When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Russia

Putin's Ace In The Hole: A Divided West

The Russian President is again one step ahead of the U.S. and Europe, and many have begun to wonder if sanctions are even worth it. And then there is the question: where to after Ukraine?

Vladimir Putin facing journalists about Ukraine in March
Vladimir Putin facing journalists about Ukraine in March
Christoph B. Schiltz

-OpEd-

BERLIN — Moscow’s troops have now crossed over the border and invaded Ukraine, with reports of direct fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces. And so, after this massive breach of international law, why does the West need another whole week to decide on further sanctions?

Very simple: The more aggressively Putin acts, the deeper go the cracks within the European Union on the subject of sanctions. Some member states are beginning to doubt that new, harder sanctions, for example in the energy sector, could ever move the Russian president to back off.

This faction, to which German Chancellor Angela Merkel belongs, wants to prevent — as much as possible — irritating Putin by piling on extra pressure. But at the same time, the Eastern Europeans are pushing ever more strongly for sharper sanctions against Russia that would possibly also affect arms deliveries. The perception of the eastern EU countries is that Putin only responds to pressure.

Putin’s aggressiveness and intransigence have taken Europeans by surprise; he’s pushed them into a corner. The EU is clueless, exasperated, trapped. The search for a compromise within the Union is actually getting harder as time passes. On the other hand, everybody knows that something must be done, if only to save face. Military force is not an option, talks don’t help, so only sanctions remain.

The next objective?

But what purpose do they serve? It is becoming ever clearer that Moscow is prepared to pay any price to bring eastern Ukraine into its sphere of influence. Sanctions are probably not going to change that. In addition, the more the West’s punitive measures affect ordinary Russians, the greater the potential for Putin to spin the myth that the Ukraine conflict is a decisive battle for the sake of the nation.

New sanctions of some sort against Russia are inevitable — they are a minimum in any compromise. But especially in southern European countries there is the worry that hard economic sanctions against Moscow could affect their own faltering economies, causing job loss and driving energy costs up.

Putin is betting on that. So far he’s always been one step ahead, and all signs point to his presence on the global stage for the foreseeable future.

The battle over eastern Ukraine has all the makings of a very long, drawn-out conflict. Examples abound in the region. Putin’s goal is over time to wear Ukraine out so that he can better push through his vision for “sovereignty” in the eastern regions.

The West, by all accounts, is ultimately powerless against this scenario in Ukraine. The more relevant question now may be whether Putin is also ready to run the risk of pursuing his ominous way into NATO countries, like Estonia and Latvia.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

Geopolitics

Modi Is Wrong: Russia's War Also Creates Real Risks For India

By shrugging aside Russia’s aggression, India has shown indifference to fears that China could follow Russia’s example.

Photo of India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi Visits Russia

Anita Inder Singh*

-OpEd-

NEW DELHI — India is wrong to dismiss Russia’s war in Ukraine as Europe’s problem. The illegality and destructiveness of the invasion, and consequential food and energy crises, have global ramifications.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

This explains why 143 out of the 193 member-states of the UN General Assembly voted against recognizing Russia’s illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions after holding sham referenda there. Ninety-three voted in favor of expelling Russia from the UN Human Rights Council.

India has abstained from every vote in the UN condemning Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. The reason? Moscow is India’s top arms supplier and some 70% of India’s military platforms are of Russian origin.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest