Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Taking Kiev

Is there a moral equivalence between Putin's invasions of Georgia and Ukraine and US interventions in Somalia, Iraq, etc? I don't think there is, but whether or no, I don't think that's the central issue in Putin's actions. Some interventions are much more dangerous than others. Two more fundamental concerns involve territorial incorporation and location.

The disappearance of the old European empires in the mid and late Twentieth Century was widely supposed to have marked the end of the colonial age and global wars it spawned. Of course foreign interventions didn't stop, but it was tacitly understood that they would not pit the great powers directly against each other, and that old style colonial conquest was not permitted.

Putin's interventions in Ukraine and Georgia violate the second principle, but perhaps more importantly, his actions, plus his belligerent rhetoric (I can take Kiev in two weeks) sent a shiver of fear through Poland and the Baltics. NATO's recent decision to construct what is essentially a toy "rapid response" force is feeble riposte which may well backfire by encouraging him.

The world may well be entering another more dangerous phase. Unfortunately, Putin, like other would be imperialists, has discovered that bellicose deeds pump up political popularity. It would be very difficult to contain any European war.