For the past few years we’ve been playing a prisoner’s dilemma with Russia. In fact, I’d argue that this goes back farther than just a few years, it might even go back to our two wars in the Iraq and Afghanistan. The US essentially was able to convince through a mixture of sympathy, arm twisting, and out right lies as we know now.
Since then at every turn Russia has been a balancing force or antagonizing force depending on your perspective, to US goals in different parts of the world; specifically in places like Liberia, Syria, and Turkey. In none of these cases was Russia in a position to really push back against the US and definitely could not have pushed for Sanctions against the US.
Now, with the Ukraine crisis it’s not longer through proxies. This is a head to head game against some of the most corrupt politicians on earth. These politicians make our “corrupt” politicians look like kittens. They are not afraid to lock up someone for political dissent, like Pussy Riot or many others. Furthermore, there are a lot of accusations of out right poisoning or murder as well. In the US, there might be calls for sending someone to prison, but truthfully, I don’t think that anyone would be happy if it was incredibly easy to send a duly elected official in the US to prison. We might like it to be easier or whatever, but it’s not and it’s even better that it’s hard for dissenters to be sent to prison.
Obama likely has gained some experience with the brinkmanship that’s happened in the US in the past few months, but that’s really nothing compared to Putin’s experience as a KGB agent and running Russia for the past 15 years. For the Crimea (where Russia has “invaded or not”) this has some serious implications. At this point the US can do a few things, commit militarily, push for sanctions – likely including removing Russia from UN and other international bodies, and little else. To preempt any discussion on sanctions Russia has already said that happens they will simply shift away from the Dollar and stop repaying any US banks.
This is what we have to look forward to with this Crimea Crisis. Russia and the US are both in a no-blink position over this. The US believes that Russia is in the wrong with their actions in Crimea and Ukraine, while Russia believes it is doing nothing wrong.
We’re entering a pretty terrifying time with these stand offs. At this point we don’t know how the people are playing the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Are they all playing the game as if we’re going to have another turn? In all the other cases I’d say that yes, we’ve played as if there will be more turns. However, people are arguing we’re on the brink of another cold-war. I can’t make a claim either way for that – I look back at movies from the 80’s and at times have difficulty remembering the context that movie was filmed in. However, thinking about the tension in this situation and the fear that the other guy is only planning on one interaction that it’s this and never another move, that’s pretty terrifying – especially since I want to keep playing.