April 10, 2017

GUNS OF AUGUST, VOL. 2: The Balkans Will Be America and Russia’s Next (Virtual) Battlefield.

Russia has meddled extensively in Europe, and Moscow’s attitude toward the United States has become “explicitly belligerent.” That said, Putin has limited opportunities for further provoking the West. That makes the Balkans a more likely target for Russian interference.

Ukraine is an active and debilitating conflict, but it is, in some ways, a frozen one. Putin has failed to live up to his obligations under the Minsk Agreement, and there is scant prospect that the 2015 deal, often called Minsk II, will bring peace. Certainly it doesn’t preclude more war.

At present, however, Minsk II is all that is on the table. Meanwhile, the United States and the Europeans have clearly signaled that, while the sanctions on Russia tied to implementation of the agreement will be reviewed periodically, the near-term prospects for sanctions relief are nil.

At the same time, U.S. officials have signaled continuing support for Ukraine. In February, Trump told a prominent Ukrainian parliamentarian that the United States wouldn’t push for lifting sanctions anytime soon. Only a week later, Trump included a statement of support for Ukraine in a letter to the Lithuanian president. More recently, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has made similar pledges. A recent survey of experts concluded that, “two months into his presidency . . . the Trump administration [is] talking tough and taking diplomatic positions akin to those of his predecessor Barack Obama.”

These developments leave little space for the Kremlin to ratchet up its antics in Ukraine without further antagonizing both the Europeans and the Americans.

Read the whole thing, and remember that even the New York Times seems to have (quietly) dropped the Trump-is-Putin’s-stooge meme.