Two Decades After Pullback, Russia Chases Gas Resources, Minerals and UN VotesUkraine, Georgia and the Middle East are not the only places Vladimir Putin’s Russia has put a muscular foreign policy on display. Quietly, but with equal determination, President Putin has directed a robust strategic push into a region farther from Russia’s borders – Africa.
Talk of a “new Cold War” may be premature, but it should not be forgotten that, during the original Cold War, Africa was a major theater of the Soviet Union’s competition not only with the United States, but with the People’s Republic of China. And while Beijing’s burgeoning engagements across Africa have received considerable attention, the Kremlin’s reemergence as a significant power in Africa has gone largely unnoticed, unwittingly giving an increasingly assertive Russia a free hand in forging multiple economic, political, and military ties.
Five Ways the Kremlin Has Weakened Itself at Home and AbroadRussian President Vladimir Putin and his supporters in Moscow and the West are explaining and justifying his invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea in various ways and celebrating the divisions and weaknesses of the West that it has highlighted, but in every case, they are treating it as a geopolitical victory for the Kremlin. They could not be more wrong.
There are five reasons for what may seem to many a counter-intuitive conclusion, each of which must be kept in mind in the face of the bombast coming out of Moscow and the apologetics in some Western capitals for this latest example of Russian bad behavior. [They also affect] the ensuing arguments for not taking serious actions that would inflict a real punishment on Putin -- even and often because none contemplated could immediately reverse what he has done.
Two recent laments come to mind. The first comes from the AEI’s Michael Rubin who, in an Outlook piece in the Washington Post, warns about the dangers of negotiating with bad guys. The other comes from ubiquitous Harvard know-it-all Niall Ferguson, who ponders Obama’s failure to lead in the Wall Street Journal.
In World War II, Russian-ruled Sevastopol fought invaders again – the army of Nazi Germany – and was proclaimed by Stalin a “hero city,” its name carved into the polished stone of a somber memorial outside the Kremlin walls. In 1954, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who had roots in Ukraine, transferred Crimea to the jurisdiction of the Soviet Ukrainian Republic, a declaration of Russian-Ukrainian brotherhood that had no consequence then for the region’s power politics. The consequence is enormous now, as President Vladimir Putin uses the Russians’ emotional sense of ownership over Crimea to win support at home for his seizure of the peninsula from independent Ukraine.
Because of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s refusal to sign a Basic Security Agreement (BSA), NATO is now forced to plan for the withdraw of all of its military forces by the end of 2014. Without substantial coalition forces and, as important, the money and aid Afghanistan receives because of that presence, the Karzai government will be unable to prevent the Taliban, local tribes, warlords and gangs from wresting power and control away from Kabul. Violence, chaos and instability loom as the legacies of NATO’s engagement.