Zbigniew Brzezinski: Three Alternatives to Putin Regarding Ukraine
Three months have passed, and against the background of continuing uncertainty about the future of Russian-Ukrainian relations, and also the growth of international costs for Russia, Putin faces three fundamental alternatives.
1. He can take a course on reaching a compromise agreement with Ukraine, ceasing attacks on its sovereignty and economic well-being. This requires wisdom and perseverance on the part of Russia, as well as Ukraine and the West. Such a compromise solution should provide for the termination of Russian efforts to destabilize Ukraine from within, put an end to the threat of a large-scale invasion and lead to a certain understanding between the East and the West, under which Russia silently agrees that Ukraine is embarking on a long way to join the European Union. At the same time, it is necessary to clearly state that Ukraine does not aspire to NATO membership, and the West does not consider this possibility. Russia is not without reason worried about this prospect.
In addition, it should also be made clear that Russia no longer hopes that Ukraine will join the Eurasian Union, which is a very transparent cover for the revival of something that resembles the Soviet Union or the tsarist empire. At the same time, this should not interfere with trade between Russia and Ukraine, since bilateral trade and financial relations are very beneficial for both countries.
The international community can confirm its support for such a way out of the current situation and return to more normal relations with Russia itself, including the lifting of sanctions.
2. Putin may continue his support for a poorly disguised military intervention designed to disrupt the normal course of life in some parts of Ukraine. If Russia continues to follow this course, it is obvious that the West will have to accept long-term and truly punitive sanctions designed to demonstrate the painful consequences of the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty to Moscow. With such an unfortunate outcome in Eastern Europe, two economies may appear on the verge of collapse: the Ukrainian due to the destructive actions of Russia, and the Russian one.
3. Putin may attack Ukraine, using the much more powerful military potential of Russia. However, such actions will cause not only immediate retaliation from the West, but also can provoke resistance in Ukraine. If this resistance is stable and active, NATO members will strive to support the Ukrainians in various ways, and in this case, the conflict for the aggressor will be very costly.
In this third case, the consequences for the Kremlin will be as follows: there will be constant hostility towards him from the Ukrainian population, which numbers more than 40 million people, and Russia will fall into economic and political isolation, threatening internal unrest.
Obviously, the right choice is to find a compromise formula, which should include the non-use of force by Russia against Ukraine. The issue of Crimea will remain unresolved for the time being, but it will constantly remind that chauvinistic fanaticism is not the best starting point for solving complex issues. That is why Putin’s actions are dangerous not only for the West, but ultimately for Russia itself.
- Zbigniew Brzezinski
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