Today Russian President Vladimir Putin realized he was moving too quickly in Eastern Ukraine. From the outset President Putin has been carefully playing a game of momentum. If Russia moves to far and too fast, the United States and Europe will react, but as long has Russia works incrementally, and continues to use the right diplomatic language, western nations will be paralyzed by indecision and dissension.
Lately, rhetoric from the US Secretary of State John Kerry has hardened, while Europe has become more inclined to endorse biting sanctions against Russia. Mr. Putin’s decision to slow Russia’s foreign policy momentum is a strategic adjustment. Additional territory, or at least political hegemony over a larger territory, is what Russia’s President desires, not a new cold war. The BBC summarizes Russia’s latest move as follows –
In what appeared to be a softer stance than in recent weeks, Mr Putin said he had pulled back Russian forces from the border with Ukraine after “we were told constantly about concerns” over their positioning.
He said the troops were now “in places of regular exercises, at training grounds”, but a Nato official told the BBC it had “not seen any significant change to the disposition of troops along the border”.
Mr Putin also said he had appealed for the referendums on greater autonomy planned for 11 May in southern and eastern Ukraine to be postponed “in order that conditions necessary for dialogue are created”.
On the forthcoming presidential elections, he said: “I would like to stress that… while they are a move in the right direction, [they] will not decide anything if all the citizens of Ukraine fail to understand how their rights are protected after the elections are held.”
The Russian President is playing the long game, the west is not. Vladimir Putin has learned a key lesson from the 20th century’s largest war: unchecked aggression wakes sleeping giants, but incremental actions are much easier to ignore.
Western leaders have short memories. By the onset of World War II, the Armenian genocide that occurred during the Great War was a distant memory; Hitler knew this and planned accordingly. Today, weeks after the Ukraine lost the region of Crimea, it is old news. The giant is drowsy, and Putin’s latest move is designed to lull it back to sleep.