There are heated debates here and abroad about what exact policies should be put in place in response to Russian President
The first is that Putin paid no price for the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008. And he has paid no price for the virtual annexation of the Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Nearly one-fifth of Georgia still sits under Russian occupation, and the Russian military set up permanent bases in violation of the cease-fire agreement. But Western capitals, including Washington, have acted as though there was never an invasion of a fellow democracy at all.
In short, why wouldn't Putin think slicing off part of Ukraine was a relatively cost-free exercise?
The second lesson is that, as important as the
Arguably, the current
To paraphrase Josef Stalin's famous remark to Winston Churchill when the British prime minister cautioned the Soviet leader about not ignoring the Vatican when it came to the postwar settlement of Eastern Europe, "How many divisions does Brussels have?"
The third lesson is that there is no getting around the character of the Putin government in trying to "reset" relations. President
The president and his advisors hoped there would be a sufficient number of overlapping interests so that other disagreements could be put aside, even if not solved. However, the problem with this strategy has always been that whatever common interests there might be — for example, in reaching an arms control agreement — the greater and overriding priority for Putin was always reclaiming Russia's great-power status. In other words, Washington and Moscow were never truly on the same page when it came to the reset of U.S.-Russian relations.
And, finally, Washington has let its budget hopes drive its strategic decisions. In January 2012, the
But this new guidance depended on two assumptions: that there would be declining involvement in the Middle East, and that Europe was now a continent devoid of strategic competition.
Whether the former assumption can be maintained is an open question, given the chaos in Syria and Iran's hegemonic designs, but certainly for our treaty allies in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland, the latter holds no water — indeed, if it ever did.
No doubt in the days ahead there will be proposals to revoke Russian visas, freeze assets, recall ambassadors, cancel the
Over the longer term, those measures will be insufficient if the larger lessons of the past are not understood and made to underpin the strategies the U.S. adopts toward Ukraine and Russia.
There will be no peace for Ukraine until and unless Putin sees the cost for his behavior as being greater than the rewards, and there will be no permanent stability in Eastern Europe absent NATO expansion. And neither of those can occur until the U.S. puts aside the idea that the Russian government is just like any other government and accepts the fact that, in the absence of a strong American military presence, its competitors and adversaries will fill that vacuum.