Openly or subconsciously, Western leaders have since 1991 acted on the assumption that Russia is a flawed Western country. Perhaps during the Soviet years it had become different, even deformed. But sooner or later, the land of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, the home of classical ballet, would join what Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, so movingly called “our common European home.” --
For the first time, many are beginning to understand that the narrative is wrong: Russia is not a flawed Western power. Russia is an anti-Western power with a different, darker vision of global politics. The sanctions lists published in Europe this week were laughably short, but the fact that they appeared at all reflects this sea change. For 20 years, nobody has thought about how to “contain” Russia. Now they will.
In any case, even the new and longer U.S. sanctions list is only a signal. Far more important, now, are the deeper strategic changes that should flow from our new understanding of Russia. We need to reimagine NATO, to move its forces from Germany to the alliance’s eastern borders. We need to re-examine the presence of Russian money in international financial markets, given that so much “private” Russian money is in fact controlled by the state. We need to look again at our tax shelters and money-laundering laws, given that Russia uses corruption as a tool of foreign policy. Above all we need to examine the West’s energy strategy, given that Russia’s oil and gas assets are also used to manipulate European politics and politicians, and find ways to reduce our dependence.