Putin and Biden are negotiating over the heads of the Europeans. That doesn't have to be any harm for the EU.
If it were in his power, Vladimir Putin would turn the clock back in history to 1991. He saw the dissolution of the Soviet Union thirty years ago as a humiliation. For him it was the fall of an empire in which Russia found greatness and security. He never got over this shame.
That is why he intervened in 2008 in Georgia, which had turned to the west. That is why he annexed Crimea in 2014 and has been supporting the separatists in eastern Ukraine since they broke away from the government in Kiev.
Now Putin is again deploying troops. At no cost should Ukraine switch to the western camp. Ukrainians and Russians, for Putin they are "one people".
The Soviet Union is not bringing Putin back with all its threats. But it sparked the fear of war. Suddenly the West is ready to negotiate demands that it actually considers to be out of the question.
Now that it comes down to it, the Europeans are at the cat's table
Putin is exerting pressure: "It is you who have to give us guarantees," he says, addressing the states of the West. "And you must do it now, immediately."
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He presented two draft contracts. Its key points: NATO is not expanding any further east. The alliance is reducing its military facilities in those member states that are located on formerly Soviet territory. The Ukraine will not receive new weapons.
The US does not station medium-range missiles in Europe and withdraw their nuclear weapons from there.
Three crisis meetings have been agreed for the next week. On January 9th and 10th, Russian and American negotiators meet in Geneva. The NATO-Russia Council will meet in Brussels on January 12th. And on January 13th, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will meet in Vienna. Then the Ukraine will finally be at the table too.
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With Putin, impotent anger has built up. It is therefore sensible to speak to each other before things escalate. It was the same in the Cold War. At that time, NATO pursued a double strategy: talking and arming.
To learn from the tried and tested recipes, recommends Wolfgang Ischinger, head of the Munich Security Conference, and advocates "conflict prevention through both deterrence and diplomacy".
The main focus will be on American deterrence and diplomacy. It is President Joe Biden who, with credible counter-pressure, can deter Putin from military adventures . Europeans cannot do this.
That is the depressing realization these days: During the most dangerous security crisis in Europe for years, the great powers speak over the heads of the Europeans.
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Actually, this would be the hour of the "Normandy Format": For years Russia , Ukraine, France and Germany have been negotiating a peace solution for eastern Ukraine. Without success. Now that it comes down to it, the Europeans are at the cat's table.
No barbarism from EU Foreign Affairs Representative Josep Borrell's ("We do not want and must not be bystanders"). The security guarantees that Russia demands can only be provided by NATO, under the leadership of the USA.
You can see the return of classic great power politics - not only in the Ukraine conflict, but also in the rivalry between the United States and China. The EU does not play in this league. Despite all the talk of "strategic autonomy". Europe does not want to be a traditional great power at all. This thinking has left it behind as an anachronism in the consciousness of many citizens.
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Of course, the Americans promise to involve the Allies in the negotiations that are now beginning ("Nothing about you without you"). But you have the final say.
Will this weaken Europe further, possibly split the alliance? Not necessarily. And this is where the ruse of history comes into play.
With the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Putin already welded the West together, if only for a brief moment. At that time, the NATO countries decided to spend at least two percent of their gross domestic product on defense.
Perhaps this time Putin will succeed in strengthening the will of Europeans in the long term to do more for security on their own continent. He makes every effort, you have to give him that.
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