Whenever there’s a geopolitcal crisis the e-mails start pouring in—“What does confrontation analysis recommend?”
Unfortunately these e-mails are never from Barack Obama or David Cameron. And, as Decision Mechanics is not a government-funded think tank, we tend not to be analyzing confrontations just for the hell of it.
However, a cursory analysis of the current situation in Crimea does raise some interesting points. The immediate confrontation doesn’t seem to be the US-EU versus Russia. Reports suggest that the US and EU have different positions. The US wants a return to the pre-defacto annexation situation while the EU merely wants to prevent an escalation of the current situation.
Becasue no one is suggesting a muilitary response, the West’s primary weapon appears to be sanctions. US trade with Russia is minuscule. The real threat comes from EU sanctions (although that’s a two-way street).
Before Russia can be confronted, the US and the EU need to complete their own confrontation. The West rarely seems to be coordinated in these situations which is probably its biggest failing. Russia, which seems to hold most of the cards at present, will continue to benefit from that lack of clarity.
There is an argument that the US should say it’ll walk away from this battle if the EU doesn’t step up. The US could assert a position of strength by reaffirming its commitment to Article 5 of the North Atlantic treaty (an attack on one is an attack on all). That reinforces existing borders and boosts NATO at the expense of the EU. Surely positive result, regardless of how the EU decides to proceed.
Of course, the real consequences of Russia’s military intervention will play out over the long-term. The Russian central bank has already had to support the rouble to the tune of $12 billion. Also, it’s possible that annexation of Crimea would push western Ukraine into the arms of NATO—maybe even inspiring a radical conversion that would allow the US to base anti-ballistic missiles in the territory.
At the end of the day, politicians have to be seen to be taking action—and meetings with Russia look more dynamic than debates between Washington and Berlin.