Taking Additional Steps to Counter Russian Ambitions

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Vladimir Putin and the Russians more generally are practical people. They seize opportunities presented by their opponents’ weakness and they pull back from confrontation when enemy strength makes success unlikely. Fundamentally, Russia and the West have more things in common than they have dividing them. Therefore, the best policy for the U.S. and Europe towards Russian ambitions is to show greater strength. They can do this in a variety of ways, among them: (1) station NATO troops in Poland, (2) establish missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic, as the Bush administration planned to do but the Obama administration cancelled, (3) facilitate the export of U.S. natural gas, which would help Europe and make it easier to (4) increase sanctions on Russia, (5) give weapons to Ukraine. At the same time the U.S. should prepare for possible Russian retaliation both by clamping down on energy exports to Ukraine and Western Europe and by increasing aid and intervention in Cuba and Venezuela. The Russians might well engage in threatening behavior toward the Baltic States as well, but Western inaction would make that even more likely. Meanwhile, American diplomats should make clear to the Russians that our goal is peace and friendship, provided only that Russian military expansion ceases.