The Provocation of Western Weakness

It would be a lot easier to agree with some of John Bolton’s views on the U.S.-Russia relationship for the next president had he not said such foolish things in the past. Nevertheless, he makes a good point:

A truly rational Russia policy has to escape both the persistent romanticism of Moscow in recent U.S. Administrations, and the desire of some Europeans to pull the covers over their heads and hope that things will work out by doing nothing. Too many Europeans believe they have passed beyond history, and beyond external threats unless they themselves are “provocative.” Last spring in Bucharest, that mentality led Germany and others to reject U.S. suggestions to put Georgia and Ukraine formally on the path to NATO membership. Moscow clearly read that rejection as a sign of weakness. In truth, what most risks “provoking” Moscow is not Western resolve, but precisely Western weakness. This is where the real weight of history lies. Accordingly, attitude adjustment in Moscow first requires attitude adjustment in NATO capitals, and quickly, before Moscow’s swaggering leaders draw the wrong lessons from their recent successes.