(National Interest) The downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 has dramatically escalated tensions surrounding the Ukraine crisis. On Tuesday, the EU and the United States enacted unprecedented economic sanctions against Russia, the world’s sixth largest economy. The talk in Western capitals is about the degree of punishment to exact against Russia for its actions and the extent of support to provide to the Ukrainian government, be it political, military or financial. This two-pronged approach has rapidly become conventional wisdom in policy circles.
And it is understandable why the West is responding this way—having annexed a neighbor’s territory, stoked an armed insurgency, and now created the circumstances under which three hundred innocents perished, Russian president Vladimir Putin and his government have left Western leaders little choice. Yet this approach, while morally justified and responsive to the politics of the moment, is likely to backfire with potentially catastrophic consequences.
The outcome demanded by Western officials—and pursued on the ground by the Ukrainian authorities—entails an immediate halt in Russian aid to the insurgents that would allow the government forces to crush the insurgency, establishing full control over Ukraine’s sovereign territory. This outcome is both highly unlikely to come to pass and deeply problematic. […]
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