inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #0 of 133: Julie Sherman (julieswn) Tue 1 Apr 14 14:27
    
WE hare happy to welcome Sean Kay to Inkwell.vue:

Sean Kay is Robson Professor of Politics and Director of the Arneson
Institute for Practical Politics/International Studies at Ohio Wesleyan
University.  He is also an Associate of the Mershon Center for
International Security Studies at the Ohio State University and a
Foreign Policy Fellow at the Eisenhower Institute in Washington, D.C. 
He is a leading expert on American foreign and national security policy
with a long career of working on European security issues in
particular.  He has held previous positions as visiting professor at
Dartmouth College and at the Institute for National Strategic Studies
in the US. Department of Defense where he was also an advisor to the
Department of State on NATO policy.  In 2007-2008 he was a member of
the informal group of foreign policy advisors to the presidential
campaign of then Sen. Barack Obama.  He is the author of multiple books
including NATO and the Future of European Security (1998);  Global
Security in the Twenty-first Century:  The Quest for Power and the
Search for Peace (2005, 2011);  Celtic Revival?:  The Rise, Fall, and
Renewal of Global Ireland (2011);  and the forthcoming America's Search
for Security:  The Triumph of Idealism and the Return of Realism
(2014).

Interviewing Sean will be Angie Coiro, <coiro> on the WELL.

Angie Coiro is an award-winning journalist and interviewer, host of
the syndicated In Deep radio show. Her work has aired nationally on
Mother Jones Radio on Air America, and on public radio. Bay Area
audiences know her from Live From the Left Coast/The Angie Coiro Show;
KCSM-TV’s “Spotlight!”; KQED's Friday Forum; KGO radio; and for many
years of news and traffic reporting around the dial. Angie co-founded
the Tech Connects interview series at The Tech Museum of San Jose,
currently in its second year. She has a parallel career as a voiceover
talent, represented by JETalent in San Francisco.

Welcome Sean and Angie
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #1 of 133: Julie Sherman (julieswn) Tue 1 Apr 14 14:29
    
To get us started, here is a recent op-ed by Sean:

<http://warontherocks.com/2014/03/the-russia-crisis-proves-the-case-for-the-asi
a-pivot/>
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #2 of 133: Angie Coiro (coiro) Wed 2 Apr 14 08:47
    
Sean, welcome! 

Before digging into the meat of the politics here, I'd like to get
your take on the quality of the information most of us access and
digest on the Ukraine/Crimea situation.

It's been interesting to watch US news consumers try to catch up on an
international story with few clearly-defined heroes and villains. We
seem to have a limited number of templates at hand for understanding
the larger world, and the more complex the situation, the more those
simplistic templates fail us.

The sideshow of Liz Wahl's on-air resignation from RT exemplifies the
confusion of filters, interests and alleged media manipulation. A
variety of takes on the incident:
 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2014/03/05/former-rt-anchor
-liz-wahl-to-cnn-outlet-was-promoting-a-putinist-agenda/

http://www.truthdig.com/report/print/how_cold_war-hungry_neocons_stage_managed
_liz_wahls_resignation_20140319

http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2014/03/19/an_afternoon_with_liz_wahl_the_re
porter_who_quit_rt_and_hasn_t_heard_the.html

You've spent years as both an insider and a dedicated academic. At the
risk of reducing developments in the region to primers and FAQs - what
are the go-to sources of solid information? What news outlets do you
find most trustworthy - both traditional mainstream sources and
blogs/podcasts? 
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #3 of 133: Sean Kay (seankay11) Thu 3 Apr 14 11:11
    
Hi Angie,

Thanks so much for having me on here.  I appreciate the chance to
listen to what people are thinking - and answer important questions as
best I can.

It is interesting that for those of us who have studied or worked on
European security all the sudden its back in the news.  Nothing that
has happened to date has suprised me much - as this Crimea crisis was
one of the most predicted of the last 20 years, for those who were
paying attention to it.  One thing that has bothered me a lot in the
news coverage is a degree of disconnect between some declarative things
that are said by some officials - like the NATO Secretary General
calling this the worst threat to European security since the end of the
Cold War.  It is a major issue, and the illegal use of force and
annexation of Crimea cannot go left unaddressed - likewise pulling wise
levers to de-escalate the situation.  However, is it really the worst
threat to Europe since the end of the Cold War?  For one, Russia is
weak - as President Obama said last week in Europe, Russia is a
regional power threatening its immediate neighbors, but it is acting
out of weakness.  One of Putin's goals is to be seen as bigger and more
important than he is - some of our media narratives are feeding right
into to that objectively.  But Russia is overstretched and the
overwhelming balance of power favors the European allies backstopped by
the United States - its not even close in terms of political,
economic, and military power - even not including the US and its role
in NATO. Moreover, despite some people referencing this as a "threat to
the heart of Europe" it is actually still pretty far away from even
what we would call central Europe.  Though it is more proximate since
we have ourselves backed NATO right up into the backyard of a nuclear
armed Russia.

We have also seen many crisis in Europe in the last 20 years. In the
mid-1990s, a Norwegian space launch was tracked by the Russians and
they thought it was an incoming nuclear attack (it was a satellite to
monitor the northern lights).  In 1991 there was the coup against
Gorbachev.  Then there was the question of who controlled the nuclear
weapons as the USSR collapsed.  Boris Yeltsin, our close "friend" used
maps with mushroom clouds from his Mininstry of Defense to threaten new
members from potentially joining NATO.  Meanwhile, he leveled Checnya
where 100,000 civilians were killed and also surrounded his parliament
with tanks and blew it up - to get rid of the Soviet era communist
legislature that wouldn't disband for new elections.  Then, of course
there was the genocide in the Balkans, London and Madrid terrorist
attacks - and of course, the biggest threat to stabilty in Europe to
this day remains the Eurozone crisis.

So my first main point is that context has been lacking.  Also there
have been a lot of historical analogies that don't really tell us much
- but a lack of awareness of recent history.  What I see happening
around Russia is a fairly natural consequence of the collapse of the
Soviet empire, not the restoration of a new one.  This has been going
on around Russia - flare ups - invovling the 20 plus million Russians
living outside Russia-proper - at the collapse of the USSR.  Meanwhile,
also misunderstood in the west is the deep sense of betrayal Russians
proper have felt as they believe we have overturned the basic deal that
ended the Cold War with the enlargement of NATO.  Whether that is fair
or not, a statement by NATO in 2008 that Ukraine and Georgia would
eventually join it was to cross a clear redline Russia had put down -
and their credibility concerns prompted them to invade Georgia, Ukraine
pulled out of NATO, hardliners were consolidated in Ukraine and Putin
tightened his grip in Russia.  

So the large mainstream media has really not, to my mind done a good
job of putting this crisis in a context of even the most recent
historical developments.  Meanwhile, they are not challenging
statements by officials who have clear interests in them - i.e. NATO
Secretary General makes statements about how important NATO is to the
response to this - without really questioning the premise - perhaps it
can be said that the NATO 2008 aspect of this, or average Russians
thinking on that is in fact part of the crisis.  None of that is to say
that anyone but Putin is responsible for Putin's actions.  But if we
fail to understand the nature of the crisis - that much of this goes
deep in to Russian nationalistic thinking and has gone on for 20 years
now, while we hvae lectured them to define their interests as we think
they should see them rather than calculate ours based on how Russians
actually see them, then we have a problem.

As to where to go for good info.  BBC World is still the standard
bearer for me.  They have both good coverage and analysis.  Frankly, I
go straight to wireservices as well so I can get the facts that are out
there as unfettered as possible.  But there have been some very good
analysis at the same time - which I'm happy to point people to who are
interested in following up. I would generally caution against some of
the inside the Beltway analysis, which I think is very disconnected
both from the thinking about the crisis, and also from the American
public's general view on it.  So when I see the Washington Post run
articles talking about deploying troops into Eastern Europe, NATO's
rapid response force - or the Wall Street Journal running pieces
advocating for putting nuclear weapons infrastructure in the new NATO
members...I just move on.  The good news is, cooler heads are
prevailing in the Adminstration. One very good place for information
and analysis is the blog page of former US Ambassador to the Soviet
Union, Jack Matlock.

But overall much of this crisis is also a problem of worldview and
that hasn't really been reported on in the major media. America has had
a loose consensus on foreign policy for 20 years now between expansive
liberalism and neoconservatives both of whom radically redefined the
poltiical and geographic interests of the United States as extending
deep into Russia's backyard.  Lacking has been a sense of classical
realist restraint.  There are today a lot of interested parties in
Washington and elsewhere who want to hang their favorite policy
preference on this crisis, and I think discerning readers, listers and
viewers need to really cut through that and journalists need to
challenge assumptions and declarations - including from folks like me! 
So I look forward to that.

SK
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #4 of 133: Angie Coiro (coiro) Thu 3 Apr 14 17:37
    
>>much of this goes deep in to Russian nationalistic thinking and has
gone on for 20 years now, while we hvae lectured them to define their
interests as we think they should see them rather than calculate ours
based on how Russians actually see them, then we have a problem.<<

Can you go into this a bit more deeply? This sounds like the
underpinning narrative in any good job of persuasion, from sales to
politics: meet the person/client/opponent where they are, not where
you'd like them to be, and don't mistake their interests for your own.

So let's flesh that out. What, specifically, can the US do or say to
effect this change of strategy? Is this a tack you can see the
President embracing?
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #5 of 133: Sean Kay (seankay11) Fri 4 Apr 14 06:49
    
Its a difficult bridge to cross.  For one thing, embracing this
approach is politically difficult in Washington, D.C. - where there is
a greater tendency to look for short term solutions without
understanding the broader context.  Additionally, to understand that
there is a deeper challenge here regarding Russian sentiment, which is
manipulated by Putin to his advantage, is also for those who have been
driving US policy towards Europe - i.e. the enlargement of NATO - to
now concede that they got major elements of that wrong - i.e. the 2008
NATO declaration promising membership to Ukraine and Georgia in
particular.  We have come very much to see our actions as benign - and
they are - but the Russians have seen it very differently.  This is a
view that goes way back to early Yeltsin days, when reformers in Russia
warned about these things.  There is thus a lot of bureaucratic and
worldview interests at stake, and in my experience, we aren't good at
being reflective like that - and asking the key people who have driven
these policies to turn and embrace one of restraint and calculation of
Russian interests not as we tell them to do it but as they do it, runs
deeply against the way we have done business for a long time.

That said, I also think that the President is very much a realist on
these matters -as is the Chancellor of Germany.  So the key
decision-makers - like we saw on Syria will in the end look to
de-escalate.  Ultimately, I believe some loose architecture of a deal
is achievable - i.e. Russia moves troops away from Ukraine;  OSCE
monitors go into Eastern Ukraine;  some kind of declaration of a
long-term vision of a demilitarized Crimea;  and a locking in of
Ukraininan neutrality while it increases ties to the European Union
over the long-term.  We literally give up nothing by taking the NATO
piece off the table (besides signaling reassurance to our new allies in
Eastern Europe) for Ukraine (and the German Foreign Minister did just
that this week) because there is zero chance of it actually happening. 


But as to the larger question on Russia - that to me is key to the
whole thing.  Putin is responsible for his actions - the cognative
dissonence between our view and the general Russian view is also deep
and real.  The trick over the long term will be to gradually find ways
to see Putin decoupled from his public's desire to be seen as respected
and important in the world.  That his reckless behavior is doing
damage to that.  The seeds of the decline of Putinism are already well
advanced - just the $100 billion-plus in capital flight out of Russia
since this started is a clear indicator of that.

But also, we have to balance these realities with the fact that not
only is there no military solution to this; our intersts lie in
de-escalation, not chest-thumping - and not moving NATO further
eastward or deepening US involvement in areas of peripheral concerns -
especially when Europe is highly capable on its own and with some of
our help - because the NATO card feeds right into Putin's unfortunate
narrative and fires further Russian nationalism despite our best
intentions.  Moreover, we have *more* vital intersts in Russian
cooperation - i.e. on Afghanistan, Syria, and especially Iran.

SK
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #6 of 133: Sean Kay (seankay11) Fri 4 Apr 14 06:58
    
...another intersting part of that is that back in the 1990s, when the
NATO enlargement process began - most serious Russia experts warned of
these very outcomes;  and many NATO experts warned of the risk of
moving a values oriented democracy spreading project right up to
Russia's borders - without serious consideration of the miltiary,
geographic, or strategic implications.  We started to believe our own
narratives, without calculating our interests in terms of how the
Russians were perceiving and calculating their own. Today I see a very
big disconnect i.e. in the US gov't foreign policy thinking on this and
how this is perceived by many outside experts or former gov't
officials - like Jack Matlock - or even Henry Kissinger.  George Kennan
warned vehemntly against these kinds of approaches to post-Cold War
Europe.  Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates writes in his memoir
that NATO enlargement was one of the most poorly thought through policy
initiatives in his time around Washington.  But to oppose it was a
career killer for many in DC so people fell in line.

That said, only Putin is responsible for the bad judgment that will in
the end hurt the Russian people and their ambition.  And if we play
the cards right, then we can help to clarify that via isolation and
economic costs.  But we should also be prepared, if this escalates,
because they have sanctions pain they can reep on Europe - and the
Eurozone is deeply fragile and if it turns into an escalating gas
sanctions war, all will loose, including our nascent economic growth.

So all interets lie in de-escalation - I am very confident the
president gets this. 

Sean 
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #7 of 133: descend into a fractal hell of meta-truthiness (jmcarlin) Fri 4 Apr 14 10:27
    

It's very nice to read someone, like yourself, who sees through the
mainstream media's and political operators self-interest in hyping a
"crisis".  Maybe it's age on my part, but as time goes on I see so-called
crisis after crisis as being resolved or at least not being as bad as
originally hyped.

Also, thanks for the pointer about news outlets. It's hard to find news
stories without the sensationalist hooks.

I read somewhere in the past week about why Russia is very weak: dependence
on expensive oil and gas for their economy, population effects and so forth.
If you look ahead 10 or 20 years, do you have a sense of the kind of
Russia we might see?
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #8 of 133: Sean Kay (seankay11) Fri 4 Apr 14 14:40
    
I personally and professionally get very frustrated when I see NATO
officials, especially, calling Crimea the greatest threat to Europe
since the end of the Cold War.  It is, of course, a serious violation
of international law - but structurally what changed?  Putin lost
Ukraine, and gained a piece of land Russia already had de facto control
over - Crimea.  The vital interest for us is that it de-escalate as we
are talking about a range of engagement right up in the backyard of a
weak and nuclear armed Russia.  Clearly, the president has acted with
impressive restraint while stating important principles at the same
time.  But there is a lot of pressure to light up this policy like a
Christmas wish list of longstanding bureaucratic interests on budgets
and priorities - and most of them - like rushing Georgia into NATO; 
holding military exercises in Ukraine (which will happen in June); 
10,000 troops to Poland - these are all things far more likely to
escalate the crisis not diffuse it.  But the large media (CNN, etc)
seems to to know what some of the most basic questions are to explain
context - or even really want to dig too deep.  But if we look at
crises in this part of the world, Yeltsin killing 100,000 civilians in
leveling Grozny sure ranks higher to my mind - as did the need to
secure the Soviet era nuclear stockpiles at the end of the Cold War. 

Meanwhile, many are framing this as a neo-Imperial Russia.  And I
suppose Putin could want that.  But we should also look at actual
capabilities which are limited, overstretched, and decaying from
within.  Yes, Russia has tactical advantage in Eastern Ukraine - but
the "west" holds overwhelming strategic cards on this - so we would be
wise not to put ones down that risk only feeding into Putin's narrative
about the nature of the crisis - i.e. the role of NATO for example. 
The relative growth in Russia in recent years, has come for gas
exports.  But Europe needs them too - between 60% and up to 90% of some
European countries (important ones like Germany) get their supplies
from Europe.  Now people here in the US want to excellerate fracking in
order to offset the Russian flows - export more to Europe, make more
here at home. Its unclear to me that is a good idea.  But also Russia
needs to sell that gas - and needs the money they get from it. 
Meanwhile as you note, life expectancy for Russians - especially men -
is very low as are birth rates.  I believe what we are seeing is the
ongoing rumblings of the *collapse* of the Russian empire as it existed
via the Soviet Union and has carried on without much notice in the
west with flare ups - over the last two decades.  We would be wise to
react to it and signal our princples, recognize the limits of what we
can actually do about it, and not at the same time inadvertently
elevate Putin by making him more important than he is.

SK
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #9 of 133: Ron Levin (eclectic2) Fri 4 Apr 14 14:51
    
I think there are some in the West who may view the Ukrainian
situation as a means to leverage greater Russian support on other
issues of interest - namely the Iranian nuclear deal and the Syrian
civil war. 

What worries me is just how realistic a view Putin has of his
country's strength and ambitions. When somebody like Angela Merkel
describes him as "out of touch with reality," it's not very reassuring.
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #10 of 133: Sean Kay (seankay11) Fri 4 Apr 14 15:16
    
That is a great point.  Thank you.  So far, nothing Putin is doing can
be described as "irrational" at least so far as Russians define their
perspective generally.  The deep seated upset over things like NATO's
encroachment into their "backyard" as they see it is not just a Putin
thing - its a deeply held Russian sentiment - that also traces
historically with a traditional aversion to a sense of outside
encirclment and thus a desire for "buffer zones" etc.  Now to be fair,
that doesn't mean our desire to build zones defined by values and
democracy in that region is bad either - but to do so and then be
surprised when the Russians define their interests as they see them,
not as we think they should, that is failing on our end.  That said, it
would be a serious mistake of Putin to go further into Ukraine - as
the costs to his economy and domestic standing would be severe.  Even
still - he's wildly popular at home now - which disturbes me personally
a lot when I think of the treatment of gays and lesbians there and
also the abuse of activist groups like Pussy Riot.  But in six months
that could look very different.

Putin also seems to want to position himself as the guy who swoops in
and solves the problem for everyone - thus making Russia look like the
problem solver - when it helped exacerbate them in the first place - as
happened in Syria. 

You make a very interesting point regarding leveraging Russian support
on other areas - i.e. if there is backroom deal making going on - (as
rumor has it happens in world politics) what is the quid pro quo for
not going too hard on Crimea?  That woudl be an interesting question. 
I do know for sure that in 2008 the Russians hoped to offer sanctions
on Iran in exchange for us backing off Ukraine in NATO and we rejected
that - based on an argument that Russia do that because it was in their
interests and that we and Ukraine could do as we pleased, in effect. 
I believe historians will treat that failure to bargain badly given
where we are now.

But there are indeed many moving parts - and we have vital interests
well beyond Ukraine that all include the Russians - North Korea, Iran,
Afghanistan, Syria, climate change, you name it. This is all why I'm
hopeful that all parties will see the wisdom in restraint and
de-escalation.  That will require the Russians moving their troops back
from eastern Ukraine - but perhaps then us canceling some military
excercises we have scheduled via NATO *in* Ukraine in June - would we
do that?  I don't know.  We haven't been in the mindset to make
concessions out of a sense of Russia's declared interests.  On the
otherhand, Russia is also demanding things of Ukraine it would never
accept another country imposing on it (i.e. federalism) etc.  But
Ukraine's own interests also mandate they find a mechanism to resolve
this involving Russia, that's a basic reality.  So how to square all
that without appearing to give Russia something for having seized
Crimea - while the real issue is how to preven them from making a bad
judgment and going further into Ukraine.
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #11 of 133: the view from prescription hill (cjb) Fri 4 Apr 14 21:16
    
When historians examine the 2008 initiative to "eventually" expand
NATO up to Russia's historic, southwestern borders, who do you think
they will cite as the political and military "players" most responsible
for this unnecessarily arrogant action?
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #12 of 133: Sean Kay (seankay11) Sat 5 Apr 14 05:09
    
I think the short answer to that is one can look to the Bush
administration and its personnel - for 2008 as they were in charge. 
Interestingly enough, though the a key person that drove NATO policy
then was Victoria Nuland, who is now President Obama's Assistant
Secretary of State for European Affairs.  She is a very talented and
skilled Foreign Service Officer - but she too has been very deeply
engaged in these policies.  But I don't think one can point to "people"
- and the military has long been reticent on these extended
commitments without military logic to them dating to the origins of
NATO enlargement.  Instead I would focus on process - and while the
first round of NATO enlargement had a geographic logic to it -
especially with Poland, the commitment to an "open door" became
bipartisan and deeply ingrained in US foreign policy and Washington
circles.  To oppose it was not going to get one a job or advanced in DC
circles.  But this was a bipartisan worldview, more than anything and
these kinds of policies take on their own momentum.

So, for example, this week, Alexander Vershbow, who is a very senior
NATO official said the following - stating that "NATO enlargement has
been good for Russia" and that:  

"Moreover, rather than threaten Russia, NATO’s enlargement – along
with that of the European Union -- has spread stability, democracy and
the rule of law all across Europe. Russia’s western borders have never
been more secure. And large parts of Central and Eastern Europe have
seen unprecedented economic development and cross-border trade and
investment, from which Russia has also benefitted."

Sandy Vershbow is a top notch career foreign service officer whom I
have the absolute highest regard for.  And, I think his comments,
though, reflect this worldview - one that lacks any real
self-reflection of Evidence A of the failure of this approach right now
in Ukraine.  And I do not expect what I would call the Washington
consensus to shift on this.  And, his comments on their own accord are
also true - but that is irrelevant to what Russia thinks about it and
confuse cause and effect because the things he points to have more to
do with the European Union, not NATO.  And while Russia is repsonsible
for its illegal and illegitimate actions, our failure to calculate our
interests in terms of how they calculate theirs - is our failure.

I think this becomes hugely important because I don't see a way to
de-escalate this crisis that does not include a permanent neutrality
status for Ukraine and a non-NATO status.  NATO can keep its door open
just by emphasizing Art 10 and of course always reassess.  And, Ukraine
has to make its own choices - but we should help them see the benefits
in this because the fact is - as the German FM said last week, there
won't be NATO membership for Ukraine.  On the other hand, we have
scheduled military exercises in Ukraine this June - which inadvertently
feed into Putin's and Russia's narrative - which is a logical
extension of doing more of the same on our part.  But to accept a
neutrality deal for Ukraine goes against 20 years of dominant worldview
on this.

Ultimately, I think that the US public has to have been plugged in on
these issues.  There were no major public debates in Congress on these
matters - and when I was working on these issues, there was a general
sense that it was good avoid discussion of the new commitments we were
taking in Eastern Europe.  It was presented as a feel-good spreading
democracy movement, but it has very serious military and strategic
implications.  But those were de-emphasized and now we see the outcomes
as Americans now have to consider their vital national interests in
terms of the risks - and dramatic costs - of a new cold war kind of
stand off and providing forward defense for NATO allies.  I think all
that is avoidable, but I think it would require a major change in
worldview from the process that got us up to this point...
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #13 of 133: Angie Coiro (coiro) Sat 5 Apr 14 10:27
    
Really appreciating your deep, nuanced knowledge of this mess and its
history, Sean. That nugget about Victoria Nuland is interesting!

Going back a ways, I'd like to probe this:

>> The trick over the long term will be to gradually find ways to see
Putin decoupled from his public's desire to be seen as respected and
important in the world.  That his reckless behavior is doing damage to
that.  The seeds of the decline of Putinism are already well advanced -
just the $100 billion-plus in capital flight out of Russia
since this started is a clear indicator of that.<<

vs this:

>>Even still - he's wildly popular at home now.<<

I'm not jumping on the obvious question here. Wild popularity of
presidents who are gutting the economy is not exactly unfamiliar
territory in the US. (Pondering whether a smiley or winkie is necessary
here ...)

But I am curious about the Putin messaging machine inside his own
country. How thoroughly does the average Russian grasp the issues at
hand? Putin's suppression of contrary voices is a given in discussions
outside Russia -

http://www.anthropology-news.org/index.php/2013/10/22/silencing-dissent-in-put
ins-russia/

How does that play at home? 

(Lest anyone read a tone of judgment about the knowledge of the
average Russian: no. I'm well aware most Americans can't find Crimea on
a map. Hell, the number of Americans who think New Mexico is part of
Mexico is humiliating. 

But as Sean notes the importance of NATO and the US piercing their
traditional filters of the situation to grasp the Russian POV, I'd like
to know how this situation is being narrated to the Russian citizenry,
without assuming it's identical to the process here.)
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #14 of 133: Angie Coiro (coiro) Sat 5 Apr 14 10:36
    
On another note - Sean, what are your thoughts on the decision of NASA
to largely discontinue working with Russia? One intriguing take on
that:

http://www.theverge.com/2014/4/3/5577520/nasa-ban-russian-communication-about-
money-not-crimea

How much weight does space cooperation carry with Putin to begin with?
You paint a picture of a conflict with a long history, tackled by
politicians focusing on the short term. If there's anything that relies
on the long game, it's space exploration and research - a hard
economic sell in the best of times, and on our side one that's moving
more and more into private hands. So does this constitute a respectably
big factor to either side?
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #15 of 133: Sean Kay (seankay11) Sat 5 Apr 14 11:41
    
Thanks.  On the first point, Putin has dramatically consolidated, over
many years now, state control over media.  There are some outlets that
can challenge things still, but its more and more difficult.  Needless
to say, this was going on while we were also working with and
cooperating with Putin - because at the end of the day, our national
interests require it.  But you hit on a key thing that requires some
more careful elaboration in that there is a disconnect in that the
long-term goal has to be to seperate Putin's actions from the desire of
Russians on the whole to be seen as respected and important.  That can
be hard to do when Putin himself is ginning up the state media, and
pulling these narrative cards like NATO enlargement, etc.  But the
Russian elite, and the public can also see what is going on, they have
access to the range of globalization tools - and crucially they are
aware - and the gov't there has reported - that they have lost about
$100 billion in capital flight since this started;  and there are
estimates that they would lose another $50 billion a quarter.  Average
per capita income in Russia remains very low comparatively - and they
do have a long history of being willing to suffer costs for national
objectives.  That said, ultimately, it will be noticed that Russia is
being uninvted from a range of things like the G8, and its oligharchs
will feel the financial pinch.  Ultimately, I believe Putin will see
this risk of internal erosion and thus choose off-ramps rather than
escalate, but that is an unknown still.  But the Russian senior
miilitary staff also know well tha their capabilities for extended
miltiary operations are weak, and that the risk of overstretch combined
with internal decline could in the end de-stabilize Russia. 
Ultimately, my point is that Russia is overstretched and objectively
teh stated goals of Putin are not being met.  This will seep into the
system.  But - that will take time, and patience.  Unfortunately in
America we want things solved quickly - but this could take a long time
to play out - or Putin could turn.  We also have seen a model of Putin
where he stokes up a crisis - as in Syria - but then comes swooping in
as the guy who "solves it" and everyone should be grateful for. 
Meanwhile, if we come in too hard, we risk eroding the consensus in
Europe for how to respond as well and that woould also inadvertently
play into his narrative.  So in the end - as with the original concept
of Kennan's containment - it should be mainly political, and look for
bargains to de-escalate.
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #16 of 133: Sean Kay (seankay11) Sat 5 Apr 14 11:47
    
As to the other quetsion - on space, etc.  We rely heavily now on
Russian lift and spacestation cooperation.  Those are longstanding
dynamics that are locked in place - I don't see them as being too
effected - especially as both countries are concerned about losing a
space edge to China.  I think the larger point though is interesting. 
For example, NATO said it would suspend cooperation with Russia.  This
means basically cancelling seminars and some info sharing.  When asked
if it would mean suspending cooperation on Afghanistan withdrawal
routes, the NATO SECGEN said "no".  So on the one thing that really
actually is important in the relationship, that would go onwards.  The
Russians did pull their ambassador to NATO this week though becuase
they are now arguing that our talk of troops in new NATO member states
violates the agreement on which NATO enlargement happened (when we
promised not to permanently deploy troops or nuclear infrastructure -
Poland is now apparently looking for 10,000 troops and we have planned
military exercises in Ukraine this June - both very bad ideas in this
context to my mind).  But the bottom line is this:  we have peripheral
interests in Ukraine - at best.  We do not have a treaty commitment to
them and we are not obliged to them.  Our interest are in this not
escalating further and figuring out a way out that will, in best case,
return some sense of normalcy and a long-term status for Ukraine.  The
political costs for illegally siezing land have to be signaled to be
sure.  However, planners in Washington also have to weight broader
interests - Crimea is important - as are the concerns of allies near
Ukraine - and as is the future of Ukraine as a stable state between
Russia and NATO.  But so too is Russia's role in dealing with North
Korea, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan - add climate change to that too.  And
there is no solution to any ofthose issues that doesn't also involve
the Russians.  So there will have to be a lot of reconciling
cost-benefit and interests and morals going forward.  My guess is the
space cooperation will go on largely unaffected.
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #17 of 133: Ron Levin (eclectic2) Sat 5 Apr 14 13:20
    
<Wild popularity of presidents who are gutting the economy is not
exactly unfamiliar territory in the US>

Well, presidents (like Reagan or GWBush) who are doing long-term
damage to the economy can remain popular as long as the current economy
remains healthy. But if it crashes, so does their popularity.

And that leads me to this question: how long will it take for the
average Russian to feel the effects of the sanctions and capital
flight, and how might that affect Putin's standing? Do Russians hold
the president responsible for their economy the way they do here (or
will they rally around him even more)?
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #18 of 133: Sean Kay (seankay11) Sat 5 Apr 14 14:02
    
Unfortunately, because of how Putin has organized the economy, what
matters more is not how average Russian feel the economic pain, but
rather the very rich oligharchs and those who benefit, especially fro
the energy sector which has been the main area of growth over the last
decade.  Likewise, as capital is fleeing the country in mass quanity it
will be much harder for the state to finance borrowing and keep the
ruble competitive.  So in the end, its more a matter of waiting out
long-term structural effecs.  Finally, I would add that miltiary
modernization has been linked to the growth of more capital out of the
gas sector, and absent that, the miltiary will go back into steep
decline as it had been for a long time previously.  The Russians have
serious capabilities for small operations - not large end sustained
battlefield maneuver situations with a lot of need for supply and lift
and so on.  In other words, they could move into Eastern Ukraine - but
could they hold it, while the strong parts of the economy are deeply
eroded?  Probably not for long. But in terms of major change, the best
bet is that Putin adjusts his own calculation of interests going
forward - otherwise, it will be a long haul. But in the end
overstretched ambitious tend to revert back on themselves.
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #19 of 133: Igor Karpov (karpov) Sat 5 Apr 14 21:44
    
>>We do not have a treaty commitment to
them and we are not obliged to them.  Our interest are in this not
escalating further and figuring out a way out that will, in best case,
return some sense of normalcy and a long-term status for Ukraine.  The
political costs for illegally siezing land have to be signaled to be
sure.  However, planners in Washington also have to weight broader
interests - Crimea is important - as are the concerns of allies near
Ukraine - and as is the future of Ukraine as a stable state between
Russia and NATO.<<

Then why some US officials like Victoria Nuland took a part in
destabilizing the situation in Ukraine? I mean her infamous 'Maidan
cookies' in the first place. Was it her own initiative, given her
involvement in European politics you have mentioned?
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #20 of 133: Sean Kay (seankay11) Sun 6 Apr 14 04:57
    
I think that this is a question that historians will puzzle over for a
long time.  I do want to re-emphasize that ultimately Putin is
responsible for his reckless and illegal actions, and that is
important. But, I think it is also very important that if we are to
understand how to see this de-escalate and move towards long-term
stability without undermining other vital interests, then we have to
understand the context of the situation. One is that the popular media
has failed to look at this in perspective - Putin lost his major buffer
in Ukraine and gained a piece of territory they already had control
over.  Its an absolute gain on the ground, but a massive relative loss
for Russia.  Of course now we own the responsibility for the economic
(we meaning the US and Europe) aspirations of 40-plus million
Ukrainians.  My best guess is this means we'll be on the hook for about
$25 billion just to get them through the end of the year, and then a
lot more after that - and then they will need to go through radical
economic reforms which will be highly disruptive.

But back to the original point, I can only offer a speculative theory
on this - but the best I can offer is that this is the culmination of
trends of a worldview on how we have seen our role in Europe and
especially its eastern periphery since 1994.  So in that sense the
logic behind the last 6 months or so on Ukraine is highly consistent. 
I think that serious damage to our interests was done with the
conversation on unsecure phones that was leaked by the Russians, as
that played into Putin's narrative and going out in the street passing
out cookies probably again, nice for our worldview and I empathize with
it, but bad for the context of the Russian relationship.  So I see
this mainly as a culmination of a linear trend in our thinking that
failed to calculate our interests well.  Meanwhile, John Kerry has been
deeply involved elsewhere (Syria, Iran, Arab-Israel) and the President
has only so many hours in his day.  Ultimately though personnel does
matter, and so it shouldn't have been a surprise that we would have
seen more in our Europe strategy without a change in worldview in it. 
Yet to implement the "pivot to Asia" which is very important we need to
reign in our role in Europe - handing over lead responsibility to the
very wealthy and capable allies there - with our support but them in
the lead;  narrow our role in the Persian Gulf, and invest heavily in
the domestic foundations of our human capital and economic power at
home.  But instead we mainly stayed the course in Europe without
looking hard at how to really transform our role there after 60 plus
years dominance and 20 years of pushing our role right up into Russia's
backyard - a policy by the way we would never tolerate for a minute if
another country was doing in our own...
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #21 of 133: Ron Levin (eclectic2) Sun 6 Apr 14 07:29
    
I think some in the American/European foreign policy community may
have come to view Russia as a minor power who might one day itself join
NATO, and therefore wouldn't necessarily see NATO expansion as
encroachment so much as inevitability. 

As you point out, however, Russians themselves have a very different
view of themselves vies-à-vis the West. Even if they were to accept the
West no longer poses a military threat (a very big if, of course), the
Russians still see themselves as the center of their own empire, not
the distant province of another's. 
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #22 of 133: Sean Kay (seankay11) Sun 6 Apr 14 09:07
    
I think that is a fair read. And also, while many fault the US gov't
for rushing on NATO enlargeent, it should also be noted that,
especially in the Clinton years, there was a major effort to bring
Russia into the fold (which meant, for Clinton turning his back while
Yeltsin was killing 100,000 civilians with the Russian army's brutal
campaign in Chechnya for example).  So we enlarged NATO with an eye
torwards not upsetting the Russiand and trying to explain to them why
*we* saw it all in *their* interests, which out really thinking much
about how they were seeing things.  But Russia also made gains -
including commitments not to station troops in new allies (who had
every right to align as they saw fit) or nuclear weapons and
infrustructure and we put Russia into the G8.  Russia too very much
failed to take advantage fo further engagement opportunities - i.e. on
missile defense cooperation and its politiclaly leaders also used NATO
as a foil to increase their political hand at home.  Meanwhile, many in
the US truly believed that it was possible that one day Russia too
could join NATO - but the criteria and standards were so high so as to
require that to be an entirely new "Russia".  And, we skipped passed
stated criteria and standards when pushing on Ukraine and Georgia in
2008 - one of which is that NATO requires new members to have resolved
border or territorial disputes with neighbors and minority rights
questions.  So, yes, and the Russians do see themselves as a major
power.  As Strobe Talbott often rightly said, the question for the
Russians was how to define their greatness.  Putin's actions today are
undermining that - and we also risk over-reacting too rather than
aligning to capabilities - and if so inadvertently making Putin seem
bigger and more important than he is.  As Presidnet Obama rightly said
- America does not have national ecurity interests in Ukraine - we have
peripheral European interests and broad interests in signalling costs
to land grabs to be sure.  But the ability to "do something" is very
limited and requires strategic patience and awareness of the zigs and
zags of history.  Let's see how this looks to the Russians in six month
rather than leap (as many in the press are) to all kinds of policy
reactiosn based on what they "think" Putin is doing or can do.  And as
Obama also rightly said, Russia is (as you note) a regional power - it
is threatening its immediate neighbors - but not out of strength - out
of weakness....
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #23 of 133: Igor Karpov (karpov) Sun 6 Apr 14 10:01
    
How do you think, is the strategic alliance between Russia and China
possible? Could not the pressure on Putin - and Russia in his face -
lead to such result?
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #24 of 133: Sean Kay (seankay11) Sun 6 Apr 14 10:58
    
That is a great question.  Russia has sought to cultivate both a
relationship with the west and with China - a bit of a keystone between
the two for much of the last decade - and they have signed joint
declarations in opposition to missile defense and unipolarity in the
world.  However, the Russians also are nervous long-term about the rise
of China, vulnerabilities to their energy rich areas in eastern
Russia, and so on.  Crucially, there is a long history of tension
between the two powers, and China and the US have so many deep
integrated economic interests, its very hard to see China putting that
at risk over i.e. Ukriane.  Moreover, China is owed (I believe) about
$3 billion in grain credits from Kiev.  Finally, China is also itself
very consistent on the issue of sovereignty - and thus it has held
steadfast in not deviating from that and i.e. abstaining at the UN on
resolutions Russia would have hoped it would have voted with it on.  Of
course they hedge and keep their options open.  But I personally
believe that one of the most important levers we have on this issue is
to keep Putin off his stride by working the old "China card" very
creatively.  On the other hand, there are some who believe we should
not risk too much alienation with Russia, because at some point they
might be an ally in some kind of neo-containment of China.  Certainly,
a lot of moving parts.  Another issue is whether the US response in
Crimea resonates in Asia - I see the two as seperate because we don't
have a treaty commitment to Ukraine, and we do with i.e. Japan and
South Korea plus 50,000 and 30,000 troops, long range airpower, naval
power, etc.  So the two don't equate to my mind but some argue that
they do - and some Japanese academics are saying they are nervous about
a "weak" reaction on Crimea landgrab with perhaps pertinance to
islands near them.
  
inkwell.vue.476 : Sean Kay, The United States Confronts New Challenges in Ukraine and Russia
permalink #25 of 133: descend into a fractal hell of meta-truthiness (jmcarlin) Sun 6 Apr 14 13:32
    

> Ultimately, I think that the US public has to have been plugged in on
>  these issues.

"Aye, there's the rub."

I'm afraid that almost no one in DC wants the American people deeply
knowledgeable and involved with this issue. And in our culture these
days, "long term" is three months give or take.

I'm concerned that Putin is continuing his aggressive push into the
Ukraine with at least the accusation of him being behind seizure of
state buildings. But I do wonder how much of this is under his direct
control. That is not clear to me.

<http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/06/us-ukraine-crisis-storm-idUSBREA350B
420140406>
http://tinyurl.com/nsyfhnh
  

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