Latest noises from Munich

Talking about WWIII in Munich last week, Medvedev channeled Putin: “Drop the sanctions and take us back into the family, or else we’ll start another war.” Someone has suggested that pitting Taliban against ISIS will be the Kremlin’s next foreign policy innovation. Moscow is resolved to play the international spoiler now, until the West forgives it for the mess it made in Ukraine and elsewhere and welcomes it back to G8 or whatever the name of the club.

Future Realpolitikers might eventually judge Putin’s seizure of Crimea a smart, bold move, but Russia’s military meddling in Donbass has little chance of ever being seen as anything but a huge mistake. It was probably triggered by false expectations of popular support throughout the Russian-speaking South and East of Ukraine, in cities like Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk, and Kharkov. Instead, Dnepropetrovsk became a recruitment hub for Ukrainian volunteers (thanks largely to the then governor of the region, the oligarch Igor Kolomoysky). After that, attacking the Baltics under the pretext of protecting Russophones only seems possible as a last resort when everything else has been tried and has failed. There are safer ways of undermining Europe.


  1. Nowadays Realpolitik tends to mean a ruthless lack of concern about moral issues in politics, the sort of thing that gets Putin’s power-worshipping fans excited. Nevertheless, I believe “Realpolitik” originally had the wider meaning of choosing pragmatism over ideology, regardless of whether that ideology was moral or not. At the end of the Franco-Prussian War the “Realpolitikers” in the new Germany were those who did not want to annex Alsace-Lorraine, rightly fearing such a move would make any chance of reconciliation with France impossible. They put common sense over patriotism. This is the reverse of what Putin has done with “Novorossiya” and Crimea; he’s annexed his Alsace-Lorraine and the long-term consequences might be as disastrous for Russia as they were for Germany.

    • I feel that the Kremlin is out to destabilize certain regions to a point when all parties involved will be desperate for a fix at any cost. Not that Moscow would be able to come up with one but the Kremlin would say, “See what happens when you try to punish us? Chaos!”

      Thanks for the reminder that “Realpolitik” did not originate with Henry Kissinger.

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