Russian President Vladimir Putin himself doesn’t know his strategic objectives in Ukraine, says Stanford University’s Michael McFaul (left), the US ambassador to Russia from January 2012 to February of this year.
“I think that this was not some master plan that Putin’s been plotting for decades — annex Crimea and go in to take Novorossiya,” he told NPR:
This phrase “Novorossiya,” New Russia, which is [used] to describe these eastern Ukrainian regions — I think he used that for the first time just a couple of weeks ago. So that actually gives me hope, because that means it’s not some grand plan, master design that he feels he is now empowered to execute, but that this is more contingent. He’s making it up as he goes, and he’s calculating about the cost of direct military intervention and then occupation in Ukraine.
“Putin is a smart person. He’s not doing it a vacuum, and he, I think and I hope, he knows how costly that would be,” said McFaul, a former Reagan-Fascell fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy.
Putin looks like he will continue to ride the tide he has set into motion for the time being, says Lilia Shevtsova, a senior associate at the Carnegie Moscow Center and member of the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum for Democratic Studies’ Research Council,
But amidst his tactical successes we can already see the signs of a looming strategic defeat, she writes for The American Interest, adding several “finer brushstrokes to bring the wider landscape into view.
The Kremlin’s efforts to root Russian identity and patriotism in shows of force and in seminal historical events like the victory in the Great Patriotic War (World War II) has prompted a continuous search for enemies. Russia has embarked on a path of perpetual war (or at least perpetual confrontation) with those who refuse to accept this identity—whether those enemies are to be found beyond Russia’s borders or within them. Cooperative gestures by other nations will not change this paradigm; it can only be undone when those who set it in motion relinquish power.
While the results of this “war/patriotic” consolidation of Russian society have been impressive thus far, the recent history of such efforts (the second Chechen War of 1999 and the Russia-Georgia war of 2008) suggests that this gambit will only work for a time. Eventually, the numbing effects of mass military psychosis begin to wear off. And if recent polls are any indication, they may be wearing off quickly this time: ……
The elites are still behind Putin. But the comprador segment of the elite, which is integrated into the West, is already unhappy. It is feeling the pinch of the sanctions and of the West’s growing hostility. Pragmatists within the ranks of the elite have begun to doubt whether Putin can successfully protect their interests. But the elites will voice their doubts and misgivings openly only if the people take to the streets……