Why Putin thinks he's winning the war and why the West is wrong about him
Does Russian President Vladimir Putin think he's losing the war in Ukraine? Does the West need to help him to save face? Does he risk a coup? Is he afraid of anti-war protests? Nothing of the sort, says Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of the Paris-based think tank R. In the article "What the West (still) gets wrong about Putin," published on the website of the Foreign Policy magazine on 1 June, Stanovaya debunks Russian assumptions by western observers that she says blur our understanding of the situation surrounding the crisis in Ukraine. "The fact is that most of today's discussions over how to help Ukraine win on the battlefield, coerce Kyiv into concessions, or allow Russian president Vladimir Putin to save face, have little in common with reality," she writes. RFI: The first assumption you describe in your article is that Putin thinks he is losing the war. TS: For Putin, the most important aim was to shake the world order to demonstrate to the United States, as a leader of the collective West, that the world will never be as it was before, and that Russia can impose its own rules. The goal was lure the West into a dialogue about Russian concerns. This war is a tool for Putin to sow chaos and to force the world to think twice and to try and find a way to rebuild an order and rebuild new roles of international policy. RFI: What does Putin want from the West?TS: He believes that the Cold War finished in a way that was catastrophic for Russia. RFI: The second you describe is that the West thinks it should help Putin "save face," and find a way out, thus also decreasing the threat of a nuclear war.
Recently French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview with La Dépeche that Putin shouldn't be humiliated, a statement which was fiercely criticised by the Ukrainian foreign minister. We can even see some arrogance from the Russian leadership and Putin personally. But he believes that it is him who is changing the world now. RFI: In her first public interview since leaving office, with Der Spiegel on 7 June, former German chancellor Angela Merkel said that the current situation was also created because the West was divided. That it had failed to put a good security structure in place that would deter Putin from invading Ukraine. What is a security arrangement that would be acceptable for both Moscow and the West? Putin would have been more reluctant to wage a war: it is him who tried to talk in detail with the West to find a solution. And if the West would accept Putin's ultimatum, there would be a new discussion in Russia whether to accept an agreement with the West. Even if for Putin it would be a deal of the century.
Putin today has a limited corridor to act and I'm afraid that he is not so free to decide whatever he wants. RFI: Merkel said that the Minsk Agreements gained Ukraine some time. The problem changed from the risk that Ukraine can join Nato one day, into Nato already being inside Ukraine. RFI: France's role as leader of the EU troika will come to an end on 30 June. TS: By now all the efforts made by Paris to try and find a way to have a dialogue with Putin resulted in failure. Just because there is zero understanding of Russia, of Russian concerns, and of the nature of Russian actions against Ukraine. Putin thinks that France is just seeking to boost its own importance in Europe.
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