Dr. Johanna Granville, a professor at the American University of Bulgaria, who has conducted extensive research in Ukraine, has written a thoughtful policy paper (“The Folly of Playing High-Stakes Poker with Putin”) that identifies some of the dangers that can arise from a U.S. policy that tends to divide Ukrainians rather than helping unite them. Though it was written a few weeks ago and thus does not take account of the most recent events, her observations are still pertinent and her essay deserves the attention of all those with an interest in helping keep the people of Eastern and Western Ukraine in the same state and avoiding both civil conflict and Russian annexation of some Eastern provinces.
In summary, here are the conclusions of Granville’s paper, The Folly of Playing High-Stakes Poker with Putin: More to Lose than Gain over Ukraine:
In the weeks following the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, both the United States and European Union have issued a range of sanctions to punish the Putin administration. But a belligerent response aimed at “punishing Putin,” even if confined to economic measures, will probably just escalate the crisis. Such actions increase ill will, freeze vital channels of communication, and damage the U.S. and EU economies.
Military measures, such as deploying NATO, especially U.S., ground troops on Russia’s borders, staging military exercises, and sending military aid to the unelected interim government in Kiev are even more counterproductive and dangerous. The Crimean annexation should be a wake-up call on another level. If the United States and NATO violate international law as they have in the Balkans, Iraq, and other locales, other states will feel entitled to do so as well.
The most important goal should be to prevent current East-West tensions from getting any worse. An especially crucial step is to help preserve Ukraine’s unity and prevent the outbreak of a civil war. That requires a decent working relationship with Moscow. There is an even worse scenario than growing disorder in Ukraine, however. The prospect of a full blown new cold war, and perhaps even an armed clash, with Russia is all too real, if the United States and the European Union powers do not adopt more sober, realistic policies soon.
For the full text of The Folly of Playing High-Stakes Poker with Putin, click here . Click here for Dr. Johanna Granville’s C.V. and synopsis of her first book, The First Domino: International Decision Making during the Hungarian Crisis of 1956.