- The Economist and the Telegraph urge Western leaders to confront not just Ukraine’s government but also Vladimir Putin. After 3 months of unrest the country is now expected to have early elections (the official presidential statement in Ukrainian doesn’t say when) at best, under a weak deal just signed between the government and opposition leaders. That alone may not do much to solve deep-seated problems, a decade after the Orange revolution.
- As to Mr. Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has started in her third term to take a (slightly) firmer stance, but she’s constrained by a need for Russian gas to hedge dubious energy policies. President Obama’s talk of a “line” that shouldn’t be crossed has no credibility after his about-face on Syria. Ukrainian Defense Minister Pavlo Lebedev is not even picking up the phone when Secretary Hagel tries to reach him. Putin will continue to push against an impotent EU (fear our travel bans!) and a lame duck US administration, as much as he can get away with. It is difficult to see where the fortitude to tell him to back off is going to come from. Yet in the words of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko:
“Those who underestimated Moscow’s readiness to use whatever means to maintain a sphere of influence must draw lessons from this development and help overcome Russia’s imperialistic claims.”