As Russia Stirs More Trouble In Eastern Ukraine, The West Does Nothing

WASHINGTON – We were told that Russia would pay a heavy price for its invasion and subsequent annexation of Crimea, a flagrant violation of well established international law principles. Well, aside from a few targeted sanctions, I do not see much of anything.


We were told that Russia would suffer increasing international isolation compounded by crippling economic sanctions, until and unless Putin would come to his senses and reverse what he has done. This would have to include giving Crimea back to Ukraine.

Not much happening

Well, dream on. Despite limited and mostly symbolic economic sanctions, not much is happening. So far at least, I see no attempt to force Russia to give Crimea back to Ukraine. And, as far as increasing isolation is concerned, I do not see much of it. In fact, I see the opposite.

Another gas pipeline?

In an almost “business as usual” fashion, representatives of Russia’s gas conglomerate Gazprom were recently in Brussels to discuss how to advance South Stream, yet another mega gas pipeline project that would deliver additional Russian gas to Europe. The novelty here is that this pipeline would run across the Black Sea, through Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia, this way bypassing Ukraine.

Cuts to US nuclear weapons

On a completely different level, the Obama administration has signalled its intention to go ahead and make cuts to its nuclear weapons arsenals well ahead of the deadline required by an arms control treaty it signed with Russia. All this, by the way, when it has become known, (and this has nothing to do with the Ukraine crisis), that Russia has been cheating on an earlier INF Treaty.

The West is really tough

So there you have it.

“Russia behaved terribly. We –America and Europe, acting in concert– will show that we are dead serious about retribution by punishing Putin’s inner circle and then…well, then we go ahead and discuss new Russian pipelines, while we stand ready to cut our nuclear weapons. See how tough we are?” 

Whatever the merit for ech individual move, (and I am sure that some sort of semi-plausible explanation will be provided), taken together, these developments are clearly at odds with any declaration about “making Russia pay for this”.

Loud threats followed by openly contradictory moves invite only ridicule and contempt.

Real isolation

If the West and “the International Community” were serious about upholding international law, the sanctity of borders and all that, then Russia by now would have been denounced publicly and publicly removed/suspended from any and all major international organizations. Russia’s aggression would have been taken up by the International Court of Justice. And, finally, truly stinging economic sanctions would have been enacted.

Margaret Thatcher and Argentine aggression

When the Argentine military dictators invaded the Falklands in 1982, claiming Argentine sovereignty over these sparsely populated islands (under British rule) in the South Atlantic, a more timid British Prime Minister could have been tempted to settle. London could have agreed on a transfer of sovereignty, provided that the Argentine government would commit to respect the rights of the settlers, most of them still loyal to Britain, and so on.

But it did not go that way. And this is because the then Prime Minister was Mrs. Margaret Thatcher. She openly declared that such an open violation of international law would not stand. And so she sent a naval force to liberate the Falklands. Given the extremely long distance from Britain, this military expedition was difficult and very costly. But Britain prevailed. The liberation of the Falklands, whatever its cost, did serve the purpose of upholding basic international law principles openly infringed by rogue states.

Today, a weak Western response to aggression

Today, we have a somewhat similar scenario. Russia claims its right to protect ethnic Russians outside its borders. Yesterday it was about reasserting its historic rights over Crimea. Today, Moscow shifted its focus to Eastern Ukraine where Russian agents, (according to US Secretary of State John Kerry), are openly fomenting unrest, including secessionist demands.

And, in response to all this, America and its staunch European Allies do…what? They discuss a new Russian pipeline and declare cuts to US nuclear arsenals ahead of schedule.

Ridiculous and pitiful

This is ridiculous. And after a while it will become pitiful. Please remember that the USA and the EU have a combined GDP of more than US $ 35 trillion. Russia’s GDP is at US $ 2 trillion. Translation: we are strong; they are weak.

On the face of it, if the West would get its act together, America and Europe would have the means and the resources to make Russia pay for its crazy actions.

What it takes is another Margaret Thatcher to lead the way. Sadly, I do not see one coming along.


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