President Vladimir Putin loves to play the “divide-and-deceive” game, imagining that every split between the United States and Europe or inside the European Union is an opportunity to corrupt Western policies, opinions, and values. It was high time to turn this game against him, and last week he indeed found himself on the receiving end of an elegant “deter-and-engage” combination. As NATO announced the decision to strengthen its Response Force and military presence in the Baltic area, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande traveled to Moscow to impress upon President Vladimir Putin the urgent need to stop the escalation of hostilities in Eastern Ukraine. Merkel’s stern reflection that the talks made sense is likely a testimony that they didn’t, but it is remarkable that the five-hours-long exchange in the Kremlin (preceded and followed by phone conversations) happened against the background of lively debate in Washington on the issue of providing military aid to Ukraine.
For the rest of the post, see the Brookings blog, February 10.