Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Putin’s Easy Victories are All Behind Him, Any New Ones Will be Harder or Impossible, Oreshkin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 19 – Vladimir Putin finds himself “in a mousetrap where the free cheese is already eaten” and where prospects for more put him at risk at home and abroad, Dmitry Oreshkin says, a poetic way of saying that his easy victories are now behind him and that any new ones will be harder or even impossible to achieve.

            In an interview with Ukraine’s ONLINE news agency, the Russian commentator argues that “Putin’s Russia is condemned to lose to the West” both because the West’s “’soft power’” is so much greater and because the West now understands Putin and his approach far better now (

            That is why Putin has started his use of nuclear blackmail, “the only sphere” where Russia has rough parity with the West, Oreshkin continues. “Putin does not have any other levels of influence on his neighbors. But even more, he continues to be a prisoner of the geopolitical thinking of Stalin’s time, where he who controls territory uses it. But already this is not so.”

            The use of nuclear threats works “to a certain degree.” No one wants a nuclear war, and many in the West are prepared to do many things to prevent one. But that doesn’t mean that governments in the West are ready to make concessions as a result: A few people are but most have taken Putin’s measure and are responding on that basis.

            “Now,” Oreshkin says, “Putin is in a situation in which he acts predictably and his earlier success was based on his unpredictability.” No one expected him to take Crimea, and consequently, “no one was prepared. But today even his unpredictability is predictable. Everyone understands who he is.”

            Everyone is ready for the renewal of a Russian attack in the Donbass, and everyone knows what the response will be: “lethal arms for Ukraine and a new cycle of sanctions. Putin can’t permit that,” and so he will sacrifice the LDNR just as he did Novorossiya. Moscow simply doesn’t have the funds for such actions.

            “In order to preserve his victorious image, Putin will raise the stakes.” But he cannot do so economically now that Europe and even Ukraine are no longer dependent on Russian oil and gas.  And what is most important now: Russians can see this and are becoming ever less supportive and ever more disappointed in Putin.

            Oreshkin argues that “Putin needs a victorious local war, but those have already happened in Chechnya, Georgia and Ukraine.” He isn’t going to get on in Syria, and so he lashes out at the US.  “But the Americans understand his game, and therefore they completely rationally respond boosting anti-ballistic missile defense and putting pressure on the Russian economy.
            What remains for Putin? “Only pathetic rhetoric” and playing the nuclear card. But “this policy is becoming ever more paranoid, less constructive and ever more hysterical.  People aren’t idiots,” and they are slowly but surely forgetting their enthusiasm about the annexation of Crimea.

            Could Putin attack Latvia? The answer is no. Could he expand the war in Ukraine? Again now because “everyone is ready for this.”  What can he do to “raise his rating? Only by using propaganda and buying votes in the West.”  But those who must deal with him can hardly be comfortable.

            All of Putin’s talk about nuclear war can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, Oreshkin concludes, something extraordinarily “dangerous for all countries and in the first instance for the Russian Federation itself.”

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