'RUSSIA KIDNAPS UKRAINE FROM NATO'Jeop Bertrams, The Netherlands
Instead of noisily insisting on principle, the West will have to negotiate with Moscow
For a century, the politics of power or realpolitik and the politics of principle and values have been opposites in international relations. While Europeans are committed to the latter and the U.S. has wavered between the two depending on the threat, the primacy of realpolitik has prevailed in Russia since the days of Stalin - as one can see from Vladimir Putin's actions toward Ukraine.
The world has room for both. However, one thing is clear: anyone who reacts to the politics of power by insisting on principles like international law - has already lost. A realpolitik politician like Putin is not impressed by his opponent's convictions or the symbolic steps they take, such as being excluded from the G8.
Realpolitik-oriented experts can therefore only shake their heads over how the U.S. and Europe initially reacted to Russian policies. Loud expressions of indignation and empty threats only give the impression of powerlessness and prevent solutions more closely aligned to Western and Ukrainian interests, and Putin know that a policy of ostracism won't last, because the West needs Russia to deal with other conflicts.
How would a realpolitik politician advise the U.S. president and E.U. leaders? First of all, don't fight for something of little practical value that cannot be achieved. That's Crimea. Russia has much greater strategic interests there than the West or even Ukraine (keyword: Black Sea Fleet), and can easily impose its authority.
Even under international law, the Russian position is not entirely illegitimate. Ultimately, the peninsula has a Russian majority and was was only “gifted” to Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev in 1954.
[Editor's Note: The transfer merited a paragraph in Pravda, the official Soviet newspaper at the time, on Feb. 27, 1954. Here's what it said:
"Decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet transferring Crimea Province from the Russian Republic to the Ukraine Republic, taking into account the integral character of the economy, the territorial proximity and the close economic ties between Crimea Province and the Ukraine Republic, and approving the joint presentation of the Presidium of the Russian Republic Supreme Soviet and the Presidium of the Ukraine Republic Supreme Soviet on the transfer of Crimea Province from the Russian Republic to the Ukraine Republic."]
Here the West has something to offer Putin: international recognition of Crimea's return to Russia. This way it could demand that this process be a legal and orderly procedure based on a supervised referendum.
In return, Russia could finally recognize the independence of Kosovo, whose succession followed the same principle of self-determination of peoples and ethnic groups as Russia's Crimea policy.
Posted By Worldmeets.US
The main objective of Western policy should be the stabilization of a Western-oriented Ukraine. It is here that Russia has been the loser over recent weeks - thanks to the triumph of (relatively) Western values in Maidan Square. When it comes to popular uprisings, there is little realpolitik can do.
Putin is well aware that he can no longer win over Ukraine to his Eurasian Union. All he can do is cause trouble. This is a typical stalemate that from the point of realpolitik, can only be resolved through negotiations. Consequently, the U.S. should now do everything possible to persuade the leadership in Kiev to embrace de-escalation and open negotiations with Russia in which the core interests of both sides can be taken into account.
On the one hand, that would ensure Ukraine's Western orientation and a promise of non-interference from Moscow in Ukrainian politics. On the other, Kiev would guarantee the rights of Russian-speaking citizens and forgo entry into NATO - a red rag for Putin. This wouldn't represent much of a cost to the West, since NATO is of no use against Russian power politics.
By Eric Frey, Translated By John Goodall, March 9, 2014