Ross Douthat starts off well,
SINCE the end of the Cold War, America’s policy toward Russia has been shaped by two dangerous illusions.
The first was the conceit that with the right incentives, eyes-to-soul presidential connections and diplomatic reset buttons, Russia could become what we think of, in our cheerfully solipsistic way, as a “normal country” — at peace with the basic architecture of an American-led world order, invested in international norms and institutions, content with its borders and focused primarily on its G.D.P. Not the old Russian bear, and not an “Upper Volta with rockets” basket case, but a stable, solid-enough global citizen — Poland with an Asian hinterland, Italy with nukes.
The second illusion was the idea that with the Cold War over, we could treat Russia’s near abroad as a Western sphere of influence in the making — with NATO expanding ever eastward, traditional Russian satellites swinging into our orbit, and Moscow isolated or acquiescent. As went the Baltic States, in this theory, so eventually would go Ukraine and Georgia, until everything west and south of Russia was one military alliance, and its western neighbors were all folded into the European Union as well.
But I’m not so sure about the “punishing Putin” bit:
Such an assessment should yield a strategy intended to punish Putin, in the short and longer run, without creating new flash points in which the West ends up overstretched.
So yes, for today, to sanctions on Putin’s cronies and economic assistance for Ukraine.
The issue, then, isn’t how to “punish” Russia – we’re not Russia’s nanny. Ideally, what we’d want to do is walk back some of the decisions that got us where we are now. Unfortunately, I don’t see a viable way to do that.
As usual, both pieces are worth a read.