Following a telephone conversation with President Vladimir Putin about Ukraine and Crimea, German chancellor Angela Merkel is reported to have said that he is living in another world. That sounds like condemnation but it is really a dispassionate statement. In much the same way, the inmates of a lunatic asylum might say that their psychiatrist is living in another world. He is. But his world is the real one; the inmates inhabit a world of illusions. In which worlds are Putin and Merkel respectively living?
Merkel is living in the post–Cold War world that began in 1989 and was entrenched by the failure of the 1991 Soviet counter-coup. It is in its way a very pleasant world — a place of peace dividends, reduced military budgets, arms reduction and nuclear disarmament, alliances between former enemies, free-trade agreements, largely free capital movements, the growth of international organizations and their influence, the spread of international law and regulation, and economic growth. One characteristic fruit of this world was the Budapest Declaration of 1994, under which Ukraine surrendered its nuclear weapons in return for security and territorial guarantees from Russia, the U.S., and Britain.