Sunday, 30 March 2014
What Putin Wants Putin Gets.
You have to give Vladimir Putin his due - he certainly knows how to play the game. It is clear that he wanted the Crimea and, as far as he is concerned, for good reasons. A great deal of Russia's military assets are stationed there and he was never likely to simply give them up because Ukrainian democracy had raised its ugly head. His strategy is now entering the end game as was signalled when he called President Obama and assured him that he had no intention of invading eastern Ukraine as long as ethnic Russians were not threatened with retribution. The massive Russian military build up along the border with no signs that an invasion is imminent seems to add weight to his words. The truth is that he has out-witted and out-manoeuvred the Ukrainians, the EU and the United States, offering to negotiate a settlement that gives him exactly what he wants in return for not mounting an invasion he had no intention of mounting in the first place and in return for a promise to protect ethnic Russians that were never under any credible threat. Putin has adhered to the most basic principle of crisis management - he has given his opponents the opportunity to negotiate an exit without losing face. There are some commentators in the west who believe it is Putin who is trying to save face while backing away from a perilous military adventure. This is utter nonsense since Putin is still holding all the cards including the most important card of all - the Crimea - while any cards the west thinks it has are only those given to them by Putin himself. Get ready for western leaders telling us that they have faced Putin down, but have had to let him keep the Crimea in a diplomatic "compromise" that will sweeten the bitter pill of his humiliation. Get ready too for the end of the sanctions against Russia as relations return to "normal" and the west rewards Putin for being such a reasonable chap after all.