Did Biden bait Putin into a disastrous error? Should Ukraine bow to the inevitable about Crimea and Donbas? Readers explore the implications of a Russia-hand's assessment.
I have hesitated to say this, Jim, but I disagree vehemently with the notion that President Biden baited Putin into his Ukrainian "operation" and cannot imagine anyone might have considered this a good idea. The loss of Crimea and the bloody stalemate in Donbas notwithstanding, the slow but exemplary transformation of Ukraine and the Baltic states plus the risk of escalation whether accidental or not defies any Machiavellian calculus on the part of our leaders whether here in the US or in Europe.
I also want to thank your brother, Tom, for sharing his youthful exploits and his more recent and thoughtful reflections of the current situation in Russia. As for pragmatism, I concur with your conclusion that there are no "good" - not to mention obvious - answers or options to this tragedy as it unfolds or even how it might have been avoided - not to mention prevented...
I am confused by this reader comment: “ And unlike Clinton or Trump, he was prepared to stand up to him and call him out.”
Which Clinton does that refer to? Putin only came to power during the last months of Bill Clintons’ presidency and Hillary was well-know for her hard line stance against Putin when she was Obama’s Secretary of State — the hardest of any in that administration.
One or more comments somewhere in the posts suggested that Putin could conceivably have been satisfied with less. I wish that somehow he could have been nudged in that direction, instead of being provoked (if indeed he was).
I agree with Tom Fallows take on point #1: pragmatism over abstract principles. Surrendering Crimea and Donbas is dramatic but what about halting NATO and Ukraine declaring itself neutral before the invasion. Talking about the 'right' for nations to join NATO is not in anybody's definition of self-determination! I think several conventional wisdom have perverted viewpoints. Does Russia's invasion really overturn the post Cold War 'liberal order.' Hardly. the US invasion of Iraq and regime change in Libya already violated the law of sovereignty. The Balkan Wars of the '90s upset the boundaries of Europe. Second, the constant charge by commentators that Russia wants to reconstitute it's empire is over-reach. Most of the former Warsaw Pact nations are already pledged to NATO. Russia has nukes and that's about it. Ukraine/Russia is fundamentally a border dispute not a geopolitical earthquake. It's frankly a failure of that "international order" that this dispute has gotten this far and a sad day for Western leadership.I
The notion that we provoked Putin seems credible from the analysis. But then how do we live with the underside of what we set in motion? Talk about do the ends justify the means...
I find #3 particularly intriguing. To what end? Because it will be Putin's end sooner or later, as well as an end at least near term to the Russian threat to the EU. So far, this situation is resolving into Putin's worst nightmare: a reunited--and effective!--NATO and a re-energized EU, not to mention all the liberal democracies around the world piling on. The invasion is going to push funding and development of alternative energies because even US Republicans now must be beginning to see (whatever they say out loud) that dependence on fossil fuels is an existential threat to every nation. All of Xi Jinping's antennae have to be standing straight up with regard to his plans for Taiwan. So...Is Joe Biden really long sighted enough to have orchestrated this? If so, I seriously underestimated him.
I think Crimea and Donbas should have the major say on what happens to them. (I have no idea what they want.) And I love the notion that Biden baited Putin. I don't know much about gangster behavior, but Putin certainly fits the mold. Bush2's comment about seeing Putin's soul--I'd be very embarrassed if I were Bush2.
And many thanks to Thomas
Thank you very much Jim, for allowing us this insight and background from Thomas.