Europe wimps out again on Russian sanctions

Opinion Journal:
The U.S. and EU are saying they will impose new sanctions on Russia as early as Monday, albeit watered down again due to fears of economic harm in Europe. This continues the trend of incremental action that Vladimir Putin has consistently shrugged off. It also avoids the real need in the West for rethinking how to handle a revanchist Russia.

The sanctions-by-small-degrees strategy continues the hope that Mr. Putin's Russia can somehow, with the right balance of carrots and sticks, be brought back into the European fold. In this view Mr. Putin is reacting understandably to Russia's post-Soviet decline in power and the West's NATO expansion. Ukraine and the rest of the Russian near abroad are part of the Kremlin's historic sphere of influence, so let Mr. Putin have them and after a slap on the wrist we can all return to business as usual.

This is a false diagnosis wrapped in self-deception. It is how the West responded after the Soviet (sic) invasion of Georgia in 2008, which President Obama downplayed as he entered office promising a "reset" of relations and offering concessions on arms control and missile defense while ignoring Mr. Putin's increasingly authoritarian grip at home. Six years later, with nothing to show for the reset save a smaller U.S. missile force, Mr. Putin grabbed Crimea, and his special forces are now fueling unrest in eastern Ukraine.

The beginning of strategic wisdom is to understand that Mr. Putin's Russia is not a status quo power with a few territorial grievances. It is an authoritarian regime bent on rewriting the rules of post-Cold War Europe. Lacking democratic legitimacy and with an economy dependent mainly on fossil-fuel exports, the Kremlin must employ an increasingly virulent nationalism and foreign conquest to maintain power. Expansionism and foreign meddling aren't limited to historic claims. They are central to the regime's survival and if unchecked will continue beyond Ukraine.
There is more.

It looks like the Europeans can't even get tough on sanctions, much less military moves.  They look hopeless at this point.  Are they waiting for the US to bail them out for a third time in the last 100 years?


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