The West’s Values And Moscow’s Ambitions

Globe Highlighting NATO Members

(Article ©2017 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – – Brian Whitmore – August 14, 2017 – also appeared at

Sometimes, one simple statement can encapsulate the dilemma of an era.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s remarks this week that Brussels should seek better relations with Russia “without renouncing our values and principles” is a perfect illustration of the paradox the West faces with Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin.

Because, while it may be possible to achieve cooperative relations with some future Russia without sacrificing Western values and principles, it appears all but impossible with this Russia; it appears all but undoable with Putin’s Russia.

Because, as a price for more cooperative relations, Putin wants things the West cannot give him.

He wants a free hand in the former Soviet space.

He wants Western recognition that Ukraine’s sovereignty, Georgia’s sovereignty, and Moldova’s sovereignty are limited and conditional;

He wants implicit Western endorsement of a revived Russian empire.

All of these things are inconsistent with Western values and giving them to Putin — either explicitly or implicitly — would be a renunciation and violation of Western values.

There just isn’t much wiggle room here.

The price of cooperative relations with Russia is selling out the aspirations and the independence of Russia’s neighbors.

So the West can either have better relations with Putin’s Russia or it can stick to its values.

It can’t have both — at least not at this time.

It really is that simple.