Home » Foreign Forces » Panel: Putin Surprised By E.U., U.S. Unity on Ukraine Issue

Panel: Putin Surprised By E.U., U.S. Unity on Ukraine Issue

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has been surprised by the continuing unity between the European Union and the United States in keeping economic and diplomatic pressure on Russia for its seizure of Crimea and continued meddling in Ukraine, three experts on Eastern Europe said Wednesday.

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C., think-tank, Niels Annen, a member of the German Bundestag, said Russia expected the European countries to drift apart over time and pursue their own policies and interests.

“We also kept open the avenues for dialogue with Russia” in what will “keep us busy over the next years.”

Sir Andrew Wood, a former British ambassador to Russia and now a fellow at the London-based think-tank Chatham House, said under Putin Russia has evolved into an authoritarian state. “The nature of Putin and Putinism is something like . . . [and] Yalta II isn’t going to work,” referring to the World War II agreement by the United States, the United Kingdom and Soviet Union of spheres of influence for the major powers in Europe.

“Can Putin change? He probably cannot.”

Wood’s colleague at Chatham House, Keir Giles, said Russia under Putin “reverted to its default settings” in relationship to its neighbors. He and Wood expressed doubts over the second Minsk agreement—to cease fighting between Ukraine and Russia—being effective even in the short term.

“I think we are being forced” to arm the Ukranians with defensive weapons because “the Russians are moving down that road” of continued military conflict, Wood said. Later he added, “Russia could stop [the flow of men, arms and its own soldiers into Ukraine] straight away.” Minsk II gives the Russians too many chances to point the finger at Ukraine and blame it for violations.
Giles added, “While we re-set, they re-arm.” He added “Russian behaviors have not changed,” but its ability to back those behaviors up with military muscle has.

“Russia is not an ordinary country,” Annen said. “It is a big power” with nuclear weapons. He suggested the West needs “to take into account Russia’s security interests.” But Giles said Russia sees its security interests “extending several hundred miles beyond its borders,” threatening the Baltic states, Poland, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

While the nuclear weapons modernization program is more limited than was predicted, Russia has stepped up its rhetoric on possible use of these weapons. Wood cited recent comments of the Russian ambassador to Denmark saying nuclear weapons could be used on the Danish fleet in case of war. “It actually is a very stupid way of talking.”

He added, “Do we [the Russian people] really like it when the president talks about nuclear weapons?”

Annen said the Minsk agreement at least keeps the channels of communication open between Russia and Ukraine. “It is not much; it is something.”

“The question is dialogue with whom” and over what, Wood said. “Putin is a serial liar.”

While defense spending in a number of NATO countries is expected to rise above 2 percent of gross domestic product in the coming year, Giles said that metric needed to change. The spending level was set before the crisis in the Ukraine began. In some cases, the increased spending is going toward military pensions and not modernized weapons.

Annen said few in Europe or the United States realize the potential impact of a recently signed agreement between the EU and Ukraine over economic development and what each party has committed itself to doing under that accord. “This country is in an extremely difficult position” militarily, economically and in fighting corruption.

Looking to a future Ukraine, he said, “Joining a club [NATO or the EU] is not solving a problem.” He specifically cited as examples Romania and Bulgaria, struggling nations that are members of both organizations.

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Categories: Foreign Forces, News & Analysis
John Grady

About John Grady

John Grady, a former managing editor of Navy Times, retired as director of communications for the Association of the United States Army. His reporting on national defense and national security has appeared on Breaking Defense, GovExec.com, NextGov.com, DefenseOne.com, Government Executive and USNI News. – See more at: https://news.usni.org/author/jgrady#sthash.y5BpciUO.dpufPut

  • Mikronos

    Arming Ukraine will only exacerbate the problem. They are very well able to handle their ‘rebels’ themselves. Had Putin wanted to invade Ukraine there would be a Russia-friendly government in place. Had the current Ukrainian government wanted peace, they should not have outlawed half the citizenry and declared war on 20 percent of them.

    • Neil Nelson

      The problem is the Russian military forces and equipment in the rebel area which Ukraine is not able to handle themselves, and to that degree Russia has invaded Ukraine, certainly Crimea. Peace will be obtained when the Russians leave Ukraine. Ukraine is modernizing its significant and long standing weapons industry and will soon have all the offensive weapons it needs. However, if the Russians mount an offensive, the West should send offensive arms.

      • Mikronos

        Are you kidding? Where do you think the Ukraine is getting all the military equipment it had deployed against the east? Hint: not Russia.

        Ukraine had, until very recently, a significant arms export business and the equipment of two complete Soviet ‘defence’ fronts in storage. Some of that was probably mothballed in the East. Slavyansk is the location of one of the largest arms dumps on earth.

        If, as has occurred twice already, the ‘russians’ beat back another “massive tooth-breaking offensive” by the Kyiv forces, I think the world should press Kyiv to settle its military ‘problems’ peacefully..

        Frankly I’m surprised they haven’t forced that issue already.

        • Neil Nelson

          You appear to be saying that the weapons Ukraine is currently using are from pre-existing stockpiles and I would agree plus there have been shipments to Ukraine of non-lethal or more defensive oriented weapons. And I would say that the primary issues with Ukrainian forces have been the lack of training and experience and capable commanders and those are being addressed. However, weapons technology has advanced since the accumulation of these aged stockpiles with the Russians having an advantage of more modern weapons. The West should send whatever weapons it thinks will be useful if there is another Russian advance.

          A Russian advance would need to be stopped and possibly by means not yet being discussed. The credibility of the West depends on it.

          • Kalinin Yuri

            Unexperienced Ukranian military? Sorry, here would not agree. Ukraine as well as Russia has a lot of all kind of military academies + a lot of experienced officers from the USSR times that have been through Afghan, Angola, Syria, Vietnam. I am not talking about those that got their real experience at war. At a war you either learn quick or you are dead.
            Supply lethal weapons – let me again to disagree. Cheaper and quicker make them sit and talk to the separatists. So far nobody wants to talk to the rebelling regions.
            By the way- have you seen the children of the top Ukranian politicians among the Ukranian soldiers in the real war zone? Son of Poroshenko is in Kiev and a deputy.

          • LES1

            The “Russian advance” never stopped. What is, was, and will be happening is a “blitzkrieg in slow-motion”.

          • Kalinin Yuri

            And later be just like the German soldiers in May 1945 on the red square marching with road washing trucks behind them. Or you can freeze somewhere near Smolensk like Napoleon troops did and run home quicker then a horse and these darn cossacks from Donbass just like in those times will scream to the window of your house – bistro!!!! (quick) At least now you know where from this word BISTROT comes in Paris.
            Both – Hitler and Napoleon have been dreaming about stopping them Russian bears uneducated subhumans.
            But one advise – before going for a war, shoot your foot first just to get a slight idea that a war could hurt.

        • Neil Nelson

          I see more in your post than previously. I do not see what the West would gain by pressing Ukraine to submit to demands under threat of invading Russian forces. The Russians need opposition for their actions and Ukraine is putting an effort in to doing that. The West needs to help Ukraine keep the heat on.

        • Secundius

          @ Mikronos.

          They have! It’s call “Rattling the NATO Cage”, Putin doesn’t want to make the First Offensive Move. So their trying to Provoke an International Incident, by seeing Who Breaks First…

  • James Bowen

    Another course of action is to recognize that Russia sees Ukraine as being inseparable from Russia and take that into account. If anti-American rebels overthrew the Canadian government and tried to make an alliance with China, I would think that our response would be pretty similar to Putin’s.

    Additionally, Russia can one-up everything the U.S. and NATO try to do in Ukraine. The U.S. is at a geostrategic disadvantage there.

    • Bill

      What’s your real Russian name, “James?” I guess you and your comrades in that Moscow basement fight boredom by thinking up new “American” names.

      • James Bowen

        I am actually a submarine officer in the U.S. Navy, and I am just being realistic. We have no vital interests at stake in Ukraine, whereas Ukraine is of immeasurable interest to Russia. Ukraine is neither an important nor a wise fight to pick.

        On top of that, we need Russia on our side with China rising the way they are. We have no major conflicting interests with Russia, whereas we do potentially have some with China. Russia also potentially has some major conflicting interests with China. China sees Siberia as a source of natural resources, and my guess is that Putin is keenly aware of that. This makes Russian-American bloc a much more logical proposition than a Sino-Russian bloc.

        • Bill

          My apologies, James, and thanks for your service. I know Putin has trolls on many blogs that are related to international and defense issues.

          I could not disagree more with you about Russia. Putin wanting to recreate the USSR by force of arms would seem to be conflicting interest with Russia. Has your sub visited Poland or the Baltic states? Their officers might also disagree with you.

          • James Bowen

            No problem, and thank you. I am aware of that too and I have seen a number of their entries.

            Putin undoubtedly does want to, at the very least, maintain strong Russian influence throughout the former Soviet Union. However, Putin also lives in the real world and knows that he must have the willing cooperation of former Soviet states in order to get the most benefit for Russia. While the Russian armed forces are undoubtedly capable of overrunning Ukraine, doing so would not serve Russian interests. Between Ukraine and Russia, two nations so interconnected economically and culturally that they are virtually inseparable, Ukraine has about 25% of the population, about 25% of the industrial plant, and about 50% of the prime agricultural land of the Russian steppes. Russia needs a healthy Ukraine willing to go along with them; not a conquered, devastated, forcibly occupied imperial subject territory with a shattered economy and a hostile population.

            On top of that, the world is very different than it was in 1990. Something equivalent to the Soviet Union would not conflict with American vital interests. Nothing that happens in Ukraine or any other former Soviet states has much bearing on the well being of the U.S. Russia is far more likely to have trouble with China, which craves Russian natural resources, as are we.

          • Kalinin Yuri

            Thanks for posting wise opinion.

          • James Bowen

            You are welcome, and thanks.

          • Neil Nelson

            You say,

            “Russia needs a healthy Ukraine willing to go along with them; not a conquered, devastated, forcibly occupied imperial subject territory with a shattered economy and a hostile population.”

            By easy observation, there are a few million refugees from the Ukraine conflict. The conflict has created a large rift between Ukraine and Russia toward efforts to minimize economic relations. The rebel areas are devastated materially, economically, and culturally. And all this from Russia’s rebel instigation and military occupation. Your point seems rather far from reality.

            You say,

            “Nothing that happens in Ukraine or any other former Soviet states has much bearing on the well being of the U.S.”

            If you are a U.S. submarine officer, I must be a Russian Czar. This is complete nonsense. What was the Cold War about? Europe is the largest trading partner of the U.S. and has the strongest allies of the U.S. Every nation in Europe is very important to the U.S. The nations bordering Russia are critical in maintaining European stability.

          • James Bowen

            Half of the Ukrainian population wants to align with Russia. Putin has kept a leash on the rebels in eastern Ukraine. He could likely rather easily dismember the country if he wanted to, but he hasn’t done that.

            Tell me, how does what happens to the Baltic States affect us? These are certainly not vital to the defense of the North American continent nor are we dependent on them for vital resources. Whether they are a democracy or not or whether they are independent of Russia or not, life is going to go on in the U.S.

            At the most basic level, the Cold War was about what to do with Germany. It began with the Soviet blockade of Berlin in 1948 and was resolved in 1990. The Soviet Union no longer exists, and Russia is in no position to threaten vital U.S. interests at this time, and treating them as if they are hostile woefully neglects the reality of the world today.

          • Neil Nelson

            A poll by the International Republican Institute reported on June 20 gives that the percentage of Ukrainians in the east, for those who could be polled, fell in the last three months of 2014 from 83% to 51%. While a majority in the government controlled areas favoured membership in the European Union with 13% wanting to join Russia’s customs union. The report also remarks that Ukrainian sentiments against Russia have hardened which would seem an obvious result of being invaded by Russian forces.

            Since the Russian forces control the rebel area, whether or not we call the area dismembered makes little difference.

            The U.S. has had interests over most of the globe since the end of WWII and nations in general are widely connected to the globe through their commerce. It makes no sense to speak of any particular nation as somehow self-sufficient and therefore not having a national interest in the remainder of the globe. Perhaps particular to U.S. interests are the security and allied relations with many countries resulting from WWII, the Cold War, the need for oil, and relations resulting from additional conflicts seen in the interest of the U.S. such as South Korea. In general the U.S. is interested in stability throughout the world.

            Wikipedia writes that the Cold War was between the Western Bloc (the U.S., NATO, and allies) and the Eastern Bloc (the Soviet Union, and its allies in the Warsaw Pact). There is a sense in the West from Putin’s talk and actions that he would like to recreate the Eastern Bloc (those nations dominated by Russia) with a similar military posture toward Europe as in the Cold War.

            The Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are members of NATO and will be defended by the U.S. along with the other nations in NATO. Russian talk against those states makes no sense and illustrates Russia’s aggressive attitude that is troubling to the West.

          • James Bowen

            Polls are unreliable, especially in a war-torn areas like eastern Ukraine. Remember that many polls also say that a majority of Americans favor amnesty for illegal aliens, which is completely and totally contradictory to what members of Congress hear from their constituents. Russia’s support of the rebels is very welcome in eastern Ukraine.

            The U.S. does not have interests in much of the world. Our leaders just like to pretend we do. We can live without that commerce. As a matter of fact, our trade deals have resulted in de-industrialization of the U.S. Thanks to those trade deals, China now dwarfs us in industrial production in similar proportions to how we dwarfed the Axis Powers in World War II. This has all but guaranteed a Chinese victory should we end up in a war with them over Taiwan or freedom of the seas in the South China Sea.

            The Cold War was a result of disagreement over what to do about postwar Germany. That was settled in 1990. The Cold War is long over. Putin has made no aggressive gestures toward Poland. As for Ukraine, it has always been part of Russia and its industries and farmland are vital to Russia. They will no more give it up than we would give up Canada to an Asian power. And any talk of military intervention to halt Russia in Ukraine is nothing less than psychotic. History has shown what happens to those who attack Russia itself (Napoleon, Hitler).

            Bottom line, we are displaying hubris, and our power is not nearly as great as we would like to think. We need to concentrate on rebuilding our industrial base and thereby our military potential. We also need to strive for good relations with logical allies such as Russia who have no conflicting vital interests with us.

            Rather than trying to maintain some desired world order with only 5% of the world’s population, we need to play up our natural strengths, i.e. the fact that we are surrounded by 3 oceans (counting Canada) and are in fact mostly self-sufficient in natural resources.

          • Neil Nelson

            Perhaps you could provide your source for half of the Ukrainians being aligned with Russia. Is this the crystal-ball estimate? People are free to believe and say what they wish but if you intend to persuade an audience, supporting your position with reasonable evidence is recommended. You say.

            “Remember that many polls also say that a majority of Americans favor amnesty for illegal aliens, which is completely and totally contradictory to what members of Congress hear from their constituents. Russia’s support of the rebels is very welcome in eastern Ukraine.”

            This sounds like an unlikely personal opinion. Why should I consider it? I get the feeling you are making it up. Where is the evidence?

            I give you the Cold War Wikipedia page and you are still going on about Germany. Does the Cold War Wikipedia page have it all wrong? Where do your statements about Germany come from?

            You say “Ukraine has always been a part of Russia”. It was part of Russia for a while. It was not part of Russia before Russia. And it has not been a part of Russia since 1991. You can look on any modern map of the world and see that.

            Russia is not a very strong military power in conventional terms and is no match for NATO and the U.S. You can see this by comparing the respective GDPs, military expenditures, modernization, industrial capacity, and human population and their technical abilities. NATO does not need to go to Moscow like Napoleon and Hitler. All NATO has to do is tip the balance in favor of the Ukrainians.

            China has good potential to be a super-power but has a long way to go.

          • James Bowen

            Regarding support for Russia in Ukraine, the Simon Schuster article in Time Magazine, “Many Ukrainians Want Russia to Invade”, dated 1 March 2014, is one source.
            This is pretty common knowledge though. Ukraine has been deeply divided about this since at least the Orange Revolution. Eastern Ukraine is pro-Russian (though not necessarily pro-secession), and Western Ukraine is pro-EU.

            Regarding Americans being opposed to amnesty for illegal aliens, the Caitlin Huey-Burns article in Real Clear Politics, “Tom Cotton a Key House Voice on Immigration Reform”, dated 16 July 2013, is one source. Note the paragraph where he says that of 1800 constituent calls about
            immigration, only 12 supported amnesty and all the rest were opposed. Many other members of Congress reported similar sentiment at town hall meetings, etc. If the political establishment wants something, and they wanted and still want that amnesty/immigration surge the Senate passed a
            couple of years ago, they typically get it unless it is very unpopular.

            Remember that the Soviet Union and the U.S. were allies in World War II. The Cold War did not begin immediately after the Japanese surrender on the U.S.S. Missouri. Although there were mounting disagreements during this
            time, relations remained cordial for about 2 1/2 years after the end of the war. The tone of relations soured with the Soviet-backed communist coup in Czechoslovakia in February 1948. The Cold War itself then began in earnest when the Soviets, having been unable to come to an
            agreement with the western Allies on how to deal with postwar Germany, attempted to drive the Allies out of Berlin with the blockade. This convinced the western Allies that the Soviets had hostile intentions. Our response was a policy of containment and a certain degree of military preparedness (particularly with regard to nuclear deterrence). However, the focus of the Cold War was always Germany, and the final postwar settlement over Germany in 1990 is what brought the Cold War to
            an end.

            Ukraine is where Russian civilization began in the 800’s
            AD with the Kievian Rus. After the Mongol invasion, Russia was ultimately divided up amongst various rulers including the Mongols, the Ottomans, and even the Poles and Lithuanians. The rise of Moscow in the1500’s led to the reunification of Russia over the next 150-200 years, including Ukraine, and the expansion of Russia east to the Pacific Ocean. Prior to 1991, the only time Ukraine had ever existed as an independent state from Russia was for a few months in 1918-1919, and this was imposed by Germany in the Brest-Litovsk Treaty. That treaty
            was nullified by Verseilles, and Ukraine quickly reverted back to Russia/Soviet Union. 23.5 years of technical independence is not going to simply wipe away 1200 years of common history, culture, and economics. It is nothing less than stunning that our Ivy League-educated leaders seem utterly oblivious to that.

            Russia is much stronger than we are in that part of the world, and their present industrial capacity is roughly equal to that of the U.S. Whatever we try in Ukraine, Russia can easily one-up us. It speaks volumes that we are currently dependent on Russia, not the other way around, to put men in space. As for China, they could put 60 submarines into the Taiwan Straight in 24 hours, and we don’t even have that many attack boats in our fleet. Their steel output is 5 times what ours is, similar to the U.S./Axis Powers ratio in World War II. That means they can replace losses much faster than we can.

            Unless we in the U.S. recognize the reality of the world situation today and act accordingly, we are headed for a very rude awakening. A Sino-Russian alliance is very
            unwelcome prospect for the U.S. However, Russia clearly has more conflicting interests with China than we do, and if our diplomats are smart they will play that up.

          • Murf

            One yeAr ago half may have wanted to Aline with Russia. A year of humiliations, death and distruction has changed that.
            Over 50% want to join NATO while only 15% want to join Russia.
            That change is due strictly to Putin’s actions.

          • James Bowen

            How do you know that? How do you know that they don’t blame the death and destruction on the Ukrainian government? The latter case is more likely. The presence of those Russian troops that are in Ukraine are very much welcome by the population in those areas.

          • Minxey

            Warm water port.

    • Secundius

      @ James Bowen.

      Slight Problem, James. The Russian Federation is more dependent on Western GPS Technology, the we are of there GLONASS Satellite System. It seem our Western GPS System, is far more Accurate the their GLONASS system…

      • James Bowen

        I really don’t think the Russians are going to decide that GPS is more important than Ukraine.

    • Murf

      There is a hundred ways of dealing with that scenario. Seizing Vancouver and starting a rebellion in Quebic are not even in the top 50.

      • James Bowen

        This of course is a hypothetical scenario, but if confronted with that situation I think our reaction would be something along those lines.

  • Jim Valle

    EU and NATO policy makers know from History what they are facing when they contemplate Putin’s expansionist policies. It’s 1938 all over again and disunity and reluctance to grapple led to you-know-what

    • redgriffin

      The biggest difference in your comparison of today to 1938 is that I doubt that you could find a countries’ government who would sell out the Baltic States or Poland, Ukraine or Moldavia. That has Putin baffled because he is hopping to cow the west and the tactic is failing at this time. The wonder would be if The West has the drive to continue this strategy while Russia heads into a recession over falling oil prices and the sanctions plans.

  • 463,000 square miles of the Arctic of Real-Estate.
    ——- ——- ——-
    Russia must get their act together if the Russian War-Machine wants to lock horns with U.S. in Military combat. Russia can not produce enough mechanized parts for their own Lords-of-War Machines. Get your act together if you, Vladimir Putin, want to lock horn tough guy style!

    U.S. Military is ready & waiting about to place Thor’s hammer down with motivation for the US to ratify Law of the Sea regards With Russia, China and crew. Well?

    Lets get this economic lords of war game on, because our industry needs stimulation, opening up wide our job sectors, establishing federal martial law and enlist immigrants into selective indefinite military draft service for citizenship is a wonderful front-line deal to become a quick-citizen and your immediate family equally as well, SOCO OK!

    Vladimir Putin the impaler, are you nervous? Vlad, hop on your Pet-Russian-Bear and lead the charge attack into global war buddy, lets go. I am ready and billions of others world wide are ready too.

    God Bless America and our current Allies and for those who aspire the same allegiance, blessings equally. 🙂
    lets`get`er`dun Vlad. 🙂

    ——- ——- ——-