Speed Reads

Foreign affairs

Vladimir Putin may not be winning in Ukraine after all


The main reason to believe that, global protestations aside, Russian President Vladimir Putin has already achieved his key goals by occupying the strategically important Ukrainian region of Crimea is the example of Georgia. In the common understanding of the 2008 five-day war, Russia invaded its Western-looking neighbor and essentially kept the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as door prizes. (Russia, and Russia alone, recognizes the regions as autonomous.) The West stood by, talking mildly tough but not acting.

But that's a misunderstanding of the Georgia war, says Asaf Ronel in Israel's Haaretz. "While Putin did succeed in preventing American soldiers from being stationed on his southern border, he lost his hold on Georgia completely." Ronel continues:

The parallels between the Georgia of 2008 and Ukraine today indicate that Putin's decision to send troops to Crimea was a tactical achievement, but one that damaged Russia strategically... Any attempt to predict Putin's moves is playing with fire, but it is certainly possible that he will try to stir instability in areas in the southeast of Ukraine, and thus justify broader military involvement. However, commentators say he will run into stronger opposition from the Ukrainian army if he sends troops beyond Crimea. Even if Putin takes the soil- and resource-rich areas of the east away from Kiev, Russia has apparently still lost Kiev. [Haaretz]