Plain, old-fashioned capitalism will prevent a new cold war between the United States and Russia over Ukraine and Russia’s gobbling up of the Crimean region. Capitalism, plus the fact that probably not one American in a thousand could locate Crimea on a map, and even the most hard-headed US political analysts have trouble coming up with a decent definition of what US interests in Ukraine might be.
Helping to contain the crisis is the fact that Russia, Europe and to a lesser extent the United States are tied together in a powerful web of financial and economic ties that didn’t exist, say, during the real Cold War. Their influence runs counter to the many, many cries from hawks to impose tough economic sanctions on Russia, as if the giant Eurasian power were a small “rogue state.” The Washington Post, for instance, said in an editorial:
Some argue that the West lacks the means to damage the Putin regime or that the United States cannot act without Europe, but neither claim is true. Banking sanctions—denying Russians and their banks access to the U.S. financial system—could deal a powerful blow. Mr. Obama must respond to Mr. Putin with measures that force the Russian ruler to rethink his options.
But, as CNN reports:
Russia is the European Union’s third-biggest trading partner after the United States and China, with goods and services worth more than $500 billion exchanged in 2012. About 75% of all foreign direct investment in Russia originates in EU member states, according to the European Commission.
In addition, Russia is the single biggest supplier of energy to the European Union. British energy firm BP is the second-largest shareholder in Russia’s leading oil producer Rosneft, and some of the biggest energy companies in Germany, the Netherlands and France are invested in a joint venture with Russian gas giant Gazprom.
And, in a lengthy interview in The American Interest, Zbigniew Brzezinski points with regret to the fact that British bankers, who have large deposits of Russian cash—particularly from Russian oligarchs—are resisting any sort of confrontation over Ukraine:
The British seem inclined to argue, “Well, there’s a lot of Russian money in our banks.”… The bankers doubtless have a lot of influence, particularly in political systems in which money is increasingly the mechanism that oils the “democratic process.”
Earlier, the BBC had reported that a document carried by a top British official read: “The U.K. should not support for now trade sanctions or close London’s financial center to Russians.”
The New York Times, in a long March 7 piece analyzing US and European business interests in Russia and their effect on the politics of the situation, quoted several executives with Western firms who clearly want to cool the crisis talk: