Article

Arming Ukraine Will Put the West in Danger

Published

2nd June 2015

A dangerous, possibly irreversible, dynamic of conflict is taking hold of Russian-Western relations.

In every arena of the Ukraine crisis, escalation is the order of the day. On the ground, where fresh fighting rages in the Donbass region. In the skies over Europe, where British fighter jets are intercepting Russian nuclear bombers. In Washington, where Congress and ambitious policymakers with an eye on the 2016 presidential elections are forcing the White House’s hand on lethal assistance to Kiev. In Moscow, where the few remaining voices of compromise are considered weaklings or traitors. Even in the realm of global finance, where expelling Russia from the SWIFT payment system is now under serious consideration.

At this rate, someone’s really going to get hurt soon. This is not to make light of the suffering already being caused by the conflict in eastern Ukraine, with half a million people displaced and thousands killed and wounded in fighting there. What it does suggest is the need for perspective amid the increasingly unhinged talk of war with Russia.

Memories are short. The fallout from the wars of 9/11 in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now Syria has all but consumed Western strategic thinking. But the Cold War ended only 25 years ago, and Ukraine’s singular strategic significance to Russia ought to make the memory of a nuclear crisis over Cuba seem positively quaint by comparison.

Russia still possesses a nuclear arsenal in excess of 8,000 warheads. It has a conventional military of nearly one million men under arms, and in the age of cyberwarfare has the ability to inflict catastrophic damage on critical Western infrastructure.

To their credit, President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have sought to keep the West on a sober path, addressing Moscow’s annexation of Crimea with firm diplomacy in the pursuit of a peaceful solution. Even as this conflict has demonstrated the speed with which Washington can push for sanctions whose consequences are largely borne by Europeans, Merkel has made maintaining trans-Atlantic, as well as European, unity her lodestar.

What the current escalation risks, however, is a breakdown of this unity — even as the possibility of open conflict is growing. A new approach is urgently needed.

It must begin with a reality check on the nature of the adversary, and the futility of the current course of action. The features of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime that its critics most like to cite — kleptocracy, repression, chauvinism, revisionism, paranoia — are the very characteristics that will make it utterly unwilling to capitulate under pressure, be it financial or military.

The more the West emphasizes a belligerent course of action, the more Putin’s popular support, already in a range undreamed of by Western leaders (80 percent approval), will harden rather than soften.

The West is increasingly dealing with a government in Moscow whose most liberal and pluralist elements see a reality of economic war with the West, and a future of responses “without limits” to further sanctions — as that most pliable (and unrepresentative) of Russian leaders, Dimitri Medvedev, noted Jan. 27.

Moscow will view a decision to expel the Russian banking system from SWIFT as not just an economic measure but as a strategic one. To be met by any and all means at Russia’s disposal. Cyber, energy, finance, nonstate groups in neighbouring states — all could become weapons in such a response. That is also without considering the risk of a catastrophic miscalculation or overreaction by a single pilot, nuclear submarine captain or militia member with a shoulder-fired missile.

In an atmosphere of zero trust, anything becomes possible.

If a diplomatic solution is to be found before — and not after — a terrible conflagration involving the world’s two nuclear superpowers, a new U.S.-German diplomatic initiative toward Moscow must be launched.

Moscow will have to accept that the people of Ukraine freely elect their own leaders and can choose membership in the European Union. The West will have to accept that the minority rights we trumpet elsewhere also should apply to Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine, and that membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will make Ukraine — and the alliance itself — less secure, not more.

For this kind of settlement to be possible, the Kremlin will have to walk back its most extreme rhetoric — and ambitions — about a Novorossiya. The West will have to reverse its folly of walking the people of Ukraine out on a plank of military and economic dependency on Europe in a conflict with Russia that has no sustainable political support among European populations.

The contours of a deal acceptable to both sides has long been clear. Given the cataclysmic consequences of an armed conflict with Russia, only the absence of an all-hands-on-deck diplomatic push by the West is a mystery.

Overview

Strategic advantage in a volatile world

The Firm

Nader Mousavizadeh and David Claydon founded Macro Advisory Partners in 2013 to provide a global client base with a competitive advantage in a complex world. Driven by a belief in the value of independent, long-term strategic counsel, MAP's co-founders created a firm that delivers actionable macro strategies to decision-makers in business, finance and government.

A volatile and fragmenting global landscape requires an integrated understanding of the political and economic drivers of change. Drawing on MAP's unique network, the firm’s partners — including Mona Sutphen and John Sawers — create tailored and innovative macro solutions mapped to the specific exposures, risks and opportunities facing the firm’s clients.

MAP's London and New York-based team of partners, directors and associates is supported by a Global Advisory Board and a group of Senior Advisors drawn from leadership positions in the worlds of business, finance, politics, diplomacy and technology.

Partners
Global Advisory Board
  • Kofi Annan

    Chairman, The Kofi Annan Foundation
    Kofi Annan was the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations (1997 to 2006), and now serves as Chairman of The Kofi Annan Foundation.
  • William Burns

    President, Carnegie Endowment
    Ambassador Burns is President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and was the 17th United States Deputy Secretary of State.
  • Mala Gaonkar

    Co-portfolio Manager, Lone Pine Capital
    Mala Gaonkar is Co-portfolio Manager at Lone Pine Capital, and a former consultant at the World Bank.
  • Vikram Mehta

    Chairman, Brookings India
    Vikram Mehta is Executive Chairman of Brookings India and former Chairman of the Shell Group of Companies in India.
  • David Miliband

    President, IRC
    David Miliband is President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, following a distinguished political career in the United Kingdom.
  • Vali Nasr

    Dean, SAIS
    Dr Vali Nasr is Dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University.

Concept

Macro Advisory Partners provides corporate, investor and sovereign clients with the strategic insights to navigate the intersection of global markets, geopolitics and policy.

In a world defined by volatility and uncertainty — and an abundance of information, yet scarcity of insight — we identify the strategic implications for decision-makers tasked with maximising opportunity and minimising risk. The Archipelago World is characterised by fragmenting markets, populist politics, policy unpredictability, revolutionary technology, and weaponised arenas of finance, regulation and cyber.  The implications of this environment are dramatic and lasting. To help our clients anticipate and navigate these shifts in the macro landscape, we bring together deep on-the-ground analysis with long-term strategic judgement tailored to our clients' specific interests, exposures and concerns.

For today's global investor and business leader, macro is just as disruptive a factor as technology. Our advice — delivered by the firm's partners through trusted, personal, long-term and dynamic client engagements — is drawn from the policy expertise and connectivity of our global network, supported by advanced data analytics. The firm's Global Advisory Board and a team of Senior Advisors with backgrounds in diplomacy, macro intelligence, investment strategy, academia and industry, support our partners with the judgements that enable us to provide clients with relevant, actionable and investable macro solutions.

Principles

A culture of partnership defines our firm — among the individuals we have attracted to our endeavour, and with the clients whose long-term interests we view as our own. Our team brings to our work a diverse range of global business, finance and government experiences that enable us not only to interpret a changing macro environment for our clients, but also to design specific solutions that enhance their performance and prospects.

The principles of independence, integrity and intelligence define our culture. Our clients include the world's leading technology, consumer, energy and financial services institutions. Our commitment to them — and to our people — is to deliver on our founding aim of building the world's leading macro advisory firm.

Portfolio

  • Engagement

    Middle East Market Expansion

    Facing a fragmenting market and changing regulation, a global financial services company uses MAP's advice to enhance its performance and footprint in the Middle East.
  • Engagement

    Managing a Complex Portfolio in a Volatile World

    MAP provides ongoing and ad-hoc advisory services to a significant investor client, which manages a complex portfolio of equity, credit, interest rate, commodity and foreign exchange exposures.
  • Engagement

    China Market Strategy

    A global consumer goods company achieves success in China with support from MAP's distinctive macro insights.

Contact

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