The continuing East-West standoff over Ukraine is being watched closely elsewhere in Europe and around the world, where the United States and its allies are trying to convince various countries to modify their policies.
U.S. officials travel the world to build support on a variety of issues, from Syria’s civil war to China’s designs on Pacific islands to Iran’s nuclear program and beyond.
Some analysts, however, believe the Western response to Russia’s moves in Ukraine has undermined those efforts.
“How are you going to persuade other nuclear states like Iran, North Korea to give up their nuclear weapons, in exchange for what? They see that in Ukraine, these guarantees didn’t work,” said Olexiy Haran, professor of comparative politics at the University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy.
Haran pointed out that Russia was one of the guarantors of Ukraine’s sovereignty, and then it took over Crimea and destabilized eastern Ukraine. “We expect a strong reaction from the international community because it undermines the whole system of security that is in Europe now,” Haran said.
While Russia has used its military in Ukraine, the West has responded with soft power – diplomacy and economic sanctions. At London’s Chatham House, U.S. policy analyst Xenia Dormandy said that was perceived around the world as weak.
“That’s a very, very dangerous message to take away because each situation is different,” Dormandy noted. “That’s how you get people crossing red lines, because of that ambiguity, and you have potential conflict.”
Dormandy said the soft power response is not as weak as it might seem. “Absolutely not. The response will, in time, have significant effects on the Russian economy,” Dormandy insisted.
Some of those effects are already being felt. And Russian President Vladimir Putin has started to distance himself from the militants in eastern Ukraine, at least officially.
Still, analysts agree the takeover of Crimea probably cannot be undone, and the danger still exists of a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine.
So if other countries are indeed looking for lessons in the Ukraine crisis, it may be too early to know what they are.