Feb 5th 2015

Mr. Putin Will Not Change Course in Ukraine or Syria

by Daniel Wagner

Daniel Wagner is CEO of Country Risk Solutions, a Connecticut-based cross-border risk advisory firm and author of the book Managing Country Risk. CRS provides a range of services related to the management of cross-border risk. He is also Senior Advisor with Gnarus Advisors.

When Russia first expropriated Crimea last year, I wrote that neither the EU nor the U.S. were likely to take military action to reverse the tide, and that in the end, Russia didn't care much about whether it is a member of the G8 or not. Some economic sanctions would ensue, I predicted, but to Mr. Putin and many Russians, righting an historical wrong was far more important than what may come as a result. They also knew that Europe and the U.S. need Russia every bit as much as Russia needs them -- perhaps more so considering Europe's dependency on Russia for natural gas, and the desire for much needed collaboration between the U.S. and Russia on Iran and Syria.

At issue then, as now, was the perceived legitimacy (on the part of Russia) of the government in Kiev, ethnicity in Ukraine, Russian history, Russian pride, and Russia's ability and willingness to project its power. Depending on one's frame of reference, Russia's actions have either evoked outrage or relief, as Ukraine has become the epicenter of the battle between pro and anti-European and Russian influence in the region. In the absence of any meaningful military response by either Europe or the United States -- which remains to be seen, but, a year after the fact, is more likely be more oriented toward preventing any further expansion of Russian-backed military forces, rather than an effort to repel them altogether -- Mr. Putin has achieved what many Russians have sought since jurisdiction over Crimea was transferred from Russia to Ukraine in 1954.

In spite of all the economic pain Russia (and Russians) have thus far endured as a result of sanctions, and the plummeting price of oil, support for Mr. Putin remains at more than 70 percent, according to a January poll taken by the Public Opinion Foundation. That is astounding, and should give Western policy makers some guidance as to what to expect from him going forward: in short (as if there were any doubt), more of the same. Indeed -- what else do they need to know? As long as he has the support of the Russian people, he will continue on the course he has set. Apparently, the average Russian would rather eat rubber than give in on Crimea and Ukraine.

Similarly, in spite of the tremendous economic and political pressure that is being applied to Mr. Putin as a result of the plunge in oil price to modify his position on support for Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, he is unlikely to do so. While many around the world may chide him for his overt display of testosterone, having done so resonates with people who identify with his unabashed bravado, and Russia's willingness to challenge the status quo. In the body of global public opinion, Mr. Putin has plenty of admirers, which gives Russia an added incentive to continue thumbing its nose at the West.

In the eyes of many, the choice in Ukraine and Syria appears to be between a) Russia as a former global power, ruled by a strong man (wearing a cape of 'democracy'), which seeks to restore part of its former glory by resurrecting old alliances, flexing its muscles, rejecting the existing world order, and challenging 'the way things are' on a broad scale, and b) the U.S. as a fading superpower (with China nipping at its heels), trying to 'do the right thing' in the world (but really just looking after itself and its interests, like any other country), paralyzed by its own hubris and political infighting, and having difficulty getting much of anything done -- domestically or internationally.

There is plenty to like and dislike about both options. But, given the fractured and evolving global political landscape, both sides, and neither side, will achieve all of its objectives. Swimming against the tide has its own appeal at a time when virtually everything about the world order seems to be up for grabs. By the same token, trying to maintain stability has obvious appeal. The battle lines are clearly drawn, and the stakes are high, which is yet another reason neither side has much interest in backing down.

More to the point, having such battle lines drawn seems to suit the powers that be - on both sides of the divide -- rather well, as a convenient rallying point for nationalists to wave the flag, for extremists to promote their causes, and for the people who hold the levers of power to maintain their hold. Russia is a well-ingrained enemy of the U.S., and vice versa. For that reason, not too much effort is required to dust off and re-oil the propaganda machines on both sides of the Atlantic. Both sides appear to have an interest in prolonging the status quo between them for the foreseeable future.

As for Mr. Putin, there would appear to be little incentive to change course -- in Russia, Ukraine, Syria, or anywhere else where Russia is in the process of flexing its muscles. Ukraine demonstrates very well that while NATO is unified as a political force, it is anything but as a military force, and Europe is as disjointed in terms of international policy making as it has ever been. Any future military response to Russia in Ukraine will undoubtedly prove to be -- and be seen as - too little and too late. Mr. Putin knows this as well as anyone.



Daniel Wagner is CEO of Country Risk Solutions and author of "Managing Country Risk". For Country Risk Solutions, please click here.

You can follow Daniel Wagner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/countryriskmgmt


Click here for ways to follow what's new on Facts & Arts.


 


This article is brought to you by the author who owns the copyright to the text.

Should you want to support the author’s creative work you can use the PayPal “Donate” button below.

Your donation is a transaction between you and the author. The proceeds go directly to the author’s PayPal account in full less PayPal’s commission.

Facts & Arts neither receives information about you, nor of your donation, nor does Facts & Arts receive a commission.

Facts & Arts does not pay the author, nor takes paid by the author, for the posting of the author's material on Facts & Arts. Facts & Arts finances its operations by selling advertising space.

 

 

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Jan 17th 2020
EXTRACT: "Thanks to cutting-edge digital technology, cars are increasingly like “smartphones on wheels”, so manufacturers need to have access to the latest patented 4G and 5G technologies essential to navigation and communications. But often the companies that hold the patents are reluctant to license them because manufacturers will not accept the high fees involved, which leads to patent disputes and licensing rows."
Jan 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "Recent polling from Pew Research demonstrates how the public’s attitudes toward the US and President Trump have witnessed sharp declines in many nations across the world. In Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East favorable attitudes toward the US went from lows during the years of George W. Bush’s presidency to highs in the early Obama years to lows, once again, in the Trump era. And in our Zogby Research Services (ZRS) polling we found, with a few exceptions, much the same trajectory across the Middle East."
Jan 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "In the absence of a declaration of war against Iran, the killing of a foreign official – by a drone strike on Iraqi territory – was possibly illegal. But such niceties do not perturb Trump. The evidence is that Trump’s decision was taken without consideration of the possible consequences. The national security system established under Dwight D. Eisenhower, designed to prevent such reckless measures, is broken to non-existent, with ever-greater power placed in the hands of the president. If that president is unstable, the entire world has a very serious problem."
Jan 9th 2020
EXTRACT: "It is possible that Trump’s reverential base won’t be sufficient to keep him in the White House past 2020. But such ardent faith is hard to oppose with rational plans to fix this or that problem. That is why it is so unsettling to hear people at the top of the US government speak about politics in terms that rightly belong in church. They are challenging the founding principles of the American Republic, and they might actually win as a result."
Jan 7th 2020
EXTRACT: "If anything has become clear in our recent Zogby Research Services (ZRS) polling in Iraq, is that most Iraqis are tired of their country being used as a playground for regional conflict, especially the conflict between the US and Iran. In fact, our polling has shown Iraqis increasingly upset with the role played by both the US and Iran in their country. Majorities see both of these countries as having been the major beneficiaries of the wars that have ravaged their nation since the US invaded in 2003. "
Jan 5th 2020
EXTRACT: "Under his [Suleimani's] leadership, Iran helped Hezbollah beef up its missile capabilities, led a decisive intervention to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, supported the Houthi rebels who have been waging a war against Saudi-led forces in Yemen, and backed a wave of resurgent Shia militias in Iraq. According to Gadi Eizenkot, who completed his term as the Israel Defense Forces’ chief of general staff last year, Suleimani had plans to amass a proxy force of 100,000 fighters along Syria’s border with Israel."
Dec 31st 2019
EXTRACT: ".....stunning technological progress during the 2010s makes it possible to cut GHG emissions at a cost far lower than we dared hope a decade ago. The costs of solar and wind power have fallen more than 80% and 70%, respectively, while lithium-ion battery costs are down from $1,000 per kilowatt-hour in 2010 to $160 per kWh today. These and other breakthroughs guarantee that energy systems which are as much as 85% dependent on variable renewables could produce zero-carbon electricity at costs that are fully competitive with those of fossil-fuel-based systems."
Dec 31st 2019
EXTRACT: "Predicting the next crisis – financial or economic – is a fool’s game. Yes, every crisis has its hero who correctly warned of what was about to come. And, by definition, the hero was ignored (hence the crisis). But the record of modern forecasting contains a note of caution: those who correctly predict a crisis rarely get it right again. The best that economists can do is to assess vulnerability. Looking at imbalances in the real economy or financial markets gives a sense of the potential consequences of a major shock. It doesn't take much to spark corrections in vulnerable economies and markets. But a garden-variety correction is far different from a crisis. The severity of the shock and the degree of vulnerability matter: big shocks to highly vulnerable systems are a recipe for crisis. In this vein, the source of vulnerability that I worry about the most is the overextended state of central-bank balance sheets. My concern stems from three reasons."
Dec 14th 2019
EXTRACT: "Conspiracy theories about sinister Jewish power have a long history. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a Russian forgery published in 1903, popularized the notion that Jewish bankers and financiers were secretly pulling the strings to dominate the world. Henry Ford was one of the more prominent people who believed this nonsense."
Dec 13th 2019
EXTRACT: "In previous British elections, to say that trust was the main issue would have meant simply that trust is the trump card – whichever leader or party could secure most trust would win. Now, the emerging question about trust is whether it even matters anymore."
Dec 5th 2019
EXTRACT: "Europe must fend for itself for the first time since the end of World War II. Yet after so many years of strategic dependence the US, Europe is unprepared – not just materially but psychologically – for today’s harsh geopolitical realities. Nowhere is this truer than in Germany."
Nov 23rd 2019
Extdact: "The kind of gratitude expressed by Vindman and my grandfather is not something that would naturally occur to a person who can take his or her nationality for granted, or whose nationality is beyond questioning by others. Some who have never felt the sharp end of discrimination might even find it mildly offensive. Why should anyone be grateful for belonging to a particular nation? Pride, perhaps, but gratitude? In fact, patriotism based on gratitude might be the strongest form there is."
Nov 20th 2019
Extract: "Moody’s, one of the big three credit rating agencies, is not upbeat about the prospects for the world’s debt in 2020 – to put it mildly. If we were to try to capture the agency’s view of where we are heading on a palette of colours, we would be pointing at black – pitch black."
Nov 17th 2019
Extract: "Digital money is already a key battleground in finance, with technology firms, payment processing companies, and banks all vying to become the gateway into the burgeoning platform-based economy. The prizes that await the winners could be huge. In China, Alipay and WeChat Pay already control more than 90% of all mobile payments. And in the last three years, the four largest listed payment firms – Visa, Mastercard, Amex, and PayPal – have increased in value by more than the FAANGs (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google)."
Nov 14th 2019
Extract: "Trump, who understands almost nothing about governing, made a major mistake in attacking career public officials from the outset of his presidency. He underestimated – or just couldn’t fathom – the honor of people who could earn more in the private sector but believe in public service. And he made matters worse for himself as well as for the government by creating a shadow group – headed by the strangely out-of-control Rudy Giuliani, once a much-admired mayor of New York City, and now a freelance troublemaker serving as Trump’s personal attorney – to impose the president’s Ukraine policy over that of “the bureaucrats.” "
Nov 4th 2019
Extract: "Trump displays repeated and persistent behaviours consistent with narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. These behaviours include craving for adulation, lack of empathy, aggression and vindictiveness towards opponents, addiction to lying, and blatant disregard for rules and conventions, among others." The concern is that leaders with these two disorders may be incapable of putting the interests of the country ahead of their own personal interests. Their compulsive lying may make rational action impossible and their impulsiveness may make them incapable of the forethought and planning necessary to lead the country. They lack empathy and are often motivated by rage and revenge, and could make quick decisions that could have profoundly dangerous consequences for democracy.
Oct 31st 2019
EXTRACT: "......let’s see what happens when we have less money for all the things we want to do as a country and as individuals. Promises and predictions regarding Brexit will soon be tested against reality. When they are, I wouldn’t want to be one of Johnson’s Brexiteers."
Oct 21st 2019
EXTRACT: "Were Israel to be attacked with the same precision and sophistication as the strike on Saudi Arabia, the Middle East would be plunged into war on a scale beyond anything it has experienced so far. Sadly (but happily for Russian President Vladimir Putin), that is the reality of a world in which the US has abandoned any pretense of global leadership."
Oct 20th 2019
EXTRACT: "Europe also stands to lose from Trump’s abandonment of the Kurds. If, in the ongoing chaos, the thousands of ISIS prisoners held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces escape – as some already have – America’s estranged European allies will suffer. Yet Trump is unconcerned. “Well, they are going to be escaping to Europe, that’s where they want to go,” he remarked casually at a press conference. “They want to go back to their homes." "
Oct 15th 2019
EXTRACT: "Assuming the House ultimately votes to impeach Trump, the fact remains that there are far fewer votes in the Senate than will be needed to convict him and remove him from office. But the willingness of Congress – including the Senate – to continue tolerating his dangerous conduct in office, including threats to US national security, is now truly in question."