Putin looking for a way to save face when negotiating with the US, says political expert Portnikov

4 January 2022, 09:35 AM

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is apprehensive about the threat of fresh sanctions, and is seeking to extract something in return from the United States for defusing the current Ukraine-Russia crisis, Ukrainian political expert and journalist Vitaly Portnikov wrote in an op-ed on Jan. 3.

Putin-adjacent elites in Russia, most notably the oligarchical ones, are seriously concerned about the prospect of new, robust sanctions the West may impose on Russia if the Kremlin engages in further aggression against Ukraine. That’s why Putin keeps repeating that such sanctions would lead to a complete breakdown of relationships between Moscow and leading democracies, Portnikov said.

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“So we can hope Kremlin would be more cautious around a renewed military offensive in Ukraine,” the analyst said. “Mind you, inciting further political turmoil and exacerbating Ukraine’s energy crisis remains on the table, despite whatever understanding Moscow and Washington may come to. Even if (U.S. President Joe) Biden manages to deter Putin from invading Ukraine again, he still will have his work cut out for him in helping Putin save face."

The journalist expects the Unites States and Russia may reach some kind of arrangement during upcoming bilateral talks in Geneva, currently slated for Jan. 10.

“The broad outlines of this arrangement became apparent during the phone call between Biden and Putin (on Dec. 30).” Portnikov said. “It will largely rest on the U.S. pledge to not expand Western military infrastructure in the immediate vicinity of Russian’s borders."

"Russians are keen to call this a new ‘Cuban Missile Crisis,’ despite the fact that Soviet missiles were indeed deployed to Cuba in 1962, while there is no offensive weaponry being erected in Ukraine that would threaten Russia, let alone U.S. weaponry… It is clear that Putin seeks further guarantees that such weapons will never appear in Ukraine, and these guarantees might just be given to him,” Portnikov wrote.

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