Geopolitical games

By Alexis Papachelas

In terms of the level of its leadership and capabilities in the sphere of geopolitics, the way the West is handling the Ukrainian crisis ought to trouble us. Neither the Americans nor the Europeans should be feeling particularly proud of the way they are handling developments.

A basic rule of international relations says that you don’t get involved in a dangerous venture unless you calculate all possible risks.

Westerners encouraged the protests in Kiev and the ouster of the government. They played the game rather openly, even though they knew only too well they were messing with what former US National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski referred to as Russia’s “strategic backyard.”

But even this encouragement was handed out with a certain stinginess, as they knew that what they were actually selling was the European dream.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to intervene in Crimea, Europeans all followed their own realpolitik, while the Americans are trying to pick up the pieces of their policy. All of this had been predicted by America’s wise men in the field of foreign affairs, among others.

In his most recent book, former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates notes that it would be crazy for anyone to try to persuade Ukraine to become a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This he explains is because anyone who knows the region’s geopolitical A to Z understands that Russia would respond to such a scenario and that no US or European administration would go to war to defend Ukraine.

So this is where things stand today. President Barack Obama is displaying an image of inefficiency and strategic disengagement from Washington’s obligations. From North Korea to Syria, all the international players who are sources of concern for him and his government willreach their own conclusions on his position.

Meanwhile, European leaders are all looking after their own interests while the absence of leaders of the caliber of Charles de Gaulle, Helmut Kohl or Margaret Thatcher has now become blatantly obvious.

Westerners appear to have fallen asleep following the end of the Cold War as they entertained themselves by getting former Russian President Boris Yeltsin drunk.

These days they are probably realizing the limits of their own influence as the smooth power of the European Union is adequate when it comes to geopolitical marketing, but not enough for the sort of tough geopolitical games going on right now.