Thursday, July 17, 2014

Window on Eurasia: West Won’t Provide Real Help to Ukraine Barring a Full-Scale War, Illarionov Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, July 17 – Andrey Illarionov says that unless and until Russian openly invades Ukraine and a full-scale war between the two countries breaks out, “the West will not move to provide real assistance to Ukraine.” And thus the answer to the question – will there be effective sanctions? – is “simple and short.”


            In a comment to the Ukrainian news agency, the economist and commentator said that “sanctions could have had an impact on the aggressor” if the following conditions had been met (


            First, “if they had been full-scale above all in the monetary and financial sphere.” Second, “if they had been declared at the end of February or in the extreme case at the beginning of March.” And third, “if all Western countries had taken part in them.”  But “not one of these conditions has been met up to now.”


            According to Illarionov, “the European Union and the United States will begin to really help Ukraine only in the case of a full-scale war with a large number of victims.”  Unfortunately, that is exactly the direction it is heading it. “Alas, things are bad for Ukraine now, [and] they will be even more difficult” in the future.”


            Nonetheless, he says in addressing his Ukrainian audience, “one must hold out. All the decent people are on your side.”


            Illarionov’s argument is important not only in and of itself but because it helps to put in context the new sanctions the United States has put in place and the ones the European Union is discussing.  What follows from his argument are three conclusions:


  • First, such sanctions will not affect Russian behavior, however much those who impose them suggest otherwise. Indeed, announcements about them seem to be designed less to achieve that end than to quiet demands for more effective actions.
  • Second, the failure of the West to stand united and disciplined in the face of Russian aggression only sets the stage for more of it. Vladimir Putin not only sees that he can play one part of the West off against another but that he can prevent the West from uniting by pursuing aggression in a way that will remain just below the threshold that would change that.
  • And third, in this situation, Ukraine has no choice but to continue to fight, to be “bloodied” as it were, because only by doing so will Kyiv have any chance to force the West to do the right thing.
          In short, the sanctions imposed so far with so much pomp will neither prompt Putin to end his aggression nor cause the Ukrainians to negotiate with the Moscow-backed and increasingly Moscow-organized and supplied secessionist forces in the southeast, the two goals that Western governments have suggested they hope to achieve.

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