I’ve had the feeling for a while that the west had made a decision about Putin. I think this article (from last month) may have it right. It’s from Russian Analyst Andrey Piontkovsky.
“But if they come to the assistance of Estonia, this would be a war with a nuclear power led by a man who lives in another reality and who flaunts his nuclear weapons. That is an unthinkable choice [for the West],” and that is why, Piontkovsky argues, the West has made a firm decision to “stop Putin here and now in Ukraine…‘without boots on the ground.’”
The West doesn’t have any need to use military force in Ukraine, he continues, because it “has sufficient economic and political means to inflict a humiliating defeat on Putin.” And, it is important to understand, that what the West is doing is about its own security and has nothing to do with its sympathies or lack thereof to Ukraine.
This new toughening of the West’s position has left Putin in “a very complicated situation.” His efforts to promote a frozen conflict in place of the failed Novorossiya project have not been accepted by the West, and consequently, he must either accept a slow retreat or escalate dramatically, something that his entourage may find “’too dangerous and extremely expensive.’”
. . . .
Putin’s choice, Piontkovsky continues, is thus between “political death as someone who will be held responsible for corruption, responsible for the downing of an airliner and a mass of other unattractive affairs or be the fighting leader of ‘the Russian world’ who throws a challenge to the entire West.”
Emotionally, of course, Putin would be drawn to “the second variant.” But not everyone around him will be happy with that, and the Kremlin leader may be less of a free agent on this question than he or others suppose – indeed, Piontkovsky suggests, some commentators close to the Kremlin have indicated that Putin faces exactly this kind of choice.
. . . .
Moreover, Piontkovsky says, if Putin moves dramatically in Transnistria or Odessa or somewhere else, there is little doubt that “the reaction of the West will be very harsh,” judging from the statements of Western diplomats and leaders over the last two or three weeks with regard to Putin.
Consequently, the Russian analyst says, one can say that Putin “has already suffered a political defeat … he has two variants for the future: that of a slow retreat and that of an insane escalation. And both will lead to his political defeat.”