Monday, April 26, 2021

Coercive Diplomacy – Russia and Ukraine

Wall Street Journal headlines:

  • U.S. warns Russia over Navalny’s Care, 4-19-21
  • Biden’s hardline on Russia splits Europe, 4-20-21
  • Russia moves forces near Ukraine border, 4-21-21
  • Putin retains popularity despite wave of protest, 4-21-21
  • Putin intensifies warning as protests widen, 4-22-21
  • Russia to scale back Ukraine border force, 4-23-21

The Wall Street Journal headlines capture Vladimir Putin’s latest foray into threats and mobilization and the Western democratic countries’ pushbacks. The West had their last experience with Mr. Putin in March 2014 as he absorbed Crimea and destabilized Eastern Ukraine.

As of the end of April, it’s uncertain if there will be a real incursion – most experts believe not – or just another of his exercises in diplomatic coercion. The benefits for Putin are:

  • It distracts from Alexei Navalny and the protests
  • It gins up Russian nationalist sentiments just as he gives annual speech. It helps maintain his 60 plus percent favorability.
  • It tests Mr. Biden, NATO and European resolve and unity
  • It warns Kiev’s leadership to keep its distance from NATO and the West – “the red line”
  • It promotes division and chaos in democracies. Putin’s long time objectives.

If Putin sees diplomatic or military weakness, he will exploit it.

Russia Takes the Crimea

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center; Defense Minister Sergei
Shoigu, left; and the commander of the Western Military District
Anatoly Sidorov, right, March 3, 2014 | AP photo

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