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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

Wednesday, Sept. 3


Although thesand sculptures at the Peter and Paul Fortress are more centrally located and therefore more visible to the throngs of tourists, the 300th Anniversary Park of St. Petersburgs own collection closes today so fans of the classic beach activity should get there while they can.



Thursday, Sept. 4


Vladimir I. Danchenkov, Head of Baltic Customs, will be in attendance during AmChams Customs and Transportation Committee Meeting convening this afternoon at the organizations office near St. Isaacs Square at 3 p.m.



Friday, Sept. 5


Scrabble lovers and chess masters get their chance to assert their intellectual dominance at the return of the British Book Centers Board Game Evenings tonight. Held weekly on Friday nights, the event gives both board game lovers and those hoping to improve their English the chance to meet, greet and compete. Check out the centers VK page for more details.



Saturday, Sept. 6


Athletes will relish the chance to get the latest gear and try out something new at I Choose Sport, an annual event at Lenexpo forum that plans to welcome more than 30,000 people this week to the international exhibition center. Not only will visitors get to try their hand at various athletic endeavors but they will also be able to peruse equipment that can fulfill their dreams of becoming a champion.


Local KHL team SKA St. Petersburg open their season this evening at home against Lokomotiv Yarovslavl at the Ice Palace arena next to the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. See their website for a full schedule and available tickets.



Sunday, Sept. 7


Check out retro and antique cars at Fort Konstantin on Kronstadt Island in the Gulf of Finland at FORTuna, a yearly car festival that highlights the eccentricities of the Soviet automobile industry. A car race, contests and a stunt show will give visitors a chance to rev their engines.



Monday, Sept. 8


This evening marks the opening of the two-week ballet festival High Season at the Mikhailovsky Theater. Check the theaters website for more details about performances and featured dancers.



Tuesday, Sept. 9


Discuss the latest news and issues at the AmCham Hazardous Waste Management Roundtable this morning in the Tango Conference Hall of the Sokos Hotel Palace Bridge on Birzhevoy Pereulok. Starting at 9 a.m., planned topics include the Krasny Bor landfill and waste transportation between Russia and Finland.


Learn more about the citys modern architectural trends at the SPIBA Real Estate and Construction Committees meeting on the topic Contemporary Petersburg Style: What is It? Participants will get the chance to discuss whats in-demand with RBI Holdings Irina Petrova and Lubava Pryanikova, and the current state of the local real estate market. Please confirm your attendance by Sept. 5 through SPIBAs website if you wish to attend.



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