“Russia and the West. Getting shirty with Vladimir. Three ways that the West could make life more difficult for a hostile Russia,” The Economist, 08.31.13. So Economist chooses to proscribe to Western governments how they should become a collective spoiler for Russia, conveniently forgetting what Russia can do in response. This kind of "analysis" doesn't add value to either understanding Russia's policies or responding to them, proposes confrontation which will be reciprocated and therefore be damaging to initiators.
See main points below with my comments in Italics:
- Mr Putin's influence is declining. European countries who were dependent on Russian gas used to be easy to bully. Now a mix of falling energy consumption, new pipelines that skirt round Russia, the exploitation elsewhere of shale gas and oil, and the subjection of Russian energy producers to EU competition rules has eroded his clout. Valid point, but not quite clear yet whether this trend will continue and actually lead to qualitative change in Russia's importance as an energy supplier to Europe.
- The West needs to deal with it on such matters as Syria, Iran, leaving Afghanistan, arms control and international terrorism. Except on Iran, Russia has offered little co-operation on any of these issues: witness Mr Putin's continuing protection of the vile Assad regime in Syria. That argues for a tougher approach from the West. Really? So 50% of transit through NDN to Afghanistan in 2011 didn’t count? Nor did sharing of info on the Tsarnaevs? Surely Economist writers can add more to my list of how Russia has helped on these issues.
- Three areas seem especially promising to apply a little pressure.
- One is the arc of countries around Russia's borders, where Mr Putin's clout through energy, trade, media and mischief-making is greatest. The Europeans should push ahead with the process of bringing in the more suitable countries, such as Moldova. Yes, the old game of 'zones of influences' that West accuses Russia of playing all the time apparently is quite acceptable if played by the West itself, according to Economist. Renewed competition in post-Soviet neighborhood is exactly what US needs to do as it seeks to draw down on the continent to pivot to Asia. Let EU itself, London-based outlet, decide whether, where and on what terms it can afford to expand, basing its decision on economic feasibility and sustainability rather than on what Economist sees as an urgent need to poke Russia in the eye.
- The second pressure-point is security. Russia's privileged status at NATO is based on the assumption that it is a friend. Now that Mr Putin says NATO is his enemy, the kid gloves should come off. Russian spies there (and elsewhere) should be hunted down and the sources they recruit prosecuted. Isn’t that done as part of any government’s counter-espionage routine anyway or is Economist proposing return to ‘good old Cold War days’ when 50 or more diplomats expelled at once and then reciprocated?
- The last area is the dull but important world of international organisations. Mr Putin has a sorry record of obstruction in outfits such as the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Russia cannot be expelled from these bodies, but it can be confronted more boldly. Would be interested in learning exactly how. And why let Mr Putin into any more? Russia has applied to join the OECD, a Paris-based think-tank for well-run countries. This body has a "like-mindedness" test for membership. Russia, under Mr Putin's unpleasant regime, clearly fails it. It is true that Russia doesn’t belong to OECD, but I don’t think Russia would smart for long from not being accepted – it is already in G8 and G20 and it has plenty of other, increasingly more important organizations to be busy with, such as SCO.