Putin's Russia may have bitten off more than it can chew in Ukraine
Obviously, the "soft power" of the EU does not have a range as long as some thought. Hardly can it go beyond the eastern borders of Poland.
On the other end of the frontier, the defunct Soviet Union is not rising from its ashes. As recently stated by Anthony Giddens, a great scholar and former director of the London School of Economics, "The Soviet Union is gone forever and there is no chance of its return. Russia is a country of only 140 million people today and one whose population is shrinking. Its economy is based substantially upon its mineral resources and only limited progress has been made with modernization and diversification."
This is exactly the analysis I have already made in a number of televised interviews. But there is more. Russia is also very heavily dependent on the global financial system. Russian oligarchs have already had a taste of how volatile the international financial system can become, be it with off-shore banking and investments in tax havens or through losses incurred by the Cypriot banking crisis.
On top of that, even a well-functioning democratic system can at times come to a standstill and alienate parts of society. Social explosions started 10 years ago in the United Kingdom, France, and recently Germany, without political parties and social scientists understanding their roots and reasonably establishing countervailing structures or measures. The protests against Wall Street illustrate eloquently enough that pluralistic liberal democracies are not immune to street violence.
However, in democratic regimes, these social outbursts appear and disappear rapidly, without really undermining the regime. In non-democratic regimes, the appearance of such social explosions usually tolls the death knell of the regime, which disappears sooner or later. Nonetheless, no authoritarian regime abandons power easily, as we have unfortunately witnessed on a number of occasions, especially in Yemen, Syria and Egypt recently.
The Russian Federation is no Egypt nor Yemen. Its destabilization would ignite a major earthquake in international relations and would have disastrous effects on its own society, but also on neighboring countries, not least China. For the time being, Russian authorities do not seem to be really alarmed by such prospects.
The total disappearance of the remains of distributive justice in the Russian Federation is a virtual time bomb, which will explode at some point if it is not defused, meaning, if a more acceptable and participative parliamentarian democratic system is not established.
Putin thinks that Soviet era "business as usual" strategies will help him get out of this crisis, as was the case with Chechnya, Georgia and Uzbekistan. This time though, the country in question is Ukraine. It is not a peripheral small country. It is a large independent state.
Moreover it is a democracy and despite shortcomings and embezzlements, is much closer to EU norms than any comparable ex-Soviet Republic, save Georgia.
It is also the first international crisis where Germany and its chancellor are in the front line, taking the initiative without asking the United States. This means there are too many new factors in a situation impregnated with too many old tactics. In that sense, Russia's moves and the outcome of the crisis will give all of us important hints about new relations to be established between the two sides of this obsolete curtain which can hardly be described as iron anymore.