Put Putin in a Box

Last week Russian President (probably for life) Vladimir Putin saw fit to warn Western powers obliquely that they had better not intervene to help Ukraine as his troops invade it. He said “Thank God, I think no one is thinking of unleashing a large-scale conflict with Russia. I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers.”

Mr. Putin should realize that Americans and Europeans have never for a moment forgotten that fact. But he should also understand that what President Obama was seeking between the United States and Russia was actually a kind of mutual accommodation. The collapse of the Soviet Union, which Putin views as a geopolitical catastrophe was what Americans and Europeans should properly call a “reset.”

That reset was the successful culmination of the Western policy of “containment.” Containment imposed great costs on America and the West as well as the Soviet Union. But America and the West were better able to bear those costs than the Soviets. Given Russia’s economic and demographic prospects, Putin should be more loathe to provoke a rematch of that contest.

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