Engage Putin – Don’t Alienate

As the EU and US collaborate to decide on sanctions and other responses to Putin’s incursion of Crimea, Putin continues to strengthen control over this Southeastern area of Ukraine. This is not surprising by any means. As a former KGB agent, now leader of the masses, Putin understands both the control and legitimacy concerns required to achieve his ultimate short term goal of annexing Crimea.

Recent developments illustrate his savvy. Armed guards, aggressive militia, and unidentified enforcers have been seen bullying diplomats and ensuring control, all under the guise of not being associated with Putin himself. The idea here is that he has plausible deniability. At the same time, it would be naïve to think that he did not have any influence on the announcement of a referendum on Crimea joining Russia. This is exactly what he wants, and has been masterfully planned.

All the while, the US and EU are fixated on their own myopic view of the world. Sanctions, not attending the G8, and criticizing Russia’s actions which further alienate Putin. I’m not saying these aren’t appropriate responses. They are, and Putin needs to know he’s stepped over the line. But what is required today is what has been needed since Putin took power: Constructive conversation, building trust, and listening.  As a former KGB agent, he has no trust for the West. Let’s engage him, build a relationship, and leverage these bonds to make the world a safer place.

David Kalis is the author of Vodka Shot, Pickle Chaser: A True Story of Risk, Corruption, and Self-Discovery Amid the Collapse pf the Soviet Union and can be reached at www.davidakalis.com.


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