President Putin may have miscalculated the response of the West to his policy of Russian aggrandisement. He clearly considered the likely international response, with predictable additional sanctions, but gambled a swift victory over the woefully outgunned Ukrainians would soon recede in importance, just as the annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014 has done, to a large extent, although sanctions are still in place but with doubtful effectiveness.
The Ukraine may mark the end of Putin’s ascendancy. The invasion may plunge the world into recession, and although sanctions will hit Western Europe, Russia will still feel the damaging effects on her economy, which was seeing encouraging growth. Ukraine will soak up thousands of Russian troops who will find themselves combatting guerilla-style attacks, and this is likely to persist for many years to come. Extricating Russia from this debacle will not be easy, and the West is not in the mood to go soft on Putin. The long term damage to the world economy, to international relations, and to reducing tension between power blocs is difficult to assess; but one thing is certain, it will take many, many years to repair diplomatic relations between Russia and the West, and that is not good news for world peace.
There is one glimmer of hope in what appears at present a hopeless situation, and that is for the Duma, bolstered by public opinion, to put pressure on Putin to either pull out of the Ukraine and start a meaningful dialogue with Zelensky, who is not prepared to meet Putin in Belarus, for fairly obvious reasons. If sanctions are to be applied, they need to be draconian, to bite and make Putin reconsider his position. As Sir Ivan Roger KCMG has pointed out the West has been caught napping for the last eight years, seriously underestimating Putin. There is a lack of joined up thinking on the part of the Western allies and a failure to have any long-term policies when dealing with ambitious and ruthless leaders like Putin. As I said in an earlier blog, he holds all the trump cards, and Europe by making itself dependent on Russian energy supplies has very little to offer in response. Sanctions without robust policing are useless: does the West have the resolve and leadership to be really serious about confronting Putin and other demagogues that threaten world peace? The jury is out!