Does Vladimir Putin even have an exit strategy from Ukraine?

domestic conflict

Domestically, a divided leader is depicted struggling to keep rival factions in check.Recently criticism Russia’s top military leaders are targeting Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov.

The main complaint seems to be the head of Yevgeniy Prigozhin. wagner group (although purported to be a “private” military company, it is actually the military arm of the state) and Ramzan Kadyrov, the current head of the Russian Chechen Republic.

Aside from their opportunism and naked ambition, such criticism poses a problem for Putin.he used to be comfortable Purging The lower levels of Russia’s elite cadres: the military, intelligence services, and other parts of the Russian bureaucracy. But Shoigu is one of the most powerful people in Russia after Putin. Removing him would drive his potential rival out of Putin, but it would also upend a delicately balanced circle of patronage and power. It could bounce back on Putin himself.

It is true that President Putin has suppressed public dissatisfaction.of Estimate The 700,000 Russians who fled the country following Putin’s mobilization orders are no longer potential strongholds for unrest.

But if the race for the top spot fuels public dissatisfaction, Putin may be stuck between two unfortunate supporters. The Russian elite is expected to carry out his orders without question and fall when he fails.

There are signs that this is already happening. General Andrei Kartapolov, a member of the Russian parliament and until recently chairman of the influential Defense Council, openly called May the government “stop lying” to the public about its military failures in Ukraine. “People know,” Kartaporov said, adding, “Our people are not stupid. They know they are not telling the truth and this can lead to a loss of trust.”

Where is Putin going from here?

So how will Putin get out of this mess of his own creation? win enough concessions to make

But now that is highly unlikely. Putin is support the story – amplified by the far right in Russia – he is at war not only with Ukraine, but with NATO itself.

Putin decided it was necessary to garner domestic support. But in doing so, it also redefined his concept of victory. To “win” in Ukraine, Russia’s armed forces must not only achieve, but dramatically exceed, their stated objectives, and the West must seek new opportunities in Europe on Putin’s terms. forced to accept the demands of the security treaty.


Another problem for Putin is that Ukraine is unlikely to accept him, either on the battlefield or at the negotiating table. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia’s “new president”. He also doubled down on Ukraine’s war objectives. complete liberation of that territory.

Spectacular Strike at Kerch Bridgesometimes called Putin’s “wedding ring to Crimea” direct insult To Putin, who personally supervised its construction. Compared to wilting Russian morale, it also symbolized the Ukrainian sense that the tide of the war had turned.

Finally, Russia’s military position in Ukraine now looks hopeless.its power is exhausted and they continue retreat.

Putin’s decision to appoint the general who ordered indiscriminate bombing in Syria and Chechnya, Sergei Slovikin, to oversee Russia’s war was uninspiring.

Indeed, his tactical shift to mass cruise missile attack The campaign against population centers and power plants in Ukraine has completely backfired. This has made Ukrainians fight even harder and has been seen worldwide as an act of rage and vindictiveness.

Unable to win on the battlefield, Surovikin has spent some money so far. $400-700 million With missiles from dwindling stocks, trying to suppress the Ukrainian population. This included attacks on cities allegedly annexed by Russia, effectively targeting its own territory and people.

In short, unless Putin chooses to dramatically escalate, beyond the nuclear threshold (which is itself risky) his only option is to find a way to save face.

3 tips to save face

Putin recently tried to do that in three ways. Didactically, they are at odds with his more conventional violence and intimidation. They also suggest a growing sense that his position is untenable.

    1. A Turkish diplomat conveyed Putin’s desire for a new “grand bargain” with Europe. This reportedly envisioned talks between Russia, the US and the EU. But doing so kept Ukraine out of the process, and the proposal yielded little.
    1. A clear attempt to weaponize SpaceX founder Elon Musk. murmured A peace offer to Ukraine and warned that Russia would use nuclear weapons if its Crimean Black Sea bases were threatened.apart from Deny When he spoke with Putin, Musk’s proposals largely matched Putin’s past requests, including specific details about access to freshwater in Crimea.
    1. Overture from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Sergei LavrovPutin has said he is open to peace talks with President Joe Biden at the upcoming G20 summit in Bali.

The West should not react to these Kremlin hints. For one thing, they’re just repeating a long-standing ultimatum. For another, Putin has ignored every diplomatic off-ramp so far offered to him, instead escalating his campaign against Ukraine ever more brutally.

Putin is also likely to use the ceasefire as a moratorium to regroup forces for a new onslaught.

To his credit, US President Joe Biden no intention Meeting with Putin, recently announced US national security strategy It speaks to the continuing distrust of Putin’s intentions.

Ultimately, if there is peace in Ukraine, Putin will have to figure it out himself. Otherwise, it looks more and more likely that the Ukrainian military will bring him that recognition.

And Putin would find him unattractive and embarrassing in any way, but he has already lost his dignity.

Matthew SussexFellow, Center for Strategic and Defense Studies, Australian National University

Does Vladimir Putin even have an exit strategy from Ukraine?

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