It seems Russian troops – even though they (mostly) are not yet labeled as such – are in the Crimea to stay. Reclaiming that strategic peninsula for Ukraine would require the use of force, something no state outside of the Ukraine is willing to contemplate, and before which even Ukraine authorities themselves should hesitate due to the risk of thereby only losing more of their territory.
What the West is left with is proceeding with a deliberate worsening of relations with Vladimir Putin’s regime as punishment: denying him the chance to get yet more mileage out of his $51 billion Sochi reconstruction by staging a G8 summit there, for instance. But the unfortunate problem is that, to a great extent, this can turn out to be self-defeating as the West needs Russia just as Russia needs the West.
Anyone who follows international affairs regularly can name two vital areas right off the bat for which that is true: Iran and Syria. For the former, the West seems very close to achieving a remarkable deal that will safeguard against any nuclear weapons ambitions Iran might have – but one for which Iran’s willingness has been predicated upon united political and economic pressure from the West and from Russia. As for Syria, the regime there is already behind on the schedule for the elimination of its chemical weapons that Russia did quite a lot to help draw up.
(Now, this NYT piece claims that Syria is ready to try to speed things up to try to make up lost ground – but the article is dated March 4. Returning to Russia’s potential reluctance for any more international cooperation, there are always those inspections that Putin, in good times, ordinarily consents to undergo in relation to various arms-control treaties.)
Then there are the more tangible things – like natural gas. (OK, it’s a gas, but still slightly more tangible than a pure concept such as “arms control.”) Plenty of European countries are still dependent on gas supplies from Russia, piped through the Ukraine. And so we get this:
I know, that must seem at first sight like some confused jumble. “V4,” for example: what’s “V4″?* That is shorthand for the “Visegrad 4,” itself a shorthand for the Central European countries Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. And what the governments of those countries have done is think ahead a bit in light of this new geopolitical confrontation with Putin. More »