West flinches facing a tough Russia

Source:Global Times Published: 2014-3-13 0:28:01

Although the US Congress has urged the White House to suspend Russia's attendance of the Group of Eight summit in Sochi in June and impose visa restrictions and economic sanctions, the stance of the US and its European allies is generally considered weak. On Tuesday, the Crimean parliament passed the "Declaration of Independence," which will be followed by a referendum Sunday. Many Western analysts believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin has already won Crimea.

The US and EU haven't softened their tone, yet the West seems to have set new red lines stating that Moscow should not covet the industrial zones in the east of Ukraine where the Russians have the advantage. The West and the new regime in Ukraine have to accept this bitter result.

The West feels aggrieved over Putin's bold moves. But so far, Washington, London, Paris and Berlin have remained cautious in threatening Moscow. No side has publicly declared willingness for a military confrontation with Russia. As for their threat to isolate Russia, the country may have already become accustomed to being isolated by the West.

The US and Europe look like a paper tiger in front of Russia and Putin. Why is this the case? Russia's military strength has scared the West. The country's military spending in 2013 was only close to $70 billion, but its first-class strategic attacking capabilities inherited from the Soviet era are enough to maintain its military might. Such military capabilities mean the West must avoid a war if it chooses to challenge Russia. As for other means, it also has to calculate the possibilities of success.

It is also difficult to impose economic sanctions on Russia. Some Americans advocate helping Europe reduce their reliance on Russia's natural gas and reducing oil prices. But the demand for energy mostly comes from emerging countries, which will hardly reduce their demand for oil.

The best approach for the West is to initiate internal turmoil in Russia to mess up its politics. But the West's democracy is hardly a worthy opponent for Moscow's nationalism, which Russians consider patriotism.

Crimea presents the best chance of success for Moscow. Russians make up the majority there. Russia's Black Sea Fleet is stationed in Sevastopol, and the peninsula once belonged to Russia.

Ukraine has become the focus of frictions between the West and Russia. It is much closer to Russia's core interests than to the West's. When Russia is determined to forge ahead, the West becomes timid, which is something worth pondering for strategists.

The Ukraine crisis shows that a fierce geopolitical tremor is not welcome in the world. Big powers should avoid that. When the West promotes its political values, it tends to choose a cowardly target. But when it meets with a tough target, it will not sacrifice its own interests for the sake of "democrats" in non-Western countries. The West is always selfish and calculating. That's international political science.

Posted in: Editorial

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