Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy

Putin calls America’s bluff on Ukraine

By Damon Linker, The Week

Russia has amassed significant forces along the border of Ukraine. Talks between Russia and NATO appear to have broken down. Members of Washington’s foreign policy establishment are beginning to suggest the need to respond to any Russian military moves against Ukraine with a strong show of force.

How did we get here, seemingly on track toward either direct military confrontation with a nuclear-armed state nearly 5,000 miles from American shores, or poised to back down and retreat in the face of a frontal challenge to a military alliance led by the United States?

The answer is that we got here by bluffing — and the evident decision of Russian President Vladimir Putin to call our bluff. One possible response to this unhappy situation is to continue bluffing in the hopes that Putin will eventually blink. The other, far more reasonable path is to reassess the decisions that got us here in the first place and move forward with less unsustainable hubris.

Once the Cold War had drawn to a close, the United States began to extend formal and informal security guarantees to far-flung places around the globe. These came on top of older guarantees that originated during the West’s decades-long confrontation with the Soviet Union and its numerous satellite and client states.

The U.S. was already formally committed to defending Western Europe through NATO, as well as Japan and South Korea. Our arrangement with Taiwan was less explicit, but everyone understood that we would be unlikely to turn a blind eye to any Chinese move to invade the island.

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