Image: Alexander Petrosyan
Many in Russia and the West have managed to convince themselves that Vladimir Putin is in a position of strength, but the speed with which he has tried to arrange talks with new US President Donald Trump points in the opposite direction, Konstantin Borovoy says. Putin needs a deal fast because his resources are running out.
The person seeking such talks for such a reason is usually in the weaker position and can expect to give a great deal for anything he gets in return, but if Trump thinks Putin is strong, the reverse could be true, with the American leader giving up more than he has to and not getting much in return beyond promises and an era of good feeling.
On the Apostrophe portal, the Russian opposition figure argues the speed with which the Kremlin has moved suggests that “Putin well understands” that the resources he needs to continue to occupy the Donbas “are disappearing” and wants credit for a withdrawal he would be compelled to make anyway.
“Of course,” Borovoy writes, “the Kremlin still has resources.” But a great deal depends on how it chooses to deploy them and whether it can get the kind of foreign loans to compensate for its loss of reserve funds. And it depends on Putin’s ability to keep those around him happy by continuing to offer them more resources even as he takes them from the population.
According to the Russian writer, “many consider that 2017 is the last year when Russia can spend means with the abandon it showed earlier.” It doesn’t have the money to finance large military operations in Ukraine; and consequently, he continues, it has already shifted to the less expensive means of provocation.
Some see Moscow’s move in this direction as a voluntary selection of a tactic, he suggests, rather than the result of the limitations Moscow is increasingly operating under. For such operations, one doesn’t need large amounts of money; and the Russian authorities can continue them for some time.
But when it comes to bigger ticket items like building fortifications or launching a new round of military action, Putin is limited – unless he can break out of the bind he is in because of limits on Russia’s access to credit markets. That is why he wants a deal to end sanctions now; it is also why no one should give him one unless the Kremlin dictator pays a very high price.
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