How to stop a repeat of Ukraine crisis
June 3rd, 2014
04:15 PM ET

How to stop a repeat of Ukraine crisis

By Kim Davis, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Kim Davis is co-founder and managing director of Charlesbank Capital Partners, a private equity firm. He is also chairman of the Baltic American Freedom Foundation and a member of the board of Freedom House. The views expressed are his own.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea, destabilization of Ukraine and protestations ("threats") about his need to defend Russian speaking populations throughout Eastern Europe have elicited many reactions and analyses.

The most troubling of these reactions have been from observers who believe that NATO's enlargement in the 1990's was wrongheaded and an immediate cause of Putin's belligerent actions. But not only is that suggestion flawed – it also signals a profound misunderstanding of what took place over the past few months. Indeed, any policy based on that kind of thinking will heighten the danger to Russia's non-NATO neighbors and may also increase Putin's adventurism in new NATO countries, especially the Baltics.

Many foreign policy observers favor a tacit, or even explicit, undertaking by the United States and Europe that the West will no longer support further eastward expansion of NATO and the EU as long as Russia agrees to renounce its territorial ambitions. Such a bargain, Finlandization writ large, would be a terrible mistake.

If the Baltics had not joined NATO, who can doubt that Putin would view them the way he did Crimea – a geographically important piece of real estate that should be under his thumb. Estonia and Latvia have large Russian populations, which would have provided a convenient excuse for Russian aggression. Putin finds the Baltics particularly irksome because their visible success is testimony to the advantages of democratic capitalism relative to his governing philosophy, which is best described as authoritarian kleptocracy.

When Putin decried the break-up of the Soviet Union as the worst tragedy of the 20th century, he signaled his geopolitical strategy. He is determined to reconstitute Greater Russia, and one reason that his first adventure was in Crimea and not the Baltics is because NATO pushed him further east. We must not accommodate his geopolitical goals and should ensure that the response to the recent aggression in Ukraine takes place within the larger context of our commitment to support the democratic aspirations of all of Russia's neighbors.

Russia under Putin does not put much of a premium on a respectful relationship with Europe or the United States. The Russian exercise of power derives primarily from its nuclear arsenal, its permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council and its large reserves of natural gas and oil. All three of those levers become less powerful to the extent that Russian foreign policy has to accommodate the institutional structures and norms that characterize Western democracies. We can hope that over time Russia will change its behavior and embrace the notion that a constructive relationship with its neighbors and the broader European community is a valuable goal. But that is a hope and, for now, not a particularly realistic one.

For the United States, we need to accept the reality that while we may still find narrow avenues of cooperation with Russia, it is untenable to condition any of our foreign policy initiatives upon an assumption of long term cooperation with the Russians.

Foreign policy may begin at home, but it does not end there: now is not the time to think that the world will stop while we repair our bridges, roads and address our social programs. Those demands won’t go away, and neither will the demands for a robust U.S. presence on the world stage. There is no practical military response to Russia's actions, which is the exact reason that we need a comprehensive diplomatic strategy which, more than anything else, makes a long term commitment to counter Putin's territorial and political ambitions. While it will be convenient to condition our policies on cooperation from other European allies, primarily Germany, we must not predicate our obligation to lead on their willingness to follow.

First, we need to communicate that our position on Ukraine is completely consistent and derivative of our long term interest in promoting freedom and democracy around the world. Our policy is not to oppose Russia but to support freedom.

Second, our rhetoric should match the reality of our actions. Strong condemnations of Putin's actions followed by limited sanctions of limited scope is of limited value. If anything, our actions should be at least as powerful as rhetoric.

Third, we need presidential leadership. If we want to promote democracy in Eastern Europe as an enduring component of our foreign policy, then we need President Obama to use his office to educate the American people and Congress on why Russia's actions have been dangerous and must be countered.

In many ways, we are experiencing the foreign policy equivalent of Ground Hog Day. We need to set our clocks back to 1989 and take a page out of American diplomatic history. During the 15 year period beginning in 1989 and spanning both Bush Presidencies and the Clinton Presidency, the United States led a comprehensive effort that redrew the European landscape, restoring freedom and democracy to a countries that had spent the entire post-World War II period under the repressive yoke of the Soviet Union.

Democracy either spreads or recedes. Now is the time to recommit ourselves to the simple ambition of celebrating the end of the Cold War as the moment when the world saw a permanent increase in the number of democratic countries and not simply an interlude between periods of authoritarian repression.


Post by:
Topics: Russia • Ukraine

soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. rupert

    Cnn, comments not coming out

    June 3, 2014 at 5:32 pm | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Does Kim Davies know what he's talking about? We are in the 21st century. The US had fought two costly wars, squandering trillions of dollars. How can it be compared to the 1980s and 1990s and turn the clock back to the good old days?

      June 4, 2014 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  2. rupert

    It has 2, but says it has 5.

    June 3, 2014 at 5:33 pm | Reply
  3. rupert

    Ok. Only 3 show, but it says "6".

    June 3, 2014 at 5:34 pm | Reply
  4. rupert

    Weird. There are now 4 comments, but it says "7"

    June 3, 2014 at 5:35 pm | Reply
  5. ElliotJKlein

    Far from enlarging NATO, it needs to be dismantled. This stupid alliance has become the root of Europe's problems as the right-wingers keep on crying "wolf"over Russia.

    June 3, 2014 at 5:36 pm | Reply
    • rupert

      Well posted, Elliot. Nothing could be closer to the truth!

      June 3, 2014 at 5:45 pm | Reply
    • chri§§y

      I doubt rupert will appreciate you stealing his name, George Patton troll.

      June 3, 2014 at 5:53 pm | Reply
      • banasy©

        Not will Chrissy appreciate you stealing hers

        June 3, 2014 at 6:56 pm |
    • JGTinNJ

      I don't know if it is the "root of all problems" but there is no question that there are people who benefit personally from a well financed NATO and they will do what they can to enhance the importance of the alliance.

      June 3, 2014 at 11:03 pm | Reply
  6. rupert

    #5 now it has 5 comments but it says "8"
    It is not working. Did you hire a German to do this job?
    Figures. Next time get a sweed. They are better at this.

    June 3, 2014 at 5:38 pm | Reply
  7. rupert

    @ElliotJklein. They outta dismantle your buttt. Then u can cr@p from your mouth.

    June 3, 2014 at 5:40 pm | Reply
    • rupert

      Sorry, Elliot. I didn't post the above. Please ignore it.

      June 3, 2014 at 5:46 pm | Reply
  8. rupert

    7 comments, but says "10". Germans are only good at making hot dogs with mustard and sauerkraut.

    June 3, 2014 at 5:44 pm | Reply
    • banasy©

      Use some critical thinking. Reblog's don't count towards the post count total.

      June 3, 2014 at 6:58 pm | Reply
  9. rupert

    ..and starting world wars.

    June 3, 2014 at 5:45 pm | Reply
  10. rupert

    Oh banasy, chrissy, George, where are u?
    Oh I forgot. They're recovering from their lobotomy, thanks to obama care

    June 3, 2014 at 5:51 pm | Reply
  11. «RZ»

    Yes, Obamacare is good. I wrote to my Congressional representative, and I told him Ukraine should use Obamacare as a model for that countries' health care.

    June 3, 2014 at 5:57 pm | Reply
  12. Joseph McCarthy

    Well put, RZ. I appreciate that.

    June 3, 2014 at 5:58 pm | Reply
  13. banasy@

    You know what gets my goat,rupert, is u have a joker stealing your name at 5:46. He spews out so much anti-American mumble Jumble that one can surmise that this bozo is a fan of Sarah Palin.
    This clown has got to go!

    June 3, 2014 at 6:03 pm | Reply
    • banasy©

      Boring troll name-stealer is obvious.
      I guess because the Devil's Playground is now closed for comments, we'll be treated to his childish antics here. Yay.

      June 3, 2014 at 7:01 pm | Reply
  14. Tom Posy

    Thank you banasy. You said it all.

    June 3, 2014 at 6:04 pm | Reply
    • Tom Posey

      If you have to usurp my name, at least have the courtesy to spell it right. Thank you.

      June 3, 2014 at 6:26 pm | Reply
  15. Serguei

    Last success of Mr Obama and Mr Poroshenko in Lugansk....Democracy in action!

    June 3, 2014 at 6:40 pm | Reply
    • Tom Posey

      Just more right-wing blah- blah-blah from this nut job Serguei. I wonder just how much the right-wing thugs in Washington paid this bozo to post the above.

      June 3, 2014 at 7:15 pm | Reply
  16. You_No

    Putin's 3rd overt action.
    1st was the 2nd Chechen war.
    2nd was the invasion of Georgia's "South Ossetia".
    Crimea is the third.

    Eastern Ukraine is the 4th.
    Though, you might be better served counting Crimea as a starting point for The Invasion of Ukraine., a larger 3rd.

    June 3, 2014 at 8:03 pm | Reply
    • You_No

      And if you really want to get into details, bombing his own people's apartment flats and locking up all political dissidents should probably be accounted for, even if not external actions of war.

      June 3, 2014 at 8:05 pm | Reply
      • George patton

        Do you remember You-No, the bombing of the Amriya air raid shelter in Baghdad, Iraq on Feb. 13, 1991 in which well over 414 innocent Iraqi civilians were mercilessly massacred? If that was not a crime against humanity, then just what is? Before you throw stones at others, take a hard look at our own track record!!!

        June 3, 2014 at 8:50 pm |
      • Joseph McCarthy

        Do you remember You-No, the unwarranted bombing of the Amriya air raid shelter by two American pilots on Feb. 13, 1991 in which well over 414 innocent civilians were slaughtered? If that wasn't a crime against humanity, then what is?

        June 3, 2014 at 8:57 pm |
      • You_No

        No. I don't remember.

        June 4, 2014 at 4:59 am |
  17. chri§§y

    Lmao thanks @ banasy. Guess he forgot about the icons huh? Attention span of a knat! And that isnt RZ either.

    June 3, 2014 at 8:06 pm | Reply
  18. Danro

    Ukraine has been in crisis at least since 2004 so this will not end anytime soon. What will stop this I believe is cheaper gas and alternate fuels. After the Soviet Union collapsed Russia was in ruins. Only once did they discover oil were they able to develop again. Unfortunately the debris of the Soviet Union got in the way of democracy in Russia and it was hijacked by Putin in the name of patriotism. So Russia/Putin's fate is caught up with its main export, gas.

    June 3, 2014 at 8:15 pm | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      On the other hand Danro, America has ceased to be a true democracy since it was slowly hijacked by the all powerful M. I.C. In Washington by paying off Congress and the White House. This is why we're butting into all these overseas conflicts where we have no business.

      June 3, 2014 at 9:04 pm | Reply
  19. rupert

    Dear cnn, please do something about the icons as they are in error. Somehow, my icons were assigned to a troll, which is not me. I had nothing to do with those posts, sir/mam.

    June 3, 2014 at 8:53 pm | Reply
  20. rupert

    I just recived an email. I won't say from which media giant. But they said "...and please bear with us, we will correct the problem." So there, it wasn't me. I think it was banasy. Speculation of course. She is good at hacking. Russian commie.

    June 3, 2014 at 9:10 pm | Reply
    • banasy©

      Do stop lying. You look ridiculous.

      June 3, 2014 at 11:00 pm | Reply
  21. chri§§y

    Lmao well thank you Mr. King of Crap!

    June 3, 2014 at 10:15 pm | Reply
  22. chri§§y

    Amen @ Joseph and your 9:04 post!

    June 3, 2014 at 10:17 pm | Reply
  23. chri§§y

    And HOW is it that Joseph and George post the EXACT same thing word for word? Oh and with the exact same icon? Guess those icons ARE working after all huh?

    June 3, 2014 at 10:27 pm | Reply
  24. JGTinNJ

    How about the US put pressure on countries, particularly those it considers friends, to treat minorities well? The US claims it is promoting democracy and freedom, but too often turns its back on mistreatment. "Georgia for the Georgians", "Ukraine for the Ukrainians", "Turkey for the Turks", "Latvia for the Latvians", none of these fly, none lead to anything good.

    June 3, 2014 at 10:58 pm | Reply
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