Staunton, October 5 – Vladimir Putin’s ultimatum to the West over the plutonium issue may be “tactically clever” on his part largely for domestic reasons, MGIMO professor Valery Solovey says; but it is “strategically disastrous” because it undermines much of what he has been claiming and reinforces the commitment of the West to stand up to him.
In a post on the Kasparov.ru portal (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=57F49B1F85FC8), the commentator makes six points in support of his general contention:
· As he has so often before, Putin has issued an ultimatum that his opponents do not know immediately how to answer. That allows him to portray them domestically as weak and gives him room for maneuver.
· The timing of his latest move coincides with a period during which “the departing American administration already doesn’t want to do anything, and the new one will not appear anytime soon.”
· “At the strategic eve, Russia confirms its reputation as an extremely unpredictable country.”
· The demand for compensation from the West, however, undercuts Putin’s own claims that sanctions haven’t harmed Russia.
· This verbal escalation does not necessarily point to a real one, especially since one can always play Russian roulette with confidence if the gun isn’t loaded.
· This foreign policy escalation is incompatible with Russia’s need for reforms, “but on the other hand it is perfectly in step with the militaristic psychosis … the increasingly harsh domestic political arrangements and other aspects of a semi-mobilized economy.”
Many other Russian commentators are also discussing this issue today. Two of the most insightful are Ilya Milshteyn on the Grani portal (graniru.org/opinion/milshtein/m.255198.html) and Andrey Piontkovsky on Kyiv’s Apostrophe one (apostrophe.ua/article/world/2016-10-05/otchayanie-putina-vazhnyj-moment-na-kotoryj-ne-vse-poka-obratili-vnimanie/7599