Checkmate. Putin cornered the West
But let’s face it. Putin doesn’t care much about threats from the West, sitting as he does in the enviable position of being able to take the lead.
Putin’s final phase is USSR 2.0, almost 30 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Its next actions come at a delicate geopolitical moment, with Western fears of an invasion of Ukraine, the colonization of Belarus, a European-wide energy crisis, the resignation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel as negotiator chief of the EU and concerns about the messy foreign policy of US President Joe Biden. .
Without firing a shot, Putin has managed to plunge the West into a collective panic – or at least into a position where he feels the need to appease the aging autocrat.
With so much force, Putin could aim for a land bridge between Russia proper and Crimea – an initiative that could be designed in part to free up water resources stranded by Ukraine in the North Crimean Canal, which once represented up to 85% of the peninsula’s water needs.
More recently, Putin has opened another front with the West by establishing a military alliance with the man often dubbed “Europe’s last dictator,” Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Emboldened by Kremlin support, Lukashenko acted with impunity by imprisoning opponents, forcing a downing of a Ryanair plane with a political opponent on board and sending migrants to its border with EU neighbors.
Andrei Soldatov, a Russian investigative journalist and security service expert, told me the country is already heavily sanctioned and targeted Russian companies have been effectively vaccinated with lucrative defense and intelligence contracts. .
Perhaps it is no coincidence that Russia and China pledged this week to work jointly on a closed trading network that would reduce reliance on the international financial system and limit transactions in U.S. currencies.
At home, Putin wields state power through fear and cohesion – primarily by banning civil society groups, imprisoning prominent opponents, and threatening Russian nationals who work for foreign embassies.
What are the tools that remain in the West’s diplomatic toolbox? Depressing little. But some options remain: ban Russians from travel, block those multi-million dollar real estate deals that have turned London and Miami into playgrounds for wealthy Russians – or even order the immediate expulsion of Russian nationals from Western countries. In other words, whatever it takes, barring a direct military conflict.
The appearance of lack of determination, whether in diplomacy, on the battlefield, or on the chessboard, is never a winning strategy.