WASHINGTON – Robert Gates, who served as US Secretary of Defense under both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, makes a strong case for developing a long-term strategy aimed at isolating Russia, as long as Putin perseveres with his megalomaniac plans to expand Russia’s territory and sphere of influence. In along and crisp op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal, Gates describes Putin’s ambitions, why we should care and –most importantly– what the West should do about all this.
Let’s get serious
Gates points out that the American and European response to Russia’s open aggression so far has been weak and therefore irrelevant. We have to get serious about real economic sanctions, while we need other measures aimed at shoring up NATO. At the same time we need new strategies aimed at diminishing Europe’s dependence on Russian energy.
Public opinion not engaged
That said, Gates recognizes that public opinion both in the US and in Europe (with exceptions in the countries that may feel directly threatened, such as Estonia and Latvia) is not really concerned about the Crimea annexation and about what this crisis implies.
However, he points out that it is up to leaders to explain what is at stake here –the legitimacy of the entire European post-war security framework– and mobilize public support for any meaningful strategy aimed at “containing” –yes, this is Cold War jargon, but still appropriate now– Russia.
Statesmen or timid politicians?
I fully agree with former Secretary Gates. But I have strong doubts as to the desire of all Western leaders, starting with President Barack Obama, to show that they are not just politicians but real statesmen, capable to rise to the challenge and take chances by promoting a just cause that may not be that popular.