How West can respond to Russia's aggression
March 21st, 2014
03:07 PM ET

How West can respond to Russia's aggression

By Jane Harman, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: GPS asked Jane Harman, director, president and chief executive officer of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, for her take on Russia’s annexation of Crimea and how the United States and Europe should respond. The views expressed are her own.

Many of us have said for years that terrorists have attacked us asymmetrically, where we are weakest.  We've also said that they only have to be right once, whereas we have be right 100 percent of the time.

Well, apply that to Ukraine. Putin found Ukraine’s weakest point and exploited it. Russia inserted a trained covert force in Crimea quickly against Ukraine’s small military force and ineffective government. The Russians were strong, the Ukrainians were weak.

The response of the West should be to use our own comparative strength against Russia’s weakness. We have a strong economy and a robust energy future. Their economy is riddled with corruption and depends on Russia being a gas station to Europe and elsewhere.

We have to rein in Putin to prevent him from further aggressive actions. Here’s a four-point potential roadmap:

Targeted sanctions: The Obama administration, European Union and Canada have made a good start in putting sanctions on senior Russian officials. They can do more by imposing international sanctions modeled after those imposed on Iran. President Obama just authorized sanctions on investments in Russia’s energy and industrial sectors as well as Russian bank activities around the world. But if and when imposed, they may not cover holdings by oligarchs outside Russia. Expect pain for some U.S. companies operating in Russia, the high priced condo markets in London and New York and restaurants in the South of France that many of Russia’s oligarchs frequent. But done right, this could be a game changer well worth the short term sacrifice.

Help Ukraine elect competent leaders in May: A new transparent, competent and pluralist government must make it clear that Russian-speaking Ukrainians are welcome in Ukraine. The new government should qualify to receive desperately needed economic aid from the U.S., E.U., the International Monetary Fund and others. Congress must stop partisan wrangling and pass the $1 billion in aid for Ukraine.

Complete negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: The trade agreement that’s being negotiated between the European Union and the United States should be passed, as should Trade Promotion Authority to ratify it.  This matters because it would facilitate trade in all sectors – including energy – by standardizing regulations. Stronger U.S.-EU economic ties will reduce Putin’s leverage in the region.

Consider an energy bargain: New York Times columnist Tom Friedman has a smart idea: get Republicans and Democrats to agree to environmentally safe extraction, transportation and export of gas, in addition to development of renewables.  Get Europe to look to North America instead of Russia for energy.

Putin hasn't learned Colin Powell's Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you own it. He now adds Crimea's broken economy to Russia's. The West needs to be tough and smart, which means we need to exercise our asymmetric power against him.

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soundoff (154 Responses)
  1. Jay Roy

    The US has a strong robust economy? Our dollar isnt even backed by anything....we are the food stamp nation of the world, and we have done that so all the other countries out there wont see our bread and soup lines.

    In my opinion, maybe we should worry about our own country first. Fix it, and make it work correctly, then maybe look into helping everyone else. We should try keeping our nose clean for a while.

    Maybe a better comparison should be used here.....what do you think?


    March 24, 2014 at 9:30 pm |
    • ✠RZ✠

      Noble way of thinking Jay. Recommend you google Bill Moyers interview of Mike Lofgren re deep state.and watch on YouTube.

      March 24, 2014 at 11:37 pm |
  2. josha1977

    I say we, the United States of America, adopt the pre-WWII principle we had before of staying the hell out of world events and address our own domestic issues. Keep our own soldiers alive and well. Keep our jobs over here in the US and give them to people who needs them...Americans! Let Putin be the instrument of his own demise when he tries to create USSR 2.0.

    March 25, 2014 at 3:34 am |
  3. RUSSIA the Great Partner

    RUSSIA needs to be a great partner for the West: business, natural resources, oil, gas, very large markets, manufacturing – and most important: PEACE! RUSSIA not Asia – is our future. No confrontation on Russia, please. Thank you.

    March 25, 2014 at 6:02 am |
    • Greg

      Thank you, RUSSIA the Great Partner. I couldn't agree more!

      March 25, 2014 at 11:44 am |
    • GlenR

      The majority of Russians can't afford to buy imported products

      March 25, 2014 at 11:51 am |
      • Kossak Mamay

        This may sound funny, but most of Russia have less opportunity to buy their own products because they tend to buy imported products))

        March 29, 2014 at 5:40 pm |
    • Daylinda Dagondon

      The Lord God has a message to Putin and Russia in Jeremiah chapter 51, verse 57: "I will make her princes and her wise men drunk, her governors , her prefects, and her warriors, so that they sleep an eternal sleep, never to awaken, says the King...whose name is the Lord of hosts."

      March 28, 2014 at 9:43 am |
      • Kossak Mamay

        Russian never imagined his nickname – Dagondon, because it looks like a strong curse on Russian – Yes, you condom)))))

        March 29, 2014 at 5:45 pm |
  4. Aychhabra

    To certain extent Jane Harman roadmap seems workable,remember Russia is not Iran,besides it had excellent ties with China as well as India.I think equation is not weak at Russian side.The best option remains is dialogue,and generating world opinion ,including opinions of China & India.Hence US,Canada,EU,China India,and Russian,all sit together to solve the issue.

    March 25, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
    • Lyndsie Graham

      Well put, Aychhabra. How right you are!

      March 25, 2014 at 12:55 pm |
    • ku62

      What is it you do not understand about Russian policy being based entirely on one point – DOMINANCE? Pure and simple the oligarchs want power over everyone else, both by weakening others and strengthening themselves.

      Any other apparent motives are simply subterfuge.

      March 30, 2014 at 10:38 am |
  5. emil kaiypov

    My name is Emil Kaiypov. I am a citizen of the Kyrgyz Republic, a lawyer, and a father of two children. The proposal for which I am asking your kind support is the suspension of all currently existing hostilities on Earth.

    The main goal of my entire project is to save and improve the lives of children who are suffering from the present conflicts and violence.

    The challenge is to create a moment of "pause" [a technical term from video language] in hostilities now and in the future, as well as to refusal to restart them at all. I believe that in this context, such "pause" in the war action seems do-able and practical, much more effective than the idealistic and utopian pressing of an imaginary "stop" button. In the future the first action will equate to the second: "pause" will become "stop". In order to alert the international community and potential supporters, I made a demonstration of my own at 18 October 2013 on the territory of Syrian embassy in Beirut, with poster "pause the war".

    The purpose of this demonstration, is to show through an example that:

    1) one person has the power to perform an action directed to the benefit of all mankind.

    2) no one should be indifferent, when war is concerned.

    3) war requires us to drop everything else, in order to stop it. Daily activities, against the background of war, look meaningless and empty.

    I believe, that this idea will resonate and supporters will wish to join it. The age of information technologies, will help to spread it around the globe. Definitely there will be supporters among the world's famous celebrities. In the event that a large number of ordinary people and celebrities join this campaign, the dream to stop all military actions on the planet will be realized. This will serve as an occasion to announce the call for volunteers in the "international army of peace". It will consist of unarmed "soldiers" who are ready at any time, to go to the hot spot to "pause" the hostilities with the fact of their presence and to encourage the warring parties to engage in dialogue. Ideally, this army should consist of a world-famous and beloved celebrities from all spheres of human activities.

    I suggest that countries be ready to support my initiative, in solidarity, by placing on the cloth of their national flags, the well-known pause symbol "II". I believe that in the course of implementation of this anti-war action, the reasons for which the suspended armed conflict began, will be resolved or continued in a civilized manner. This anti-war action will bring about a new peaceful reality, when there will be no state left, which "international army of peace" had not visited.

    The termination of all hostilities, will become the point of departure for further continuous progress in all directions.

    We are able to bring about the time, when the world will be fairly managed by a workable international organization which will be trusted by all citizens of the earth. When this happens, all kinds of weapons will be transferred to international United Nations control, the purpose of which, will be the preservation of peace and sustainable development of mankind.

    We live in a world, when the collective effort makes possible the colonizing of other planets in the foreseeable future. I believe, that we have enough strength and resources for the child born tomorrow to see a world, where uniform international standards of education, labor, pension and medical care, will be established everywhere. A world, where the primary human needs will be satisfied for free.

    A world, where nobody talks about freedom, because absolute freedom will accompany each person from the moment of birth, to his last breath. A world, where the happiness and freedom of the individual, will not happen in isolation but will include freedom and happiness of all of humanity. A world without war.

    A world without war is undisputed goal, that sooner or later humanity will definitely reach. It is the primary duty of every adult to fulfill a "world in peace"– everyone’s childhood dream. Every child surrounded by the horrors of war dreams that one day somebody will come and say "It is enough!" and by saying it bring war to an end. Then war will stop. That day has come! It's time to combine our efforts in order to make that dream come true. 

    March 25, 2014 at 2:30 pm |
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Good posting, emil. Unfortunately, as long as there are right-wing fanatics around like those in Washington these days, this noble goal will remain unattainable. For one thing, ignorance produces fear, and fear in turn, produces hatred and finally, hatred produces right-wing fanatcism and then there is greed. As long as there is money to made from these ignominious wars, there will be unscrupulous politicians around to start them.

      March 25, 2014 at 4:34 pm |
      • bribarian

        Your boy 0b0z0 is the one doing regime changes still.

        Hope and change?

        March 25, 2014 at 10:37 pm |
  6. tupperhouse

    Current events in Kiev are showing us that Putin was right about neo Nazis in power in the Ukraine.

    March 25, 2014 at 8:48 pm |
  7. Ian King

    I do not consider Russia to be the aggressor. The crisis in Ukraine was not initiated by Putin, but by the overthrow of the government in Kiev. I doubt that Putin has a plan to 'rebuild the Soviet Union v2', based on an event in Kiev over which he had absolutely no control. For the most part, the aggressive rhetoric has originated from the new regime in Ukraine, not from Russia. That said, I think both the Ukrainian soldiers in Crimea, and the Russian/Crimean forces should be commended for acting rationally, and not allowing this to become a bloodbath. Hopefully it can all be resolved through negotiation.

    March 25, 2014 at 9:06 pm |
    • Paul

      No armed men in unmarked uniforms just happened to be in Crimea

      March 26, 2014 at 7:41 am |
  8. bribarian

    lol more propaganda so sad

    Russia hasnt been aggressive, but U.S and regime changers in Kiev were......

    March 25, 2014 at 10:31 pm |
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Well put, bribarian. Thank you.

      March 26, 2014 at 10:44 am |
  9. chrissy

    @ USMC not sure what post youre talking about where you thought i was trying to be funny. Unless you meant the one i posted to the tool posting as bin laden? If so i can assure you i WASNT trying to be funny i was trying to curb my anger!

    March 26, 2014 at 9:00 pm |
  10. jake

    Tomorrows temperature forecast will be measured in megakelvins.

    March 26, 2014 at 11:29 pm |
  11. Ted award

    Putin is a KGB guy so he's going to use any method plot or tactic he can, no matter how devious or counterintuitive it may be. Murder, disinformation, spies, informers, agents, assassins, and saboteurs are just a few of the tools he is already using. Doubtless, he has riddled Ukraine with his minions which he has been using to destabilize, divide and defeat the Ukraine for years. The Ukrainians , having lived under the soviet yolk before know this very well and detest what Putin is doing.

    March 27, 2014 at 12:16 pm |
    • Lyndsie Graham

      What about the heinous C.I.A. and it's ignominious methods, Ted? Have you forgotten what took place in Chile in 1973 or the Congo in 1960, just to name a couple of examples? Before we throw stones at others, I suggest that we look at our own government and unscrupulous politicians!

      March 27, 2014 at 5:05 pm |
      • manuel

        Our government is a reflection of the voters. If they are stupid enough to vote for the ads they place on our tv, without taking a look at the individual, and who pays for his campaign, we are the ones to blame. Why are these politicians the same ones, elections after elections? How do they become millionaires with their salaries? These people do not represent us anymore, they represent the mega companies who keep them there through their donations. We are ruled by mediocres who keep their posts by their giant warchests. We are to blame...

        April 1, 2014 at 12:26 pm |
  12. lightofpeace

    Americans should not enter any fight unless they are prepared to win it. Half measures do not work and merely drain an already overburdened middle class with additional taxes. Putin will not stop with Syria and Crimea. This is just the beginning. WW3 is coming no matter what position we take. The question is how will we respond and when should we respond with equal force?

    March 27, 2014 at 6:19 pm |
    • fred

      I hope the world is smart n let Russia invade whomever. like Russia did wen forming the soviet union

      April 2, 2014 at 1:33 pm |
  13. ruf

    this mad man putin have one plan and that is to wipe the us out. we are the only one make them think before they act. and to when we see them for what they are we will pay the price for it. now is the time to stand up and confront the mad man. the kgb will never stop and to when they get back there stripe and we all know what that stripe is. if you dont know it is the s/union that we shame them of ,

    obama you cannot make friend with this man it is time for you to see that, you go easy because of him in syria u was fool again now look what he is doing, u call him and he just spit in your face again when are you going to wake up? u cant make peace with the wile a,

    March 27, 2014 at 7:00 pm |
    • Mark Rushing

      What a stupid comment this is, ruf. Are you trying to be funny? All this anti-Russian manure is starting to get awfully old!!!!!

      March 27, 2014 at 11:57 pm |
  14. mikel

    Putin needs to be put in his place, retirement !!!

    March 27, 2014 at 7:43 pm |
  15. George

    Well, folks, what are you talking about? Russia is a rather peaceful contry. Surely, all secret services in every country often use dirty methods to achieve its aims. But! Russia didn't bomb anyone, killed noone....Even more, it didn't violate human's rights during the conflict. Everything concerned with Russia and Crimea was as legal and legitimate as it could be. Of course, Crimea is territory of a national interest of Russia, but remember, when US had any interest on any territory, what they did? Remember events in Iraq, Syria, Lybia, Serbia, Vietnam.....Russia seems to be a VERY...even TOO MUCH peaceful country.

    March 28, 2014 at 1:13 am |
    • Jerry Falwell

      You nailed it good, George. All these "America can do no wrong" comments by all these ignorant people here do get old! That shows just how many uneducated people there are!

      March 28, 2014 at 4:18 pm |
  16. abiola akinwande

    you are a BIG FOOL, RUSSIA is a devil country with no freedom of soeech

    March 28, 2014 at 11:33 am |
    • abiola akinwande

      you are a BIG FOOL, RUSSIA is a devil country with no freedom of speech

      March 28, 2014 at 11:34 am |
      • EdFromNY

        Freedom of Speech? Who has freedom of speech? You have no clue.

        March 28, 2014 at 3:43 pm |
  17. Know it?

    In all due respect, where do you find sanctions helping? I know from being an American all my life, what our Government says and does are two different things. For now the only option I see fit, is to sit back and wait. Sooner or later the USA will toss in their military, all talks will come to a halt, and we will be in War. The plain and simple truth is just that, sanctions and political pressure will have no effect. Russia is challenging the West, Russia already showed their true intentions, and have yet to take anything we have tried to talk with them about as anything worthy of worrying over, they have denied the West the opportunity to resolve this with economic sanctions, political enchanting, or anything else less than ACTIONS.

    I know my country too well, and the clock is already ticking, troops are already being made ready for deployment, any of you really believe talking, or applying pressure to Russia is really going to anything at all? It will become a military action, post haste, and we will be in War.

    Doubt that, then you doubt the history of mankind, and America's way of resolving issues. China is our only "pressure" here and as the biggest buyer of Chinese goods, who will China side with?

    Russias politician's will not bend, so we can expect America to bend Russia for them.

    March 28, 2014 at 1:26 pm |
  18. EdFromNY

    Our Government is currently bombing 5 different countries to "Encourage Democracy" ... we don't have the moral footing to criticize Russia.

    March 28, 2014 at 3:46 pm |
    • Jerry Falwell

      Thank you, Ed. How true that is!

      March 28, 2014 at 4:13 pm |
  19. D.Bose

    Russians and Ukranians are the same people. They have same religion, same history. They cannot fight against each other. The problem is created artificially by some Nazis who are not Ukranian, but Polish.
    These people, from the Right Sector and Swovoda Group, by force have taken over the parliament on 27th February, when the elected President of Ukraine fled, otherwise he would be killed by the mob..
    The right response for USA should be to declare the current Government illegal and ask the UN, in collaoration with Russia, to take over Ukraine and organize a new election by the UN.
    However the war-mongers of both USA and EU has supported his illegal government and now giving them money from the IMF. How can IMF give money to an illlegitimate government? ?
    Once again, as it did since 1992, USA is on a destructive path to ruin Ukraine, as it ruined Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria.

    March 30, 2014 at 8:29 am |
  20. LT Fang

    Bleed Putin out, slowly, one drop at a time, until the Russian Empire goes the way of the former USSR.

    March 31, 2014 at 8:35 pm |
  21. Save Kessab

    What you said "free press" about the tragedy in Kesap: Al-Qaeda militants severely punished the Christian Armenians

    April 1, 2014 at 1:55 am |
  22. Folke Bernadotte

    How, in the face of US aggression in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and many, many other countries, can Russia's actions be called Aggression?

    The great majority of Crimeans are Russian. When put to a vote, Crimeans overwhelmingly voted to stay with Russia. When Russian troops entered Crimea, 90% of the Ukrainian troops there defected to Russia.

    Do we "support democracy" or do we do whatever the Wall Street banksters say because they want the resources of Crimea???

    April 2, 2014 at 10:33 am |
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