Putin won’t – can’t back down now. Only two scenarios left.
I see multiple commentators talking about international pressure to cause Russia to back down. This is foolish.
First of all that is the wrong question. It’s not Russia. It is Putin. Much easier to analyze that way.
Putin has committed Russian forces to attack Ukraine, to implement his plan and to get certain rewards. He is well into that plan and has a good shot at victory (within military parameters). Everything that we have predicted as far as his strategy is concerned, has come true.
In marketing psychology, we have a principle called “Commitment and Consistency.” It simply means that if you commit to something small, you tend to continue to commit as that something becomes larger. It is extremely difficult to change someone’s mind once they have traveled down the commitment path a ways.
There is no scenario where Putin withdraws his forces, gives everything back, says “I’m sorry” and goes home.
Ukraine does not have the ability to resist, the West cannot assist too much without being dragged into the war. The West is unwilling to commit its own troops, and at this stage, such actions would be a disaster. It would be a bloody war, and Europe would lose most of its supply of gas and oil. Putin cannot back down, he will attack. Putin must be consistent in his own mind.
As of today, Russian and Ukraine are back at the negotiating table, having failed (as expected) in the last round a few days ago. Russia has intensified its attacks, and Ukraine is under greater stress and pain.
So we are left with two closing scenarios.
1. Putin squeezes Ukraine, makes them suffer until they submit to his demands. Putin will attempt to give back the parts he doesn’t want in exchange for relief of sanctions. He may or may not be successful. Putin brings victory to Russia and stays in power.
Do we have the heart to let the Ukrainian people suffer while we negotiate? The trade off is that if this is too easy for Putin, then we appear weak, and Taiwan is in danger. This could be crucial, it is imperative that the West continue the sanctions even if Ukraine tells us to stop. If we give Russia and China time to re-align the world to bypass potential sanctions, then a new and more dangerous cold war is afoot.
2. Someone in Russia deposes Putin, likely with deadly force, removes him from the picture. Russia backs away, apologizes and the world becomes a friendlier place. Xi backs off and puts conquering Taiwan in a later phase of his 50 year plan.
And for those commentators who think we can reset Ukraine to the way it was before?
Ukraine has happened, it is spilled milk. It will never be the same. Move on.