Russia may have promised Washington last week that it won’t invade Eastern Ukraine, but the crisis and its ramifications are far from over.
Even as Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu said Russia would leave Ukraine alone, other officials in Moscow hinted that Russian minorities in other countries may also need “rescue.”
With Ukraine having ceded Crimea — not that it really had much choice in the matter — the change in ownership is now a done deal. No amount of sanctions will compel Moscow to give back what it has seized.
The question now is how to ensure Russia doesn’t let its annexation of Crimea embolden it to grab still more territory from its neighbors.
Stopping Russia in its tracks will demand skilled and muscular statesmanship. Moscow is not without leverage over both Europe, which depends on Russia for energy and exports, and America, which needs Russia to help in dealings with Iran, Syria and North Korea.
For Russian President Vladimir Putin, those factors — combined with his rising popularity at home in the wake of his Crimea gambit — appear to give him the upper hand.
But it may be a short-lived gain.
Russia still faces enormous economic problems, and the Crimea crisis and the sanctions imposed so far have driven a 10 percent loss on the Russian stock market, as foreign investors have withdrawn their cash. Moscow has been forced to promise support for two Russian banks blacklisted by the US Treasury.
But that is just the start. To keep Russia from further misadventures, more must be done:
■First, further economic sanctions should be targeted to drive wedges between Russia’s ruling elites and specifically hurt Putin and his allies.
■Second, all Western arms sales to Russia must be canceled or frozen. Germany has cut off a major arms deal with Moscow and France “annulled” military relations with Russia, a dramatic step that underscores the gravity of the current situation.
Europe must ensure it is not complicit in arming a Russian military bent on threatening its neighbors.
Paris put off until October whether to make good on a contract to deliver two large amphibious ships to the Russian Navy. To ease the economic pain of that decision, Western allies should buy arms destined for Russia themselves or find new buyers. France, for example, could keep one of the two ships, and America could buy the other to test the merits of warships that incorporate extensive commercial marine technologies.
■Third, NATO must deploy more assets to member states that border Russia to dissuade further Russian incursions. Already, the United States, France and other alliance nations have wisely deployed aircraft and personnel to the Baltics as a visible deterrent.
■Fourth, the NATO alliance must forge a long-term strategy to turn the tables on countries that, like Russia, seek to operate outside international norms to expand their territories through intimidation of their neighbors. How alliance members deal with Russia will have ramifications elsewhere.
China is a case in point. While the world has been focused on Crimea, Beijing continues to unilaterally advance its claims in the South China Sea.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is right: The Ukraine crisis is a game changer. It is a wake-up call for the alliance in general and for Europe, in particular, to invest more in its security and reaffirm its commitment to collective defense.
The NATO summit in September offers an ideal opportunity to renew and reshape the future of the world’s most successful military alliance.