And Moscow has suffered serious losses as a result: Donald Trump cancelled the meeting with Vladimir Putin, a meeting at which the two were expected to discuss the intermediate missile accord the US has said it will leave. And the majority of Western countries lined up behind Ukraine, with many calling for new sanctions against Russia.
Despite its relative weakness, Golts says, “Kyiv behaved well.” It did not respond in ways that would lead only to more tactical defeats but instead has used every occasion to call attention to Russia’s violation of international law not only on the sea but in Crimea giving it a strategic victory and putting more pressure on Moscow.
By sending three small ships through the Kerch Strait, it confronted Moscow with a Hobson’s choice: if it allowed the ships free passage, it would undercut its own claims about who is in control; but if it didn’t, it would act in ways showing the entire world that “Russia is the aggressor.” It chose the latter, clearly the less favorable option.
Russia’s actions, in fact, “were presented as a prelude to a new attack on Ukraine,” Golts says. “I don’t think that this version can be confirmed logically … [but] nevertheless Ukraine introduced martial law, and Western governments said they intended to extend old sanctions and perhaps new ones.”
“All Moscow’s efforts to escape from isolation were thus reduced to nothing,” he says. “As we see, reliance exclusively on force in relations with many times militarily weaker Ukraine have failed.” And even if one accepts Russian propaganda that the whole thing was a provocation, one must recognize that “this provocation worked extremely well.”