Putin’s Next Move
David and Helen talk to Shashank Joshi, Defence Editor of the Economist, about what Vladimir Putin hopes to get out of the Ukraine crisis and what anyone can do to stop him. Is some sort of invasion inevitable? Is Russia’s goal to sow dissent or to achieve regime change? What leverage does the rest of world have over Putin and his allies? Plus we explore where the roots of the crisis lie: in 2014, in the end of the Cold War, or even earlier still?
What does Putin want from Ukraine?
- He wants to stop Ukraine’s westward shift, which is about more than NATO.
- Ukraine was probably not ever going to join NATO. In that regard, Putin already has what he wants.
- What else is he upset about? Britain is building a naval base on the Sea of Azov. Britain and the UK are training Ukrainian troops. Weapons are flowing in, too.
- Putin worries about Ukraine becoming a more militarily and economically capable actor.
What would Putin count as a success in the current crisis?
- Logistically speaking, Putin could stay there for months. But he has troops from the Eastern military district there, who can’t. And the weather will change after March.
- Perhaps the biggest problem is psychological: backing down would look like giving in.
- Does Russia want regime change?
Kiev seems less convinced about the imminence of an invasion.
- Are they deluded?
- They definitely want to avoid panic, especially economic panic.
What is different today from 2014?
- Ukraine is in an even worse economic position.
- Ukraine is a transit gas state; Putin has been trying to end that for a long time, and he is getting close with the near completion of Nordstream.
- Another difference is America’s position in the world.
NATO allies should still feel reasonably secure.
- But in middle areas, such as Ukraine, or the countries in central Asia, things are less certain.
Mentioned in this Episode:
- Shashank’s latest for the Economist: How big is Russia’s military buildup around Ukraine?
- More on Biden’s global posture review
- An interview with Dmitri Trenin: are we on the brink of war?
- Our last episode with Shashank
- More on javelin missiles in Ukraine
- More on the Russia-Belarus integration
And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking