Washington will have to engage in a subtle diplomacy with Moscow in order to prevent further Russian advances in Ukraine. But Europe’s dangerous dependency on Russian gas may be an obstacle, U.S. expert told AA.
NEW YORK – After imposing sanctions by executive order on several Russian officials for their role in the Crimean secession process, it is still not clear what other steps Washington might take to de-escalate tensions and oppose any further action Moscow may make in the Ukraine.
In his latest phone conversation with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday warned Moscow against further military advances toward southern and eastern Ukraine.
But experts caution sanctions may provoke an even sharper reaction from Moscow.
- Crimea may already be lost
They say targeting members of Putin's cabinet will fail if potential consequences are ignored. Indeed, Europe’s dependence on Russian gas might be avery big road block to a tougher approach in the near future even as the European Union imposes their own sanctions.
“Let us not forget that Russia in 2006 played the energy card by shutting the pipeline supply," warned John J. Metzler, a professor of government at St. John's University in New York.
Metzler, the author of “Trans-Atlantic Divide: The USA/Euroland Rift?” (2010) which deals precisely with these issues, told Anadolu Agency (AA) it is not wise to “publically close the door to diplomacy” since Crimea may already be lost.
Neither, in the upcoming days and weeks, would Washington’s unilateral tone be helpful when it comes to the rest of Ukraine. “Rather than playing a rhetorical game, Washington should engage in quiet 'back channel' diplomacy and let the Russians know that any steps beyond Crimea would seriously harm Russia's commercial relationship with the West," Metzler said.
Unilateralism will not work While Brussels and Washington do speak with one voice on the illegality of the Crimea referendum, Europe may have even more difficulty in adjusting to further and deeper sanctions on Russia.Metzler described the Europeans and Ukraine as “dangerously dependent” on the free flow of Russian natural gas. In addition, he listed the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia alongside the overwhelmingly European “club of dependency.”Even Germany “the economic powerhouse of the EU is heavily dependent,” he added.
- The future
Metzler recalled when there was first talk of the trans-Siberian gas link from Russia in the early 1980s, then U.S. President Ronald Reagan warned the Europeans about energy dependence on the Soviet Union. “Many in Europe, especially big business and much of the establishment, laughed at Reagan's warning which has become a prophesy," Metzler said.
Now Putin probes Western weakness in his attempt to rebuild influence on the ruins of the old Soviet empire, analysts say.“The Russian president plays by a historic and neo-nationalistic rulebook of Russian nostalgia and retro Soviet swag mixed with ruthless realpolitik politics,” Metzler said.
Yet Metzler says this time, Putin may have miscalculated in ignoring the warnings from the West. Even as diplomats at the United Nations in New York say miscalculations from any side are the real danger to world peace.
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