Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

March 13, 2014

Another View: The West has decisions; Russia may pay a price

Let’s begin by acknowledging that the United States will not be sending troops to Ukraine.

That country — despite an incursion by Russian troops — is not of vital strategic interest to America, and there is no treaty obligation to defend it.

However, the decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to send troops to the Crimea region of Ukraine is an antagonistic move the West cannot ignore. But is there anything America and its allies can do about it?

Actually, there’s quite a bit that can be done. The larger question is how determined the West is to send a message to Putin and how willing is it to up the ante.

We’re not talking about military action here. But we are talking about steps that could — at least in some ways — revive the Cold War.

Mainly such efforts would involve economic pressure on Russia. Western investment and trade is actively pursued in that country. But if Russia presents itself as an unreliable partner, economic relationships are bound to suffer.

For instance ... the major measurement of Russian stock valuations showed a drop of more than 10 percent. While markets around the world suffered because of the Ukraine crisis, the damage was far less elsewhere.

Yet taking a stand economically against Russia carries its risks for western Europe, which gets much of its natural gas from eastern countries. If the diplomatic climate continues to deteriorate, Europe could find itself facing a major energy crisis.

In the short term, there may be little the West can do regarding Ukraine, unless Putin can be persuaded to reverse course. But over the long term, this crisis has the potential to blow up in Russia’s face.

Not only are trade arrangements at stake here, but this incident could prompt western Europe to look elsewhere for its energy needs. That includes the United States.

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