The world’s worst game of chicken

Dan Drezner argues that the US and Russia are happy to let Ukraine continue to simmer until they get what they want:

So it appears that both Russia and the United States have a vested interest in continued conflict. Russia wants to weaken Ukraine, not be seen as knuckling under to sanctions, and wait for fissures to appear in the Western alliance. But the United States sees the calculus of conflict a bit differently. U.S. officials think that continued conflict will help to perpetuate the sanctions and the number of dead Russian soldiers in Ukraine. This elevates geopolitical risk and makes it harder for Putin to suppress the domestic costs of his Ukraine adventure.

Drezner is riffing off of an earlier WaPo piece by Steven Mufson on the G7, noting that the US and Russia both seem to have compartmentalized their Ukraine dispute while continuing to collaborate on critical issues like the Iran negotiations and dealing with terrorism. Also, this state of equilibrium means that Russia probably won’t dramatically escalate (by which I mean full-scale invasion of Ukraine) unless something drastic happens. I suppose we should be thankful for that, but this is for sure a lousy deal for the Ukrainian people, no matter which part of the country they’re in. It’s actually in the interests of both powers to keep this fight going precisely because neither of them is really bearing the main burden of it. Putin is in the slightly more vulnerable position here it would seem, since he’s actually got soldiers dying in eastern Ukraine, but between his control of Russian media and his 80+% approval ratings, he’s not about to cave anytime soon.


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