RUSSIAN REVISIONISM, UKRAINE AND THE INTERNATIONAL SYSTEM
"The unfortunate truth is that unless and until a new, truly democratic regime emerges in Moscow (as well as Beijing), we are likely to see more naked assertions of power politics than we have experienced since 1989. This will not be a return to the Cold War—a point worth underlining. Neither Russia nor even China (whose leaders long ago abandoned the communist vanguard for the pursuit of profit) offer universalist ideologies capable of competing with free market capitalism. We are not in a “revolutionary” period of world politics, in Kissinger’s terms, in which a radical power—think revolutionary France, Leninist Russia, or Maoist China—pursues (at least for a while) dreams of world revolution. But if history as serious ideological competition is still “over”—as Francis Fukuyama claimed in 1989—history as geopolitical competition marches on. And the implications for world order are profound.... It is this rejection of fundamental norms of international order that lends global significance to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. The world is not headed for another Cold War, it risks regressing to an era more red in tooth and claw.The priority for policymakers in Washington will be to cling to as much of the substance of Western liberal order as possible, while carefully managing its rising frictions and differences with Russia and China".Patrick Stewart, "Russia Assaults Ukraine—and the Liberal World Order". The Council on Foreign Relations. 28 August 2014, in www.cfr.org.
"The use or threatened use of force is therefore a normal and recognized method of bringing about important political change, and is regarded as morally discreditable mainly by those 'conservative' countries whose interests would suffer from change....Normally, the threat of war, tacit or overt, seems a necessary condition of important political change in international sphere".E. H. Carr. The 20 Years' Crisis, 1919-1939: an Introduction to the study of International Relations. Revised edition. (1961). pp. 215-216.
"That is not the question...But if I wanted to, I could take Kiev in two weeks".Russian President Vladimir Putin as quoted by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, in "Putin Tells European Official That He Could ‘Take Kiev in Two Weeks’", by Andrew Roth. The New York Times. 3 September 2014, in www.nytimes.com. The sine qua non of what one may describe as the essence of Putinism's foreign policy modus operandi is encapsulated in the above referenced quotation by the Russian Federation President. Whether or not the statement is in fact true. With that being understood, where does that leave the Western powers at the moment, but as it relates to Ukraine and as it relates to future interaction with Russia? In the case of Ukraine, assuming for a moment that the talks about a cease-fire breakdown, and the war continues, the only possible Western response to Russia's creeping military intervention is the provision of arms and other forms of military assistance to Kyiv. The idea that such a move by the Western powers would (in the words of German Chancellor Angel Merkel, "create the impression that with weapons shipments and strengthening the Ukrainian army we could create a solution", is the height of absurdity 1. Why? For the simple reason that Moskva already believes that via its creeping military intervention it can 'create a solution' that Moskva finds to its liking. By not arming Kyiv with as much military equipment as Ukraine can absorb, the Western Powers merely are falling into line with Russian policy. The crux of the matter is that sans any Western counter-pressure on Moskva both on the economic front and on the frontline in Ukraine proper, Russian policy will have proven to be successful. And with another success to his name, there is no telling where Putin will strike next. With Peking emboldened by his example, perhaps embarking on a more aggressive policy in its policy towards its neighbors in the Orient. Which brings up the question of the overall issue of Russian Revisionism and what the proper Western response should be. There is a school of thought (of which Patrick Stewart is one such member) which argues that the proper Western response to Russian (or Chinese for that matter) Revisionism is a combination of appeasement and diplomatic pour parler, with an emphasis upon the former, as he stated back in 2010:
"Over the next ten years and beyond, the United States will have to accommodate new powers in reformed structures of global governance while safeguarding the Western liberal order it helped create and defend"2.Unfortunately, this E.H. Carr type of 'accommodationalism', id. est., appeasement can only work, as History seems to show, when the differing powers in question share fundamental concepts of the international order. And per contra to his ahistorical supposition, the post-bellum 1815 order in Europe was securely anchored by the fact that the five European Great Powers (England, Russia, France, Prussia and Austria) au fond shared a similar understanding of the new norms of international relations 3. Accommodationalism, sans that shared understanding has the end result bringing about the very breakdown of international order that it seeks to avoid. As the case of Europe between 1933 and 1940 clearly show. Unfortunately, there is little evidence that either Putin or his confreres in Peking share Western norms of international politics. With this being the case, there appears little else for the Western powers to do but to oppose as much as is possible, upon this side of caution and with the avoidance of recklessness, with both Russian (and Chinese) revisionism. Anything else will merely result in a creation of a purely Hobbesian bellum omnium contra omnes. 1. See: Geoff Dyer, Peter Spiegel and Neil Buckley, "Debate heats up in US and Europe over arming Kyiv." The Financial Times. 2 September 2014, in www.ft.com. 2. Patrick Stewart, "Irresponsible Stakeholders? The Difficulty of Integrating Rising Powers". Foreign Affairs. (November / December 2010), in www.foreignaffairs.com. 3. For Stewart's flawed understanding of post-1815 history, see the following quote: "An imperfect historical parallel might be the Concert of Europe of the early 1800s. That arrangement leavened the traditional balance of power with a balance of rights, which helped bridge differences between the Western powers (France and the United Kingdom) and the authoritarian monarchies (Austria, Prussia, and Russia) of the Holy Alliance. Global cooperation today may follow a similar logic", in Stewart, "Irresponsible Stakeholders", op. cit. For the E. H. Carr reference, see his call for a similar type of 'understanding' for the revisionist powers of 1930's Europe, in Carr, op. cit., pp. 208-236 & passim. For a much more accurate reading of the shared understanding which underlay the post-bellum settlement in Europe from 1815 onwards, see Paul Schroeder's magisterial opus on the subject: The Transformation of European Politics, 1763-1848. (1994), pp.537-582 and passim.