The American Interest

Strategic Blunders

It has been a summer of major strategic blunders by the United States and Russia over Ukraine and by the United States in the Middle East, where the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS, now renamed simply the Islamic Caliphate) has emerged as a major player, threatening what little remains of the region’s stability.

Putin’s strategy in Ukraine has been overtly defensive ever since Maidan turned ugly last winter.  In essence the strategy has been to refrain from serious support for the rebels in the east, in the hope that Kiev will reciprocate with a comprehensive settlement that would include a promise of Ukraine’s permanent “Finlandization” as a neutral buffer—and perhaps a bridge—between Russia and NATO.  That strategy has failed, primarily because—contrary to German and French preferences—Washington has aggressively pursued an all-or-nothing course.  It has also failed because Russia’s leadership has been singularly unable to develop adequate alternative scenarios.

The end result is increasingly likely to be a Western-hostile Russia and a dirt-poor, unpleasantly chauvinist Ukraine, dependent on Western largesse.  If Moscow fails to prevent Ukraine’s eventual transformation into a viscerally Russophobic Banderistan, as now seems likely, the return of the Crimea last March will be scant compensation for the overall rapid weakening of...

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