West Grapples With Strategy Toward Russia As Far-Right Draws Closer In An Unholy Alliance

Is It Possible For The West To Defeat Putin?
If analyzing the current state of affairs in Europe, one can view it in the worst light – as an example of Western impotence. Or in the best light – as an example of nations acting in their self-interest, argues a professor of international security at Birmingham University.

“Impotence in the inability to stop Russian efforts to destabilise Ukraine, or alternatively to come up with a stronger set of policies to deter Russia from continuing to do so. And self-interest in the sense that whatever measures have been taken so far seek to limit costs to the West, even at the risk of effectiveness of the half-hearted policies adopted, and focused on protecting current EU and NATO members rather than standing up for Ukraine,” writes Stefan Wolff in The Conversation.

Wolff, however, says pursuing the diplomatic route may not be pretty, but it is the best option.

“Insisting on the possibility of a diplomatic way forward, as the West and Russia both continue to do, may not be much at this stage, but it is better than the alternative of walking straight into a military confrontation between Russia and Ukraine. Nor does it mean that the West does not have an important lesson to learn here. Rather than simply buying into our own rhetoric of a norms- and values-based international society, we must be prepared to back up such rhetoric with credible policies to protect these norms and values and abide by them ourselves,” he adds.

Andrew Wilson of London’s Telegraph, however, contends the West must do more than to act to avoid a military confrontation by de-escalating the crisis – as it did with Thursday’s sanctions agreement.

Wilson asserts the first priority should be to “speak the truth” by calling out Russia on its insertion of troops into the region.

“Next, there needs to be a better flow of information to and from Ukraine. There are Ukrainian NGOs that are doing a good job of exposing what is happening on the ground, but Kiev needs to be assisted with satellite intelligence, to show what is lurking on the border and to assess what might   be crossing it. The West can also help with capacity-building for Ukraine’s beleaguered   institutions. Joint exercises with its armed forces in neighbouring states would help re-professionalise their systems of command and control,” he suggests.

In response to growing waves of immigration, Europe has experienced an uptick in activity among far-right extremist groups. But the right-wing are turning their eyes toward – and their affinity with – Russia takes on Western leaders , says Chris Hawley in Der Spiegel. And that could have consequences in the upcoming elections.

“And with European Parliament elections quickly approaching in late May, right-wing populists — with parties in several countries well positioned to make gains in the coming vote — are being increasingly open about their desire to act as an advocate for Moscow in Brussels.

Filip Dewinter, a senior member of Belgium’s right-wing Flemish party Vlaams Belang, tells the newspaper he believes the far right can be a “good partner” for Russia. Some Russians feel the same about the potential relationship.

“Russian voices have been no less supportive. ‘We hope that the results of the coming elections will give these people more power,’ says Sergey Markov, a conservative political scientist with close ties to the Kremlin. ‘We need to move forward to further develop this cooperation” with the European right,'” writes Hawley.

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