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Not One Inch West

Published: March 26, 2014 (Issue # 1803)


Putins invasion of the Crimea has been criticized for not being 21st century enough, but even the 21st century itself hasnt been very 21st century lately with a Malaysian passenger jet simply vanishing. Now it turns out that we are not oversurveilled, but undersurveilled, at least where it can matter most over the open seas.

In all our raptures over information technology erasing the boundaries of space and time, we forgot that the boundaries of space and time are still very much with us. The ocean is still vast.

Also by the author: Evaluating Russia After Sochi and McFaul

And a quick glance at a map reveals that Russia would be ringed from the Baltic states to the Black Sea if Ukraine became part of the Western camp. At least 12 of NATOs 28 members are countries formerly controlled by the Soviet Union. And that was after the U.S. promised Gorbachev that if Soviet troops withdrew from West Germany, NATO would not move one inch east. Putin is acting in the Crimea not because he is fearless and defiant of the West but because he is afraid of NATO, which has been busily outflanking Russia to the west. New NATO members with especially bad memories of Russia like Poland and the Baltic states really have nothing to fear from Russia even if they have a Russian-speaking minority. Russia will not send a single soldier into a NATO country.

Perhaps Moscow should even make that a public promise: Not one inch west!

Also by the author: New Strains of Terrorism

Putin would seem to have two basic choices here: be satisfied with Crimea and let the other parts of eastern Ukraine that would almost certainly vote for secession remain as part of Ukraine. This will make Russia look more judicious than rapacious. More important, later on, if the need arises, those restive portions of the Ukrainian population could be stimulated more or less at will to take to the streets, protest and seize public squares. The European Union and NATO do not welcome countries with territorial or internal conflicts.

The other choice would be to annex the heavily Russian areas of eastern and southern Ukraine on the tried-and-true principle of strike while the iron is hot.

The West also has some hard choosing to do. Sanctions severe enough to cause Russia real pain could cause painful sanctions in return. And Russia is too important to be isolated like Iran. Victory, whatever that exactly means, will not come from short-term sanctions. The U.S. and Europe should rather create a long-term plan to make Ukraines economy dynamic because the example of a vibrant, free and prosperous Ukraine would do much more to undermine Putins system of commodities-based authoritarianism, which will begin to falter as new centers of oil and gas production arise. But does the West have the vision, stomach and funds for that?

The most likely scenario at this point is:

The Kremlin will not take any more Ukrainian territory beyond Crimea.

The West will impose some sanctions, and the Russians will impose theirs in return.

There will be a nasty but low-grade war of sanctions that will last about two years until Hillary Clinton is elected president and declares a reset of the reset.

Hopefully by then the missing plane will have been found and we can get back on with the glorious 21st century.

Richard Lourie is the author of The Autobiography of Joseph Stalin and Sakharov: A Biography.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Oct. 30


Dental-Expo St. Petersburg 2014 concludes today at Lenexpo. Welcoming specialists from throughout the federation, the forum is an opportunity for dentists to share tricks of the trade and peruse the most recent innovations in technology and equipment, with over 100 companies hocking their wares at the event.



Friday, Oct. 31


Put your grammar and logical thinking to the test in a fun and friendly environment during the British Book Centers Board Game Evening starting at 5 p.m. today. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.



Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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