Two of Russia’s more thoughtful analysts, Vladislav Inozemtsev and Aleksandr Skobov, argue in separate commentaries that seeking an agreement with Putin is not only amoral but senseless because the Kremlin leader doesn’t feel obligated to live up to anything he commits to and in fact is committed to destroying law and contracts as such.
In the short term, the Kremlin may gain a temporary advantage; but in the longer term, he will lose, the two suggest, because others will see what he is about and conclude that it is a fundamental mistake to seek agreement with him and become convinced that he must be isolated and defeated.
Inozemtsev says that Moscow’s repeated violation of its commitments means that ever more people in the West are concluding that “one must not trust Russia,” a stance that “in the near future will become a colossal problem for Moscow.”
He says that it is quite clear that “the Kremlin isn’t interested either in reaching agreements or observing them. For Putin and his entourage, “movement is everything, and the final goal is nothing.” But history knows of no cases where such an approach has been successful over the long term. Instead, it has led to disaster for its authors.
Skobov is if anything even more damning in his assessment of Putin’s contempt for any limits on his freedom of action. The Kremlin leader in his view displays “the deepest contempt to law” and thus “an existential hatred to civilization based on the supremacy of law and agreements.”
Indeed, according to Skobov, “what the Kremlin’s Ribbentrop-like program for establishing a new world order boils down to … an inescapable thirst on its part to overthrow these foundations of modern civilization.” If that civilization wants to survive, it will ultimately have to reject any idea that it can reach an agreement with Putin that Putin will in fact respect.
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