Crimea: Moscow’s position seems unassailable, but not because of Russia’s strength
- By defencematters
A short interview with Aurel Braun, Visiting Professor of Government at the Harvard University
"Whereas Russia determinedly seeks to expand its zone of power the Obama administration is singularly focused on global disengagement and power retrenchment, and much of Western Europe seemingly prioritizes profits over principles,“ said Aurel Braun, Visiting Professor of Government at the Harvard University. According to the Proffessor as far as Russia is concerned after the annexation of Crimea, the West is compromising. As he says in the following short but succinct discussion the West is settling "for less than it had demanded earlier".
How much is the annexation of Crimea still important for the West?
The West is not entirely homogenous on key international issues but in terms of the American leadership we now only see some remnants of the powerful rhetoric denouncing the Russian annexation of Crimea last year.
Of course from the very beginning of the crisis grand denunciatory American rhetoric was followed by a rush to abject compromise. From the initial demand that Russia reverse immediately the annexation of Crimea the Obama administration is now largely left with pleading that Moscow and its separatist allies not attack and capture Mariupol – just as Mr. Putin shrugs off the Western sanctions.
So would you say that Crimea is more or less the lost case for the West?
We can’t say for sure that Crimea is a lost cause for the West (and thereby Ukraine) but for the time being Moscow’s position seems unassailable. This is not because of Russia’s strength.
Russia is not strong?
It is rather due to the general lack of will and divisions within the West. There is an asymmetry that trumps the actual wide disparity in military and economic capacity of Russia on the one hand and the West on the other. Whereas Russia determinedly seeks to expand its zone of power the Obama administration is singularly focused on global disengagement and power retrenchment, and much of Western Europe seemingly prioritizes profits over principles. In such circumstances Russia has been able to condition the West for compromise. With each expansionary move in eastern Ukraine by Russia and its separatist allies, the West, as noted, settles for less than it had demanded earlier.
How is Russia reading this?
In Russia such “success”” has increased Mr. Putin’s popularity and diverted attention away from some very large domestic problems. Yet those structural problems are not just going to disappear and foreign policy successes often turn out to be ephemeral. In the latter sphere, moreover the differences in capacity between Russia and the West remain even if the Putin administration has the current advantage of determination and purpose. There is also the ever present risk that Mr. Putin could overreach in Ukraine thereby generating an unpredictable reaction even from a very reluctant West. And we just don’t know what will be the policies of the American administration that will succeed Obama in less than two years…
The above interview was part of a series of short pieces published in Pravda.sk
Photo: Reuters - Performers hold banners with names of Crimean cities during celebrations marking the first anniversary of Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, in central Simferopol