Who do you prefer Obama or Putin

Ukraine, Russia, Europe

Christian Hacke

To person

Dr. phil., born 1943; Prof. em. at the Department of Political Science at the University of Bonn, Lennéstraße 25, 53113 Bonn. [email protected]

Many observers see the origin of the Ukraine crisis in the explosive development on the Kyiv Majdan in the winter of 2013/14. This led to regime change in Ukraine, to the Russian takeover of Crimea and, ultimately, to the ongoing destabilization of the country through the fighting in eastern Ukraine. A secession of the East, even its affiliation to Putin's "New Russia", can no longer be ruled out in view of Russia's military influence. [1]

This image of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a ruthless aggressor who could possibly conquer other parts of Europe is not without plausibility. But is it enough to fully explain Russian behavior in the Ukraine crisis? Or are there deeper reasons that explain Russia's departure from the West and the new imperial temptation? Did Europe and the USA contribute to this development? Did they even provoke Russia to make decisions through their own misconduct that Putin might have failed to make in a different Western Russia and Ukraine policy? [2]

Causes and Development of East-West Tensions

The turning point around 1990 led to a polarizing shift in power in Europe. As a logical consequence of the victory over communism, the West pursued a policy of enlargement of the European Union and NATO, which seemed to be legitimized simply because of the democratization of Eastern Europe that it promoted. Even if those responsible in Washington, London, Paris and Bonn refrained from making triumphant statements in 1989/90, [3] they made it increasingly clear to the Kremlin in the course of the following years that criticism of Western politics from Russia because of the democratic deficit there is essentially illegitimate. Western offers did not lack a certain hubris, which did not suit the Russian self-esteem. This was a highly problematic self-assessment, because history shows that the idea of ​​a natural expansion of democracy with the aim of a liberal world peace is understood by differently minded powers as a threat to their own interests. Already since Athens' expedition to Sicily in the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC) [4] and up to the wars of the USA under the leadership of President George W. Bush (2001–2009) it has also been shown that democracies are also ahead of imperial ones Temptations are not immune.

No wonder that the enlargement of the EU and NATO was also interpreted from the Russian point of view as imperial and a threat to its own interests. Whenever Western countries offered cooperation to Moscow after 1990, they let Russia feel in the same breath that criticism of democracy-promoting politics per se is out of the question. This arrogance did not facilitate Russian concession, especially since it is known that (former) great powers, after losing influence and prestige, do everything in their power to get back to their former greatness as soon as possible. [5] In Russia, the first attempt by President Boris Yeltsin (1991–1999) to master the crisis of decline through internal democratic approaches and by opening up to the west failed. His successor, Vladimir Putin (in office since 2000 with a four-year break), therefore distanced himself from this policy and sought a radical new beginning. At first it was unclear whether he would strive for a revival with or against the neighbors, through modernization and reforms or through the restoration of authoritarian institutions and structures.

In this phase of uncertain development, the West paid too little attention to Russia's foreign policy sensitivities and security interests, as the Kosovo intervention and NATO's war against Serbia showed at the latest. Russia then urged in vain to ratify the 1999 adjustment agreement to the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (A-KSE). The cancellation by the USA in 2002 of the ABM Treaty, which was signed by the USA and the Soviet Union in 1972 to limit missile defense systems, also deepened Russian security concerns. Accordingly, the new Russian military doctrine of 2005 assumed more uncertainty. Putin warned at the Munich Security Conference in 2007 that he would not accept any further expansion of the influence of the USA, the EU or NATO in the direction of Russia. But the West ignored the warnings and continued its policy of enlarging NATO and the EU to the east as far as Russia's borders. [6] A schizophrenic development set in: it was verbally emphasized in Brussels and elsewhere that enlargement would also benefit Russia. The fact that this policy causes irritation and frustration in the Kremlin was suppressed.

Since the end of the Soviet Union, the EU has more than doubled its membership. Its economic power grew to be the greatest in the world, while Russia was struggling to get on its feet. Putin was increasingly ambivalent about the West's offers of cooperation. On the one hand he hoped for modernization, on the other hand he feared foreign infiltration, capitalist exploitation and, above all, that the democratic bacillus would also establish itself in Russia. The old ideological thought patterns continued to have an effect, and new instincts for power were awakened. So it was only logical that he increasingly cut democratic reform approaches; "Revision" became the key concept of his policy. The Russian President recognized that the continued existence of NATO was inevitable. But opening up or expanding the North Atlantic Pact to the east was completely contrary to Russian security interests.

In the West at the beginning of the 1990s there was initially no talk of an expansion of NATO. The Republican US administration under George Bush senior (1989–1993) was still reluctant to accept such requests. Only under the liberal-internationalist government of Bill Clinton (1993-2001) was the enlargement concretized. [7] In the USA, the historian George F. Kennan led the ranks of realistic critics, [8] in Germany Helmut Schmidt and Hans-Dietrich Genscher, as well as diplomats and scientists, made no secret of their concerns. [9] However, the admission of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland in 1999 and Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia in 2004 continued to disregard Russian security interests. When the US pushed for the admission of Georgia and Ukraine at the NATO summit in 2008, they challenged Russia as well. [10]

In a conversation with US President George W. Bush, Putin therefore let it be known that "Ukraine, if it is accepted into NATO, will cease to exist". [11] His warning went without a response, rather the alliance continued its enlargement policy undaunted, in 2009 Albania and Croatia were admitted. The Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, challenged by the self-confident Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, should definitely have been seen in the West as a clear sign of the Kremlin's renewed political determination - as did Putin's criticism of the US plans to install missile defense systems in Poland .