Europe’s and the United States’ principal challenge for the coming years is to develop a new strategy for dealing with Russia. This strategy will have to be built on a realistic understanding of Russia as it is, rather than on what the West would like it to be and hopes it will one day become.
In the short term, Belarus benefits from the Ukrainian crisis and the stand-off between the West and Russia. However, the worry in Minsk is that Ukraine may yet collapse, dragging Russia along with it.
The world is getting used to the Ukrainian conflict and the confrontation between Russia and the West. If Moscow and the Western countries start to consider this state of affairs the new norm, the consequences may be quite unappealing.
As Petro Poroshenko embarks on a long steep journey as leader of Ukraine, he would do well to study Eduard Shevardnadze's statecraft in Georgia, with both his great successes and the later disappointments.
While Kiev is desperate to achieve a full military victory almost at any cost, Moscow is reaching out with humanitarian aid, confusing and confounding its opponents. As to the war there, it still continues.
The United States seems intent to force Russia into capitulation over Ukraine, a situation caused by a poor understanding of economics on the part of Putin’s advisers. While low intensity battle will likely linger on, Russia remains in a more maneuverable position to offer a deal to the United States.
Going to war in 1914 was suicidal for the Russian state. Today, a Russian military invasion of Ukraine might well lead to a catastrophe with dire consequences for Russia itself, or to an all-out conflict between Russia and NATO.