The Kremlin is doing its best to signal that it has no ambitions beyond Ukraine. Marat Guelman, a well-connected art dealer and political consultant, recently quoted Vladimir Lukin, a former diplomat Putin has used to negotiate with the nationalists now in power in Kiev, as explaining that Russia’s military support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine is meant to show Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko “that he cannot win, ever.” Once Poroshenko accepts that, makes a deal with the separatists and accepts Ukraine’s role as Russia’s dependent state, Putin will be satisfied and will make peace with Europe, if not the U.S. “Russia doesn’t want to integrate with anyone but Europe, and Putin is the number one European here,” Lukin told Guelman. “We haven’t really quarreled with anyone in Europe.”
No one in the West can, or should, trust such leaks, given Putin’s history of disinformation. Still, no one in Europe is even suggesting a military response. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is talking about further economic sanctions against Russia as if they were enough of a heroic sacrifice. “I believe it is necessary to prepare such sanctions and that possible disadvantages in no way outweigh those resulting from doing nothing,” she said last weekend.
Given Putin’s disregard for previous sanctions, doing more is the same as doing nothing.