Thomas Graham objects to a new attempt to “contain” Russia:
Politically, the US lacks the power and authority to persuade or compel others, including its Nato allies, to follow its lead in cutting Russia off. Americans are exhausted after a decade of unsuccessful warfare. Europeans, focused on internal problems, are likewise not prepared to make sacrifices to contain Russia; certainly not over Ukraine.
More importantly, containment will not serve America’s interests. The US no longer operates in a bipolar or unipolar world, in which it might have been possible and at times sensible to isolate Moscow. No matter how objectionable the US might find Russia’s recent behaviour, on some matters it will need its co-operation – non-proliferation and counterterrorism now; managing relations with China in the future.
If a neo-containment policy isn’t possible, and if it won’t serve U.S. interests overall, it would seem to be extremely undesirable. Moreover, it is least desirable if the U.S. wants to help Ukraine recover. That won’t be possible without Russian cooperation, and Russia hardly likely to agree to cooperate with the U.S. when the latter is trying to “contain” it. Graham emphasizes this point, which remarkably few “pro-Ukrainian” Westerners seem interested in acknowledging: “For Ukraine to have a future, Russia’s interests will have to be accommodated to some degree.” The question that the U.S. and its allies need to answer is whether they are more concerned to impose penalties on Russia or to reach some compromise that could keep the situation in Ukraine from deteriorating even more.
What would such a compromise look like? Graham explains:
The outlines of an accommodation are already visible: non-bloc status for Ukraine; decentralisation of the country’s political institutions; some kind of official status for the Russian language; and an economic package drawing on US, European and Russian resources.
The chief political obstacle to this in the West is that there is even more hostility to the idea of accommodating Russia than there was a few months ago, and there was never that much support for the idea in the first place. It doesn’t seem to matter that the current crisis was partly the result of a determined refusal on the part of the U.S. and EU to accommodate–or even acknowledge–Russian interests. There is a remarkably widespread belief that Western governments have already been too accommodating to Russia, so that any talk of it now will be a non-starter in Washington. That’s unfortunate, since it is the most likely way to keep the current crisis from getting further out of control and the best way to secure U.S. and allied interests over the longer term.