Since the collapse of the USSR, Russia has felt backed into a corner and neglected by the international community and, indeed, has been. First, there was the quick snatching-up of post USSR states into the EU with no chance of admission for Russia. Next, there was the absolute refusal of Russian integrity by NATO, and finally a half-hearted attempt for democratic process building in Russia so that it may join into the New Liberal Economic Order. Today, we see a Russia filled with oligarchs and Russian “elites” that dictate everything from the financial sector to civil liberties. At the top of that Pyramid is Mr. Vladimir Putin, still waving his hands shouting, “Hey look at me! I’m important”. Well Mr. Putin, this time you caught the world’s attention.
That does not mean we should continue to play Putin’s archaic game of land politics. There is a way to deter and possibly compel Putin to stop these ludicrous foreign policy decisions while stabilizing Ukraine and leading it into 21st century prosperity. I propose the following 3-step solution to re-stabilize the European Security Order: First, Russia’s security must be isolated; this includes economic and military security. Second, Russia must be directly confronted, meaning there must be affirmative, “boot-on-the-ground” action in Kyiv (Київ), Crimea (Крим), Donetsk (Донецьк), and Luhansk (Луганська), in order to ensure Ukrainian security. Finally, Ukraine must be reinforced. Only after Russia’s “power” has been isolated and their Ruso-centric pseudo-rebellion confronted, can EU democratic liberal, peace-building institutions facilitate the necessary procedures to bring Ukraine out of the influence of its older, step-brother’s bullying.
As of now, the most action the US and EU have against Russia has been a few words like, “Hey, please stop that” and half-hearted sanctions on some Russian elites that may or may not do anything at all. Now, it is proven that sanctions by themselves are not effective at accomplishing foreign policy goals. No, it takes hard, fast, decisive action. The first step is to isolate Russia. Putin sees the situation as one where he stands to gain regardless, knowing that the US/EU is in no place to harm him. However, this can change. Isolate Russia. Instill a mass embargo on all goods: oil, exports, everything, cut off their economy. An army is only as strong as the resources that support it. Remove the resources and you remove the fuel to the fire. The United States happens to not need Russia for much of anything economically and can supply to the EU (temporarily) what Russia has offered in the past.
History tells us that some of the most effective economic foreign policy decisions had potential to hurt both parties, but in the end the stronger survived. Adam Smith discusses this in The Wealth of Nations. He reviews England’s 1651 decision to only allow the shipment of goods going into England on English ships, thus destroying the Dutch economy, whose primary asset were its shipping services. It hurt England temporarily by removing free trade, but since Holland’s only economic gain was shipping, they lost an entire economic sector to England, the primary importer. Similarly, the US/EU can sanction Russia; it will hurt temporarily, as they seek resources elsewhere but ultimately will reinstate the European security order. To paraphrase John Mearsheimer, a state will choose power over wealth. Russia will hurt more as their elites lose their number one client: Europe. As their economy drains so too does their military strength, thus introducing step two: Confront.
Russia, for weeks, has been putting troops on its shared border with Ukraine performing “drills”. Well, NATO needs to call their bluff by placing troops in areas where Russian troops have been sitting, but on the Ukrainian side, while they recruit and train the Ukrainian military. Although it may not be necessary in this new economic age to put troops on the ground, Russia thinks it is; therefore, we must convince them we think it matters. By sending a collaborative military group to cities where conflict has erupted, e.g. Crimea, Luhansk, Dontesk, the US and EU will effectively be calling Putin’s bluff and when Putin’s been isolated, he’ll be forced to fold. The nice thing about having a multi-state military alliance is that it leaves Russia with no single state to pick out as the primary aggressor. There is no way Russia can continue to build troops when its collective securities have been isolated. This is not to say that NATO has to aggress. Just put boots on the ground, (a massive amount of NATO boots), and Russia will remember where it stands in the world. When it does, the EU can reinforce Ukraine.
This is where the EU comes into play. The EU has been eyeing Ukraine as a benevolent state to their economy for some time. In November, the EU was as close as ever to starting the process of unionization, but Russia offered something better. Now, a new regime in Ukraine has emerged with a promise for more regional representation, rather than oligarchic rule. These are affirmative steps towards EU integration. If Russia’s activity is isolated and confronted, there’ll be no more Russian influence in Ukraine. There may be Rusoethnic groups that feel misrepresented, but, as stated earlier, the new regime has made alterations to fulfill this desire.
Then, the EU can begin to aid Ukraine through consultancy, observations, and funding. Ukraine is an asset. Countless studies by the Dutch, USAID, and others have confirmed this. Russia’s playing its cards slowly, but upon isolation and confrontation, there won’t be much left to offer. When Russia has nothing left to offer Ukraine, the EU should swing in with the best possible option at that time and create a true European Ukraine. The benefits could include open migration, agricultural and manufacturing economic growth for both, and civil rights that’ll knock Ukraine’s socks off. It’s a win-win with the only loser having already lost in 1991.
At this point Russia’s oil no longer get’s bullied through Ukraine, rather the EU’s Ukraine bullies Russia for use of its pipeline. Russia will have no choice but to play by the “rules” and we’ll see a reinstated European Security Order.
To conclude, in order to deter and compel Russia from further unnecessary aggression in Eastern Europe a three-step multi-state process must be taken: Isolate, Confront, and Reinforce. The U.S., thanks to NATO, can play a lead, but collaborative role with the primary benefactor: the EU. Both the EU and US will cutoff Russia from all liberal economic interaction, causing them to lose funding for military capability. The US will then position troops on the Ukrainian border to call Russia’s bluff. Russia will be forced to fold due to their lack of assets. The EU will risk most of the financial burden by integrating Ukraine into the EU. While this occurs, the US will trains Ukrainian troops in military combat so when NATO pulls out, they can properly defend their borders. In the short term, the US gains monetarily through the export of natural resources for occupying Ukrainian borders in a non combative way. In the long term, the EU adds a new state to its economy and continues to thrive. And, finally Russia, will go back to its corner and think its mistakes.