Friday, January 23, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Three myths about Putin’s Russia

By Nicholas Burns

One week later, Vladimir Putin’s extraordinarily powerful, provocative, acerbic, and self-pitying speech justifying the annexation of Crimea still resonates.

That speech exposed three myths about Putin’s rule and ambitions.

Myth One: Russians as victims of history. In Putin’s eyes, the Russian people were “robbed” and “plundered” as victims of the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Russian nation, he said in his speech, may be “the biggest ethnic group in the world to be divided by borders.”

Here is the reality he did not mention — the Russian Federation inherited the bulk of the USSR’s assets when it collapsed on Dec. 25, 1991. Of the 15 new countries that emerged, Russia became in legal terms the “continuation state.” It thus secured the powerful UN Security Council seat, eventually all the nuclear weapons and major military assets, nearly all of the Soviet Embassy properties, the space program, and significant gold reserves. The White House, where I worked on Soviet affairs at the time, supported a strong Russia as the best guarantor of future stability.

But Russia did not get the right to “protect” ethnic Russians in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Belarus, Estonia, and Latvia. This is the most troubling aspect of Putin’s policy — the irredentist claim to defend Russians throughout the territory of the former USSR. It is dangerous and incendiary, threatening to upend the historic peace in Europe since the Cold War’s end.

Myth Two: Misguided US policies forced Putin to react. Putin warned the United States in his speech, “If you compress a spring all the way to its limit, it will snap back hard.” Even some prominent Americans have contended that NATO expansion and the Kosovo War contributed to Putin’s supposed humiliation and aggressive, anti-US behavior.

Here is the reality. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton went overboard to help Boris Yeltsin and then Putin to succeed. The United States delivered billions in support of Yeltsin’s reforms, inspired a substantial IMF/World Bank package, and brought Russia into the G-8 in 1994. But Yeltsin’s government failed and he left Russia in a perilous state. After 9/11 when Putin said he wanted greater cooperation with the West, George W. Bush helped to create the NATO-Russia Council. I served on that council as US ambassador to NATO. But a cynical, suspicious Putin did little to meet us halfway on major issues.

We were right to expand NATO and the European Union as they were critical in sustaining permanent democracies in Eastern Europe. Without NATO’s security umbrella, Putin would undoubtedly be threatening Estonia and Latvia right now after digesting Crimea. Poor Russian leadership, not American policy, is the reason for Russia’s slide as a declining global power.

Myth Three: Putin’s on a roll, and we can’t stop him. President Obama is playing an admittedly weak hand against Putin early in their high stakes poker match. Obama made the right decision not to respond militarily. He is working with Europe to support Ukraine, sanction Putin’s cronies, and threaten more debilitating measures should Putin invade Eastern Ukraine.

But, curiously, Obama declined to meet NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Washington last week and has not called a NATO heads of government summit in Brussels this week. These are missed opportunities. Obama is the leader of the NATO alliance and needs to demonstrate publicly to Putin the line he cannot cross in Europe. That is the surest path to peace.

Obama’s ultimate test will be on the most important principle at stake — does Ukraine have a right to choose its future? Some U.S. opinion leaders advocate that Ukraine agree to become a neutral state to resolve the crisis. But this gives away far too much to Putin, rewarding him for his aggression.

As in the Cold War, the more effective strategy is for the United States to stick to its defense of freedom and wait out Putin. NATO and the EU are stronger than the Russian dictator in right and might as well as spirit.

— The Boston Globe. Nicholas Burns is a professor of the practice of diplomacy and international politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Follow him on Twitter @rnicholasburns.  

Comments

comments

New York Times News Service

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

     
    UC regents shelve policy tying coach bonuses to academics

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Resolutions you can keep, with help from local businesses

    By Bob Schultz | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Dude, Be Nice to Ty Brown

    By Fred Gladdis | From Page: A1

     
    Northeast preps as winter storm approaches

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    Automakers to add electric charging stations

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A2

     
    Legislators trade blame over drought bill

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    School board introduces new facilities director

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A3

    Need a new best friend?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Meet the mayor for coffee at Peet’s

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Innovation opportunities on the agenda

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Beekeeper’s feast benefits UC Davis honey research

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

     
    Community invited to Fenocchio memorial

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

     
    Abraham event focuses on justice

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Rebekahs’ crab feed benefits local families

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Davis Arts Center welcomes students’ work

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Brick sales will benefit Hattie Weber Museum

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    Have a heart for art?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    UCD plans ‘STEM-Tastic Sunday’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Yolo County seeking grand jury candidates

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Artists offer a peek behind the scenes

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    Spend ‘Better Days’ with Speck at ALS fundraiser

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7 | Gallery

    ‘Mating market’ trumps biology in relationships

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

     
    Locals prepare for March for Real Climate Leadership

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

    Hardwater plays at Soup’s On

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    Walkers head out three times weekly

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    .

    Forum

    Falling into old patterns

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Speak out on death with dignity

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Uncompromising opposition

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    On solar and nuclear power

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Bill poses hardship to businesses

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Buy pottery to help peace

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Compassionate policy needed

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Too little parking causes a mess

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

    .

    Sports

    Aggie gymnasts enter Hornets Nest

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Cycling shrine shifts gears in face of challenges

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

    UCD’s Wade wins weekly tennis award

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Aggie men suffer first league loss

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

     
    Guitar-vocal duo will perform at DCC

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11 | Gallery

    ‘Inherent Vice': A very bad trip

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

     
    .

    Business

    Toyota’s lowest-priced car gets spruced up

    By Ann M. Job | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    Car Care: Tips to make the daily drive easier for commuters

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Virginia Carolyn Keith Crowell

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Friday, January 23, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B8