At Stake In Ukraine: The Future Of Putin’s – And America’s – Leadership

Russian President Vladimir Putin says that there is no need for military right now, but claims that all options are on the table to deal with the “militants” who have created chaos in Ukraine and to capture the “Semites” who he blames for the unrest.

Markos Kounalakis of the Hoover Institution says analysts who focus too much on Putin’s broader designs on Russia’s territory should not neglect the personal political calculations that factor into his decision making.

“While he may have broader designs on former territory and be willing to throw the dice on Ukraine to this end, his calculation of the costs of invading Crimea also needs to be understood as a move for his personal political survival,” he writes.

Furthermore, if Putin does not respond to events, it “likely result in his own eventual overthrow. The last thing Putin wants is to be the former leader of a once great nation. His greatest fear is to be the next Mikhail Gorbachev. In Russia today, Gorbachev has a lower popularity rating than nearly any living politician on Earth and has become a punch line on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. Putin wants the last laugh.”

As much as Putin’s reputation is at stake, but also at stake is America’s credibility, says Andrew C. Kuchins of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Kuchins believes the “imminent danger” is Russia succeeding in effectively partitioning Ukraine by separating eastern regions from the rest of the country.

“This would have disastrous consequences for Ukrainians and U.S. credibility around the world. Just imagine, for example, the takeaway for Japanese and Chinese leaders about U.S. commitment as they spar in their own territorial dispute,” argues Kuchins.

Whatever Putin’s reasons are for moving into Ukraine, he currently has the upper hand not only because Russia holds a veto in the United Nations Security Council, but because Germany is reluctant to act with its European partners.

“The German government wants to avoid drastic EU measures or sanctions on Russia. The main casualties of such moves would be German companies exporting to Russia or those in Russia,” Fredrik Erixon, director of the European Centre for International Political Economy in Brussels, tells Businessweek in an interview.


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