Western weak­ness

Kyiv Post - - Opinion -

Ever since Rus­sia in­vaded and oc­cu­pied Crimea and then launched its war against Ukraine in the Don­bas in 2014, it's been a chal­lenge for the West to de­velop a tough and uni­fied re­sponse to the Krem­lin.

Re­mark­ably, four years on, sup­port for mod­est sanc­tions is still hold­ing. How­ever, politi­cians are send­ing out dan­ger­ous sig­nals all over Europe that the con­sen­sus against Rus­sia's law­less­ness and war crimes may be com­ing to an end.

In Italy, new Prime Min­is­ter Giuseppe Conte on June 5 called for an end to sanc­tions on Rus­sia. One of the pow­ers be­hind Conte’s throne, the pop­ulist and far-right League party, led by Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Mat­teo Salvini, is sup­ported by the Krem­lin.

A cou­ple of days be­fore Conte's re­marks, an­other politi­cian from a far-right party, Aus­trian Vice Chan­cel­lor Heinz-Chris­tian Stra­che, made the same call. Russian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin vis­ited Aus­tria on June 5.

A few days be­fore that, Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker called for an end to “Rus­sia bash­ing.”

Putin also has friendly re­la­tions with Hun­gar­ian Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Or­ban and Czech Pres­i­dent Mi­los Ze­men. French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron, who started in of­fice promis­ingly by de­nounc­ing Putin’s pro­pa­ganda at a joint press con­fer­ence dur­ing the Krem­lin leader’s visit to France in May 2017, was by May 2018 in St. Peters­burg, there to bless a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas project be­tween France’s To­tal and Russian gas firm No­vatek.

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel is no friend of Putin, but even she was in Rus­sia re­cently to dis­cuss the U.S. pull­out of the Iran nuclear deal. These are big cracks in the Western po­si­tion on Rus­sia. U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald J. Trump is mak­ing the sit­u­a­tion worse, driv­ing wedges be­tween Amer­ica and its Euro­pean al­lies by tear­ing up in­ter­na­tional agree­ments and by threat­en­ing to im­pose tar­iffs on Euro­pean steel and alu­minum, as well as Ger­man lux­ury cars.

The incompeten­t Trump has shown the West the im­por­tance of hav­ing U.S. global lead­er­ship -- and how much it is missed when it dis­ap­pears. Aban­don­ment of unity against Rus­sia might be one sad re­sult. Be­sides Rus­sia's strength, Ukraine now has to worry about Western weak­ness.

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