.” Meantime, he harbored “some 150 Jews in monasteries,” as Mr. Judah notes.

Henry Hale and Robert Orttung’s new book, Beyond the Euromaidan: Comparative ukraine beyond euromaidanPerspectives on Reform in Ukraine, reports findings from a “dream team” of top Ukraine specialists and comparative social scientists on how Ukraine might best overcome the crisis of governance in which it finds itself, notes PONARS Eurasia:

Placing Ukraine in comparative perspective shows that many of the country’s problems are not unique and that other countries have been able to address many of the issues currently confronting Ukraine. As with the constitution, there are no easy answers, but careful analysis shows that some solutions are better than others. Ultimately, the authors propose a series of reforms that can help Ukraine make the best of a bad situation. The book stresses the need to focus on reforms that might not have immediate effect, but that comparative experience shows can solve fundamental contextual challenges. Finally, the book shows that pressures from outside Ukraine can have a strong positive influence on reform efforts inside the country.

Henry E. Hale is Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at the George Washington University and Director of PONARS Eurasia [and a former Reagan-Fascell fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy]. Robert W. Orttung is Research Director at the GW Sustainability Collaborative and Associate Research Professor of International Affairs at the George Washington University.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email