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U.S. Threats Against Putin Will Only Backfire

Published: March 7, 2014 (Issue # 1800)


As pressure on U.S. President Barack Obama to "do something to punish Russia" over Ukraine mounts, the U.S. has turned to a couple of measures in their foreign policy toolkit, such as threatening President Vladimir Putin with sanctions and expulsion from the Group of Eight. U.S. Senator John McCain even repeated the line he used during the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, saying, "We are all Ukrainians now."

How will Putin react to these threats?

Most likely, Putin will simply ignore the West. First of all, preventing Ukraine from turning decisively West is an existential issue for Putin and the Russian establishment. U.S. policymakers and commentators have missed this fact from the very beginning of the Ukrainian crisis last November. While the U.S. national interests in Ukraine are tangential, Russia's certainly are not. Although the ruble and the Russian stock markets are down, Putin, it would seem, is prepared to incur substantial economic and political pain if necessary before he caves to the Western position on Ukraine.

Related:Why There Will Be War in Ukraine

Second, it looks increasingly likely that Washington's European allies, especially Germany, are not prepared to go along with the U.S. position on sanctioning Russia. U.S. trade and investment in Russia is minimal anyway, so why would we expect Putin to give U.S. threats a second thought going forward?

Third, the threat of punishments will only make a dangerous situation even worse by needlessly antagonizing Russia with no upside. For the West to threaten the Kremlin will only back Putin into a corner domestically. Putin's political strength both within the Russian establishment and among common Russians is heavily predicated on his ability to demonstrate that Russia is a great power. Caving in to U.S. threats would be tantamount to political suicide.

Imagine if the tables were turned, and Russia, along with its allies, had threatened the U.S. with sanctions after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Former President George W. Bush would have simply ignored the threats, of course.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Jan. 30



The Lermontov Central Library, 19 Liteyny Prospekt, will screen 'Almost Famous’ in English with Russian subtitles at 6:30 p.m. Cameron Crowe's Academy Award-winning comedy from 2000 stars Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson, and Patrick Fugit, and tells the story of a budding music journalist at Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970s. Admission is free.



Meet renowned Russian poet, journalist and writer Dmitry Bykov, famous for his biographies of Boris Pasternak, Bulat Okudzhava and Maxim Gorky, and winner of 2006 National Bestseller Award. Bykov will read old and new poems as well as answer questions about his works at the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Main Hall, at 7 p.m. Tickets start at 1,000 rubles and are available at city ticket offices and the from the Philharmonic website www.philharmonia.spb.ru.



A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of ‘Repulsion’ at 7 p.m. and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy ‘The Tenant,’ the cult comedy ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers’ and ‘Cul-de-sac’ among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at www.vk.com/artpokaz/



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