Putin Needs Victory
Anders Aslund (PIIE) argues that the West should stop the Russian aggression now. This is the time to act because:
- Putin has nearly complete (if not all) control over political/military decision making in Russia. He faces no internal opposition and so one should not expect that anybody in Russia can stop him.
- Putin wants to restore the Soviet Union in some form. Crimea was an "appetizer" and Putin will continue aggression and, in fact, it is happening now in the East of Ukraine.
- Sanctions imposed on Russia are laughable. West has probably less credibility with Putin than President Kennedy had with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev after their disastrous summit in Vienna in 1961. That debacle led to the Cuban missile crisis. After Russia’s war in Georgia in August 2008, the West made some noise, but soon it turned quiet, ignoring the Russian aggression. Clearly, Putin expects that to happen once again.
Aslund suggests that Russia, however, is in no position to rival the West and the Russian economy is highly vulnerable. The popularity of Putin in built on the notion that he's a successful manager and there should be a limit to how much economic damage Putin can tolerate. The West needs to test this hypothesis by imposing a truly great cost upon him with a broad array of sanctions. Sanctions should be as deep as the ones imposed on Iran. At the same time, the West should obviously also supply arms to Ukraine as fast as possible.
Aslund concludes that the West needs to recognize that it cannot afford not to stop Putin. The earlier and more effectively that is accomplished, the lower the cost will be. The obvious parallel is the West’s failure to stop Nazi Germany in time in 1938.