Ukraine

U.S.-Russia Relations: Critical and Unstable

David C. Speedie

In October 2014, the Council posted an article titled “Needs Work: A Troubled U.S.-Russia Relationship,” in which we noted somberly that “if there is one point of agreement between pundits in Moscow and Washington these days, it is that U.S.-Russia relations are at a post-Cold War nadir.”

U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine

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Newsflash, America: Ukraine Cannot Afford a War with Russia

Rajan Menon, City College of New York

Arming Ukraine would only fan the flames of tension between the West and Russia, leading the United States into a conflict it doesn’t, and shouldn’t, want.

U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine

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A STRATEGIC RESPONSE TO THE UKRAINE CRISIS

Edward W. WalkerUniversity of California, Berkeley, April 1, 2014

| U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine | NATO | PutinSanctions | EU |


 

Originally published on The Huffington Post. Read additional entries on Carnegie Corporation’s Huffington Post Column.

Although Russia has managed to consolidate control of Crimea without provoking a full-blown war with Ukraine, the crisis is by no means over, above all because the annexing of Crimea does not solve the Kremlin’s redline issue — Ukraine’s external orientation and possible NATO accession. If anything, it has made it worse.

The annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s heavy-handed pressure on Ukraine mean that there is now no chance that Kiev will integrate into any Russian-led political, economic, or security system. Instead, it will move as close as possible to Europe and the United States politically and economically, and already it is seeking Western military assistance. The fact that the current Ukrainian Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, indicated in a speech last week that his government has tabled the question of NATO accession for Ukraine does not prevent his government or any future Ukrainian government from changing its mind later. Meanwhile, NATO is taking measures to fortify its eastern defenses.

The upshot is that Moscow has solved one non-urgent strategic problem — securing Sevastopol as the home port of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet — but it now confronts a much more serious security challenge to its west. It is also saddled with the burden of keeping Crimea from collapsing economically even as the Russian economy enters a period of stagnation or perhaps decline.

Before taking comfort in Moscow’s predicament, however, it is important to ask whether an angry, nationalistic, aggressive, and cornered Russia is in the interest of Ukraine or the West. The stark fact is that Russia has the capacity to make life miserable for its neighbors, including Ukraine, and it will be much easier, and less costly, for Russia to undermine Ukraine’s economy and destabilize it politically than it will be for the West to turn the economy around and consolidate Ukrainian democracy.

More importantly, Russia has a great preponderance of force along its borders. If Putin is backed into a corner politically, or if he feels Russia’s national security interests are sufficiently threatened, he may well decide to invade eastern Ukraine. If that happens, Latvia and Estonia will be at great risk — both of these very small NATO countries share a border with Russia, have significant Russian-speaking populations, have tense relations with Moscow, and are virtually defenseless against a Russian ground invasion.

Were NATO to respond to a Russian incursion into eastern Ukraine by providing Estonia and Latvia with more credible defenses or by supplying Ukraine with lethal equipment, Russia might well decide to preempt and invade those countries as well. And of course a hostile and lawless Russia can do great harm to Western interests globally, whether in Iran and Syria today or some other crisis in the future.

In short, a permanently hostile and threatening Russia is not in anyone’s interest, least of all Ukraine’s.

The immediate task for Western policymakers is to deescalate the crisis and apply sanctions that deter further acts of aggression by Moscow. Washington, its European allies, and IMF should also provide the financial assistance that Ukraine needs to begin to address its dire economic problems as rapidly as possible. In the longer run, however, the West will need to come up with a strategic response that makes war less likely and Russia less able, or perhaps less willing, to destabilize its neighbors.

One option is to assume that Russia can only be deterred by sticks — economic sanctions, military assistance to Kiev, strengthening NATO’s eastern defenses, deepening Ukrainian, Georgian, Moldovan, and perhaps eventually even Belarusian integration into Europe, and leaving the door open to eventual NATO membership for Russia’s western neighbors. The rub, however, is that these measures virtually guarantee a hostile Russia that continues to resist Western encroachment tooth and nail, with all the attendant risks of conflict and economic and political costs.

The alternative is a strategic response that includes both sticks and carrots. Rather than proceeding as if Russia’s security concerns were entirely unreasonable and illegitimate, Washington could signal that it is willing to discuss Russia’s “legitimate interests” not only in Ukraine (as both President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry have stated) but elsewhere as well. The goal would be to negotiate an overarching security arrangement for a post-Cold War Europe that all parties can live with, including Russia.

To that end, the Obama administration could quietly suggest preliminary discussions with Moscow over the institutionalization of military neutrality for Ukraine, Georgia, and Belarus. The arrangement would preclude those three countries from joining any military alliance (which would mean that Belarus would have to withdraw from the Collective Security Organization) or from allowing foreign troops to be stationed on their soil (which would mean that Russia would have to remove the forces is currently has in Belarus). Each neutral country would be free to develop its own defenses as it saw fit, and each could choose its own political and economic alliances. Ukraine, for example, could join the European Union, while Belarus could join a future Eurasian Union. NATO would agree not to forward deploy forces in Latvia or Estonia, and there could be a new treaty on conventional force deployments that placed limits on NATO forces in Poland and Lithuania and Russian forces in Russia’s western and southern military districts. NATO would also agree not to add any new members that share a border with Russia.

The result would be a buffer zone between NATO and Russia that would reduce the risk of war and the need for NATO to reinforce its eastern defenses at great cost to its member states. It would also mean that Russia would not have to worry about NATO incorporating additional countries on its borders, which would relieve it of the need to increase military spending further in the face of a slowing economy. At the same time, Ukraine and Georgia could enhance their capacities to defend themselves with Western assistance, while Estonia and Latvia would remain part of NATO with less reason to fear a revanchist Russia.

With respect to Crimea, there is unfortunately no chance at this point that the Kremlin will return control of the region to Kiev. The only political solution that might help institutionalize a more stable international environment for Ukraine, albeit one that would be very hard for Kiev to swallow, would be financial compensation by Moscow in the form of a long-term natural gas contract at below market prices. A political settlement might also entail visa free travel to Crimea for Ukrainian citizens, even if Russia and Ukraine have visa regimes on the rest of their border. Doubtless even suggesting such a possibility at this point will enrage many Ukrainians, but a long period of negotiations with Kiev’s participation might convince a majority of Ukrainian voters that compensated recognition of a fait accompli is better than the alternative, particularly in view of the financial costs associated with supporting the Crimean economy.

It is worth noting that hard-nosed, geopolitical bargaining over an arrangement like this is something that Putin and the Russian foreign policy elite have been advocating for years, and as a result they may well respond to it positively despite the extreme anti-American and anti-Western rhetoric in the Russian media today.

None of this, of course, could be agreed upon quickly or easily, and any agreement would have to be approved by all affected parties. One reason why the occupation and annexation of Crimea was such a strategic mistake for Russia is that it makes negotiating a security arrangement that Russia can live with so much more difficult politically for Ukraine and the West. Any effort to negotiate with Moscow will be seen as appeasement in the face of naked military aggression. But critics should remember that the Nixon administration initiated an earlier détente with Moscow for very practical reasons, and it did so despite Moscow’s imperial control of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union’s 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.

By Edward W. Walker, Associate Adjunct Professor of Political Science and Executive Director of the Berkeley Program in Eurasian and East European Studies at the University of California, Berkeley

This post is part of the Perspectives on Peace and Security: Rebuilding the U.S.–Russia Relationship project produced by Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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Debunked: Why There Won’t Be Another Cold War

Matthew Rojansky, Wilson Center & Rachel S. Salzman, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

In the wake of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, talk of a “New Cold War” is in vogue. Even experts who studied the Soviet Union and Russia from the depths of mutually assured destruction and détente to the fall of Communism now say that it will be decades again before “normal” relations between Russia and the West can resume…

U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine

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Why Sanctions on Russia Will Backfire

Samuel Charap, International Institute for Strategic Studies & Bernard Sucher, UFG Asset Management

Even if sanctions succeed in changing the Kremlin’s behavior and are then lifted, the American objective of integrating Russia into the global economy has been fundamentally undermined…

U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine | NATO | Putin

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Ukraine Deal Could Buy U.S. Time to Formulate Effective Russia Policy

Richard Weitz, Hudson Institute

The U.S. should make keeping Ukraine strong and independent of Russia an enduring priority…

U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine | NATO | Putin

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Russia’s Breakout From the Post-Cold War System: The Drivers of Putin’s Course

Dmitri Trenin, Carnegie Moscow Center

The abrupt end of the quarter-of-a-century-long era of cooperation and partnership between Russia and the West, and the return of confrontation and hostility between them, did not come out of the blue…

U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine | NATO | Putin

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Then and Now: Eight Lingering Questions on U.S.-Russia-Ukraine

David Speedie, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs

Why do we fail to understand that threats do not work with Putin’s Russia?…

U.S. Foreign Policy | NATO | Putin | Ukraine

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The West Has Failed to Find a Constructive Role for Moscow

Robert Hunter, Center for Transatlantic Relations and former US Ambassador to NATO

American leadership is indispensable in Europe. Mr. Putin does not take seriously ministrations by European leaders…

U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine | NATO | Putin

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A Diplomatic Halfway House

Robert E. Hunter, Center for Transatlantic Relations and a former U.S. ambassador to NATO

Unless something new is done, everyone will lose…

U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine | NATO

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No Good Options

Timothy Frye, Harriman Institute, Columbia University

Calls to arm Ukraine have helped to galvanize diplomatic efforts to find a solution to the crisis, and over the longer term, the Ukrainian Army will need more weapons and better training, if only to enforce any peace agreement…

U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine | EU | NATO

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Our Best Hope So Far

Matthew Rojansky, Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

The outbreak of renewed sporadic violence is not the biggest or most important looming challenge…

U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine

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Facing a Fragile Ceasefire

Rajan Menon, City College of New York & Kimberly Marten, Barnard College and Harriman Institute, Columbia University

If the peace deal is not honored, the administration of President Barack Obama will then be under even greater pressure to send lethal weapons to the government in Kiev…

U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine | Putin

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West Must Either Commit to Ukraine or Back Off

Dmitry Gorenburg, CNA Corporation

Putin has for years been offering a deal in the old realpolitik tradition — let’s draw a line, you run the world on that side, and I’ll run it on this side…

U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine | Putin

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Want to arm Kiev? Better have a Plan B

Rajan Menon, City College of New York

Arming Ukraine probably would prompt Putin to scale up the war…

U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine | Putin

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When threatened, Putin will push back

Kimberly Marten, Barnard College and Harriman Institute, Columbia University

Everything we know about Putin’s personality says that when he is threatened he will fight harder…

NATO | U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine | Putin

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Weapons Won’t End the Conflict

Simon Saradzhyan, Harvard University

What Ukraine needs more than any weapons is greater quantities of professionally trained soldiers…

U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine

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Military assistance to Ukraine should be part of broader strategy

Oxana Shevel, Tufts University

Washington should seriously contemplate military assistance as part of a broader strategy for ending the conflict in Ukraine…

U.S. Foreign Policy| Ukraine

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Arms likely to spark further escalation

Cory Welt, George Washington University

The U.S. ought to have a plan in place for how it will respond to another round of escalation – and a plan that does not involve a constant ratcheting up of military assistance…

U.S. Foreign Policy| Ukraine

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Arms support for Ukraine should be contingent on talks

Sergiy Kudelia, Baylor University

If the goal of the U.S. government is to achieve a lasting peace in eastern Ukraine, it should use its leverage to compel the Ukrainian government to agree to the partitioning of the Donbas…

U.S. Foreign Policy| Ukraine

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Arms alone won’t win Ukraine

Nikolai Sokov, Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation

The effectiveness of that assistance will primarily depend on Kyiv’s ability to use it…

U.S. Foreign Policy| Ukraine

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Endangering USA won’t stop Putin

Kimberly Marten, Barnard College, Columbia University

Supplying Kiev with lethal weaponry would endanger U.S. national security interests, while having little chance of stopping Vladimir Putin…

NATO | U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine

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How to Start a Proxy War with Russia

Michael Kofman, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

The United States has absolutely no obligations to Ukraine’s security under any type of accord or framework…

NATO | U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine

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Appeasement is not an option

Sergey Minasyan, Caucasus Institute

A strong signal from the U.S. government is not enough if there is no determination for a subsequent military step…

U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine

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There Is No Zero-Sum Solution

Dylan Royce, George Washington University

If the U.S. is unwilling to take real military action, then it should consider a mutually acceptable settlement now …

NATO | U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine

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Don’t Prop up Putin by Giving Him an Enemy

Kimberly Marten, Columbia University

Putin’s actions have gone beyond simply reasserting Russia’s great power status. He is goading the United States to take a more militarized approach to the crisis …

NATO | U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine

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The Guns of Ukrainian August

Arthur Martirosyan, The Bridgeway Group

From a conflict resolution perspective, the question—admittedly very difficult now that the violence has escalated and several thousand civilians, soldiers, and rebels have been killed in Eastern Ukraine—is: can the West go beyond isolating Russia and act together to contain the escalating violence and transform the conflict into constructive dialogue?…

EU | NATO | U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine

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Ukraine: Cool the Rhetoric; Focus on the Outcome

Jack Matlock, Jr., Institute for Advanced Study

Settlement on any terms while fighting continues seems most unlikely, so efforts to stop the fighting and meet the humanitarian needs of the people trapped in combat zones must take priority. Nevertheless, active negotiations to reach an overall settlement must proceed in order to improve the prospects for a cease-fire and the durability of one, if reached…

EU | NATO | U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine

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Diverging Visions of Partnership

Shireen T. Hunter, Georgetown University

In short, the West’s idea of partnership was Russia’s absolute acquiescence with all Western policies anywhere in the world, irrespective of the consequences for Russia, along with the total reshaping of Russian society according to a Western model, without any consideration for Russia’s peculiarities, history, and culture…

NATO | Putin | U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine

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Nationalism and the Logic of Russian Actions in Ukraine

Henry E. Hale, George Washington University

Putin’s move in Crimea and the subsequent efforts to destabilize eastern Ukraine can be seen as an attempt to overturn the chessboard when the arrangement of pieces is no longer favorable, forcing a new game with different rules…

Putin | U.S. Foreign Policy | Ukraine

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