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Not a Riddle: Reading Russia - and Responding Resolutely

Putin's strategy is to intimidate, confuse and divide the West. He wants us to worry about his next steps. He appears stronger than he is, if Western decision-makers and opinion leaders consider Russia "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."

Churchill's famous description from October 1939 has made a comeback in the last fifteen months, but unfortunately not as the full quote:

I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest. It cannot be in accordance with the interest of the safety of Russia that Germany should plant itself upon the shores of the Black Sea, or that it should overrun the Balkan States and subjugate the Slavonic peoples of south eastern Europe.  That would be contrary to the historic life-interests of Russia.

Churchill's reference to the "riddle", I believe, was mainly about forecasting Russia's actions, which is similar to the weather forecast. The next few days can be forecasted with quite some authority, but not the next weeks. Yet, we all know the not too distant future: Winter is coming. (Only stupid bureaucrats in charge of our public transport systems get surprised by the first heavy snow fall.) Russia's future looks bleak as current policies are not sustainable.

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Standing the Test of Time

This blog has not been prolific in recent months, but I am glad that my past articles stand the test of time:

1. When Russia's green men seized Crimea in February 2014, US and German politicians and pundits suggested different responses. I explained the reasons for these transatlantic differences: Misreading Ostpolitik and the Cuban Missile Crisis Screwed up German and US Foreign Policy

This article from March 2014 is still relevant and will most likely explain gut reactions to future crises as well. The current German and US governments cannot ignore their pundits and public opinions, but so far Merkel's and Obama's Russia policy has not been too much negatively influenced by the popular, but shallow and wrong reading of past US or German policy successes. The EU and the US have been balancing sanctions and diplomacy quite well. They have successfully maintained transatlantic unity, which is more important than higher sanctions or more diplomacy.

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