This week, meeting in The Hague, leaders from seven of the world’s biggest economic powers agreed to blackball Putin’s Russia, reducing the
When the Group of Seven -- the United States, Germany, France, Britain, Japan, Italy and Canada -- chose to bring Russia into their fold in 1998, it was assumed the privileges of membership would encourage the Russians to continue on their bumpy path toward democracy and a free-market economy.
In the aftermath of the Soviet Union's collapse, politicians, diplomats and academics in Europe and the U.S. had confidence a new world order was in place. Economic rivalries might continue, but brute force and grabs for territory would be aberrations from the norm, relics of a less evolved era. Among the great powers, at least, cooperation and collaboration would guide international relations and, as the eighth of the G-8, Russia would become just like the other seven.
Apparently, few people understood that though Russia could be brought into the club, the Russians might not be willing to follow house rules. Americans and Europeans assumed it would become obvious to everyone that there is really only one way to run a modern international system. To that, the Russians have finally said, "Nyet."
They watched as the Baltic states and former Soviet satellites such as Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary were incorporated into the
With longtime foes professing friendship but expanding their economic hegemony and military alliance to Russia's borders, Russian nationalists have found it easy to exploit their country's deep-rooted paranoia, a wariness planted by a long history of fighting off waves of invaders. And Putin, as the leading alarmist, has consolidated his power by assuming the role of the nation's staunch, steely-eyed protector against these encroachments.
It should have been no shock that Ukraine’s lurch toward integration with Europe would be one step too far for Putin. Ukraine and Russia have been bound together for centuries. There is simply no way Putin would allow all of Ukraine to quietly slip away. If
Sanctions will hurt him and expulsion from the power club will isolate him, but there are worse things for Putin. Being seen as a meek leader of a submissive nation -- that would be worse.
In Europe this week, President
Actually, a strong Russian leader backed by a majority of his people "proud of their own history" is exactly why there is trouble in Crimea. Ukrainians want to escape from that history while Russians want to cling to past glories.