Instead of Isolating Putin’s Russia, U.S. Must Offer Alternatives

Instead of Isolating Putin’s Russia, U.S. Must Offer Alternatives

Over the past two years, whenever Russia has undertaken steps in the international arena that the United States disapproves of, there has been a predictable response in Washington: a parade of somber-faced U.S. officials solemnly warning Moscow that its actions are opposed by the "international community" and that Russia risks isolation by its policy choices. Indeed, #RussiaIsolated has become the hashtag of choice in the State Department's social media arsenal.

Certainly, the U.S. has had some successes in turning the hashtag into reality: winning some symbolic votes at the United Nations; getting a coalition of states to impose limited sanctions on Russia in the aftermath of the annexation of the Crimea; and having Moscow ejected from the G-8, thereby returning the grouping to its Cold War-era status as a forum of the leading Western industrialized nations plus Japan.

But for the most part the rhetoric has fallen short. Russian President Vladimir Putin may have been excluded from the G-7 meeting in Brussels earlier this month, but his bilateral meetings with British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande—at a formal dinner at the Elysee Palace, no less—immediately after the Western summit diminished any dramatic impact of his absence. That follows Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s attendance of the Sochi Winter Olympics earlier this year as Putin’s honored guest.

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