Putin is the devil in person. Worst, Hitler's incarnation. Never mind the fact that Americans do not believe it. Name-calling and smearing campaigns are very effective tools in domestic politics. Why shouldn't they be in international affairs? Henry Kissinger says they are not. (1) International relations are based on power and mutual respect. Personalities are secondary even though they play a role. In realpolitik terms, where is the Ukrainian crisis headed? A Russian humiliation, a humiliation such that in the final act Putin's character may play a part his adversaries may regret, if they do not release the pressure. What are their objectives?
They are clearly stated in several documents. (2) The ultimate goal is world domination. An intermediate step is Ukraine. "Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian Empire" writes Brzezinski in his seminal work, "The Grand Chessboard". (3) Preventing the rise of such a Eurasian empire has been a fixation for the two most powerful maritime nations: Great Britain and the United States. It is the very reason they fought two world wars. (4) Brzezinski's opinion has evolved. In a recent article, he states: "The West should reassure Russia that it is not seeking to draw Ukraine into NATO or to turn it against Russia". (5) He is echoing Henry Kissinger, America's foreign policy high priest, who wrote: "Ukraine should not join NATO". (6) Brzezinski and Kissinger are no peaceniks. They should be heard. Useful as they may be, their opinions come too late to alter the American foreign policy's trajectory. The pressure to control Ukraine is on.
Unrests in Eastern Ukraine will continue. Russian-speaking people will die. Putin will face a dilemma: intervene or stay put. If he chooses the first alternative, Russia will be subjected to damaging sanctions, crippling a flagging economy. (7) If he chooses the second, he will lose all credibility, domestically and internationally. In either case, it will be a victory for the United States. Washington will have a free hand in the Middle East, in Syria and Iran. American troops in Afghanistan will be repatriated through Caucasus and Central Asia. Western oil companies will plunder Russia's natural resources. Eventually, a depreciated rubble, a weakened economy, and high inflation will bring Putin down. (8) But will he accept his fate or will he rebel? How does a man bent on restoring Russia's imperial greatness react when his efforts come to naught?
This is where individual personalities come into play. If push comes to shove, if Russia is nothing more than a peon in a domineering empire, why not destroy that empire? Putin has the means to do it. He is no patsy. How will American officials react to his ultimatum? Will it be the end of times, Armageddon?
(1) "How the Ukraine crisis ends." The Washington Post, March 5, 2014.
(2) "Rebuilding America's Defenses", September 2000, "The National Security Strategy of the United States", September 2002.
(3) "The Grand Chessboard", Zbigniew Brzezinski, p. 46.
(4) Halford Mackinder aptly summarized that preoccupation: "Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; who rules the World-Island controls the world." Mackinder, Democratic Ideals and Reality, p. 106.
(5) "What is to be done?" Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Washington Post, March 3, 2014.
(6) "How the Ukraine crisis ends", Henry A. Kissinger, The Washington Post, March 5, 2014.