Dulling Putin's knife and ending the Ukraine crisis peacefully depends largely on the EU. Sanctions will not impress Putin (he and his cronies are isolating Russia economically and financially more effectively than most sanctions could); peaceful yet tangible political steps within Europe will. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has made the right suggestion here: prompt establishment of a European energy union, starting with the market for natural gas and including joint external representation and a common pricing policy. This step, combined with further differentiation among supplier countries and progress toward implementing renewable-energy technologies, would invert the balance of power between the EU (Russia's most important customer for oil and natural gas) and the Kremlin.
Surely Putin has long understood, better than anyone else, how a few calls and promises from the Kremlin could readily recruit many of these local leaders in eastern Ukraine to win their cooperation in organizing local residents for pro-Russian demonstrations. To an unappreciated provincial councilor who has gotten words of assurance that he or she would be warmly welcomed into Putin's party of power, the idea of secession from Ukraine into Russia could become quite appealing. No bags of cash would be needed.
Yes, the Maidan protesters in Kiev's Independence Square were heroes, but the true fight begins now: the fight for what the new Ukraine will be. And this fight will be much tougher than the fight against Putin's intervention. The question is not if Ukraine is worthy of Europe, good enough to enter the EU -- but if today's Europe is worthy of the deepest aspirations of the Ukrainians. If Ukraine ends up as a mixture of ethnic fundamentalism and liberal capitalism, with oligarchs pulling the strings, it will be as European as Russia (or Hungary) is today.
Around 40 percent of Russia's trade is with Western Europe. Even if Russia fails to retaliate by itself imposing counter-sanctions -- an unrealistic assumption -- its weaker economy would quickly translate into lower sales by Western European companies to the world's eighth largest economy, as well as less certain input supplies from there.
Paradoxically, whereas the Western powers are probably powerless in Ukraine, Latin America's major players could exert great influence in stopping the unfolding economic, political, and human rights catastrophe in Venezuela. But doing so requires what most Latin American governments sorely lack: vision and courage.
Before our eyes, the post-Soviet international system in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia is being overthrown. Nineteenth-century concepts of international order, based on zero-sum balance-of-power considerations and spheres of interest, are threatening to supersede modern norms of national self-determination, the inviolability of borders, the rule of law, and the fundamental principles of democracy. As a result, this upheaval will have a massive impact on Europe and its relations with Russia, for it will determine whether Europeans live by 21st century rules. Those who believe that the West can adapt to Russian behavior, as Putin's Western apologists suggest, risk contributing to further strategic escalation, because a soft approach will merely embolden the Kremlin.
What the world is now witnessing in Ukraine is a political struggle between two different visions of modernity, good governance and a decent society. It is an echo, 20 years later, of what happened in 1989 and thereafter in many Warsaw Pact countries. They are now mostly members of the European Union and of NATO, living proof that history is not destiny. There is no reason why it could not happen now in Ukraine, in Russia. . .and elsewhere. The choice is for Ukrainians, Russians and others to make. But Europe and the United States should be there to help.
The first and most pressing issue is to stabilize the government in Kyiv. Ukraine's presidential election on May 25 will be a key moment. The vote must be free and fair, according to democratic standards. Moreover, it is essential that the state respects national minorities' linguistic and cultural rights and promotes social inclusion. European aid should be conditioned on Ukraine's performance in this area.
The West actually believes it will not make the same mistake that was made with the annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938 by Adolf Hitler under the pretext that in this region of Czechoslovakia, the majority of the inhabitants were of German race. Remorse certainly is quite praiseworthy. But it is too late to rewrite history. The situation before us today is not analogous to 1938, but rather to 1919. If there is something to remember, it is what the attempts to humiliate and isolate Germany after the First World War led to: the Germany of the Weimar Republic and the tragic Treaty of Versailles that led to Hitler's rise to power.
Consider the current global tensions caused by one neighbor against another in the Crimean peninsula. It's imperative for every nation in the Pacific that we keep something like that from ever happening in this region of the world. All states, and especially major countries, must respect international law and not infringe upon the territorial integrity of their neighbors. We must resolve disputes through dialogue, forsaking unilateral actions and inflammatory rhetoric, to ensure Asia does not experience what we are seeing right now in Europe.
One of China's overriding strategic objectives is to foster the development of a multi-polar world in which American hegemony is checked and China gradually gains the space to reclaim its leadership role in the Asia Pacific. Russia's reemergence as a great power 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union is conducive to this objective.
The consequences for both Europe and Russia would become significantly more dire if a complete breakdown in the dialogue on Ukraine were to lead to generalized trade and financial sanctions, including a disruption in Russian energy supplies to the West. Such an outcome would send Europe and Russia into recession and, most likely, reignite global financial instability