Putin’s Long Game

Op-Ed, The National Interest

March 21, 2014

Author: Simon Saradzhyan, Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Anyone with good knowledge of the post-Soviet neighborhood and time to think things through should have guessed that Russia would have acted to prevent the interim government of Ukraine from decisively anchoring their country to the West. The separation of Crimea could be just the Kremlin’s first move in what Vladimir Putin rightly sees as a long game.

It goes without saying that leaders both in Kiev and Western capitals must have displayed an astounding lack of foresight if they thought that Ukraine’s interim government could steer the country toward the West and Vladimir Putin would do little in response, other than impose sanctions and rattle his sabre.

It was also short-sighted on the part of the interim government in Kiev to hope that of the Russian-speaking population of eastern and southeastern Ukraine would happily accept an outcome, in which a victorious coalition excludes their representatives, but includes ultranationalists; fires their governors, and passes a bill to cancel the status of their mother tongue.

The leaders of the interim government also failed to anticipate that Moscow would respond to ramblings in the south and east in ways that they would not be able to neutralize with or without support from Ukraine’s Western partners.

Russian diplomats have been lately criticized for restoring the Soviet habit of “whataboutism,” but I too cannot help wondering what would have been the reaction of Western governments if protesters had built barricades in downtown Brussels or Berlin or Washington and stayed there for months, battling police, throwing Molotov cocktails and shooting. Would Western leaders have recognized an outcome in which a legitimately elected president of a West European country is ousted by what some describe as “rebels-protesters” rather than voted out or impeached? I guess these are all rhetorical questions.

See complete article here.

For Academic Citation:

Saradzhyan, Simon. "Putin's Long Game." The National Interest, March 21, 2014.

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