US diplomacy ensnared in combat with Russia [People’s Daily]

May 22, 2014

“The panic that the United States has shown on the issue of Ukraine reflects U.S. concerns about the loss of global leadership.” Such was Noam Chomsky’s observation on American reaction to the Ukraine crisis. Some analysts believe that the Obama administration underestimated Russia’s determination to defend its national interests, and had no idea that Putin would offer such a tough response. If Putin should take even tougher measures, the United States will have no strategy to deal with the situation. U.S. foreign policy is “stretched” and its lack of overall strategic planning has left it “passive and isolated” in the Ukraine crisis.

= West’s crossing of a ‘red line’ has provoked a Russian counterattack =

“The truth is that the United States was not expecting such a strong response from Russia,” says Marlene Laurelle, director of the Central Asia Program in George Washington University. For the Obama administration, preoccupied with its ‘rebalancing’ act in the Asia-Pacific and with Middle Eastern affairs, European issues were far from the top of the agenda.

Secretary of State John Kerry described Russia’s participation in the protests in eastern Ukraine as “more than deeply disturbing”. As Chomsky pointed out, from the perspective of the U.S. Putin’s annexation of the Crimea disrupted the international order established after the Cold War, which the U.S. and its allies have relied on.

However, there is one voice of reflection in the U.S. – Richard Weitz, a senior editor with World Politics Review. His view is that fundamentally, Russia’s resentment stems from the West’s disrespect for its interests and concerns. Without proper consultation with Russia, NATO has continually expanded eastward, threatening Russia’s core interests. It is the Western countries that have crossed Russia’s “red lines”; this is what has led to Putin’s counterattack.

= Sanctions on Russia are largely a propaganda tool =

Since the outbreak of the crisis in Ukraine, the United States has launched three rounds of sanctions against Russia. In terms of their effect, the media have quoted Bogomolov, the honorary director of the International Institute of the Russian Academy of Economics and Political, suggesting that the sanctions against Russia are largely a propaganda tool, and have had little effect on Russia’s economy.

Stephen Blank, senior researcher of Russia American Foreign Policy Council, offered this view to People’s Daily: “The US sanctions against Russia have not affected bilateral trade between the two countries, as the volume of U.S.-Russian trade is small and U.S. investment in Russia is very limited. Economic sanctions against Russia have had little impact on the U.S.”

Dr. Andrew Kuchins, CSIS Director, was equally skeptical about the worth of the sanctions: “Russia is one of the world’s top ten economies. Many European countries are more than willing to trade and engage in economic cooperation with Russia.”

Kuchins is right – there are obvious differences between the U.S. and Europe on expanding sanctions against Russia. Ignoring U.S. objections, France has proceeded to deliver two Northwest Wind amphibious assault ships to Russia, while German Chancellor Merkel stressed that the U.S. and Europe should work out a comprehensive set of sanctions against Russia to avoid damaging any individual EU country.

With the approach of the presidential elections in Ukraine at the end of May, the United States and its allies have proposed a fourth round of sanctions against Russian suppliers, upgrading the level from “limited” and “warning” to “comprehensive” and “substantial”. However, these aggressive measures are being tempered by voices questioning how effective the sanctions will be, and asking what are the plans to deal with any Russian counter-measures.

Many people are questioning Obama’s diplomacy. Clark A. Murdock, senior Adviser and Director of the US Defense and National Security Group, observed: “From the strategic level, Obama did not make good use of deterrence. The opponent does not fear him, and his allies are unsure about whether the US will meet its commitments.”

= America faces an inevitable decline =

American media are worried by the outcome of the stand-off between Obama and Putin in terms of leadership and international influence. Richard Weitz notes that in the past few years the world has witnessed a significant recovery of Russia’s international influence and ambitions. Under the leadership of Putin, Russia is becoming an important and independent force in determining the world order.

In his book Foreign Policy Begins at Home, Richard N. Haass describes a twenty-first century in which power is widely diffused. Globalization, revolutionary technologies, and the rise and decline of new and old powers have created a “non-polar” world where American still dominates, but no longer dictates.

One thing is clear – in the struggle between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine, Russia will not accept a swing to the west. For Russia, the concern is that any retreat or reticence might lead to a “domino effect” among other CIS countries. However, the Obama administration does not seem to recognize the profound importance of Ukraine to Russia. As a result, the United States has no draft, far less any detailed blueprint, to deal with Russia’s tough response to the crossing of its red lines.

The article is edited and translated from《博弈乌克兰,美国外交陷被动》, source: People’s Daily, author: Li Boya.

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