Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinOvernight Defense & National Security — Differences remain between NATO, Russia Putin wins again Putin: Russia facing new surge of omicron-driven cases MORE will win the ongoing discussions with the U.S. and demand that the West affirm Russia’s sphere of influence — so long as the U.S. is unwilling to consider using force to deter him from his grand plan to reconstitute the Soviet Union.
Eventually, Putin will establish a presence in Ukraine and be welcome in Belarus and Kazakhstan. And he will not stop there. In the meantime, regardless of the substantive results of this week’s talks, he will get higher approval ratings from Russian voters, become a mightier ruler, and his international reputation among U.S. competitors, including China, will soar.
There are two basic outcomes from the meetings.
One: The U.S. and NATO allies accept Putin’s demands that the ex-Soviet Union, except the Baltic States, be seen and treated as part of Russia’s sphere of influence. Essentially, this means that the U.S. endorses Russia’s right to affect the defensive, political, economic and cultural character of ex-Soviet republics such as Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan in perpetuity. Of course, this also means that the U.S. and its allies would be forbidden from conducting military exercises or sending military aid to any country in the Russian sphere.
The U.S. will never agree to this, but the fact that Putin, the leader of a country whose economy is as small as Italy’s, can summon the U.S. and NATO partners with such a demand on the table is telling: Putin has the upper hand.
Two: The West rejects Putin’s demands and imposes new, far-reaching sanctions the likes of which the U.S. has never tried before on Russia.
This could include economic sanctions more severe than those used in several rounds in the past that were directed at the ruling class and ordinary Russians. Such measures may include…