A line from President Vladimir Putin’s April 2005 state of the nation address is now often commonly footnoted to explain his latest aggressions: “Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century. As for the Russian nation, it became a genuine drama. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and co-patriots found themselves outside Russian territory.”
To stay in power with declining living standards, Vladimir Putin must invent a foreign enemy (the United States), which has overthrown the legitimate government of Ukraine, props up a puppet government with a “foreign legion,” and plans a sneak attack on Russia. In Putin’s “alternative world” narrative, Russia’s actions in Eastern Ukraine are purely defensive and humanitarian. His requirement for “peace” is veto power over Ukrainian policy for his puppet “people’s republic” of Eastern Ukraine, e.g. the de facto end of an independent Ukraine.
Lack of means is no part of the reason why U.S. policy is failing to restrain Russia. Rather, that reason lies in the U.S. government’s simultaneous pursuit of self-contradictory objectives, what Henry Kissinger extolled as “creative ambiguity.” This has opened a fateful gap between words and deeds. Clear, univocal policy that unites words and deeds, ends and means, has ever been the prerequisite of seriousness.