How Ukraine Destroyed the Myth of Russian PowerPosted: February 25, 2014
Jan Techau writes: No matter how the crisis engulfing Ukraine plays out, it has already produced one result that is probably more important than anything else: it has destroyed the myth of Russian strength.
Over the past decade, Russian President Vladimir Putin has tried to convince both the world and his fellow countrymen that Russia is a resurgent great power. He was aided by an unmatched talent for tactical maneuvering, a relatively stable oil price, and a West bogged down by distracting wars and economic woes.
Putin pulled off a war in Georgia, created a Eurasian customs area to rival the European Union, duped the West on Syria, cunningly played former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, and then torpedoed Ukraine’s signing of a trade and association agreement with the EU. He did all this with resolve, shamelessness, and chutzpah.
And so the world started to believe that there was substance behind the posturing. European and U.S. nostalgists were only too eager to embark on a new Ostpolitik, based on the assumption that Russia was too powerful to deal with through regular diplomacy. Forbes magazine named Vladimir Putin the most powerful man in the world in 2013. And the Economist, as recently as February 1, announced “the triumph of Vladimir Putin.”
The few voices that tried to remind observers that none of this had much substance were not listened to. Audiences remained skeptical when they were told that Russia was actually a power in decline, equipped with the capacity to wreak havoc but not the ability to shape the world. Some liked to hear it because they disliked Russia, but almost all in the West continued to assign almost limitless power to the Kremlin.
But now Russia’s bluff has been called. It is not yet clear what lasting impact the sudden downfall of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych will have in the region. But what is already clear is that the myth of Russian power has been thoroughly shredded. The heroic people of Ukraine’s Euromaidan protest movement, helped unwittingly by the EU and some eleventh-hour U.S. diplomacy, revealed Moscow’s real power status….
- Ukraine’s turmoil brings tough challenge to Putin (vindy.com)
- Putin has no reason to interfere in Ukraine, says former Kremlin adviser (amanpour.blogs.cnn.com)
- Westward Shift by Ukraine Would Be Momentous Event (abcnews.go.com)
- Russia’s Putin, Germany’s Merkel discuss Ukraine over phone – Kremlin (voiceofrussia.com)
- Does Russia Really Need Ukraine? (nationalinterest.org)
- Ukraine’s Revolution: A Fight the West Can’t Afford to Win (server1.nationalinterest.org)
- Putin plots his revenge after embarrassing loss of face (thetimes.co.uk)
- Ukraine’s turmoil brings challenge to Putin – TVNZ (tvnz.co.nz)
- Westward shift by Ukraine would be momentous event (omaha.com)
- Op-Ed Contributor: Why Russia Won’t Interfere (nytimes.com)