He called on Ukraine to immediately “cease fire” and “sit at the negotiating table”, but added: “We will not negotiate the people’s choice. It has been made. Russia will not betray it.”
He tries his best to hide it, but he loses his war in Ukraine. The writing hangs on the wall.
Andrey Kortunov, who heads the Kremlin-backed Council for Russian International Affairs in Moscow, sees it too. “President Putin wants to end this whole thing as soon as possible,” he told DailyExpertNews.
Independent Russian media citing Russia’s revamped KGB, the FSB, set the total exodus even higher. They say more military-aged men have fled the country since conscription – 261,000 – than have fought in the war so far – an estimated 160,000 to 190,000.
DailyExpertNews can’t verify the Russian figures, but the 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) traffic jam at the border with Georgia and the long lines at the border crossings to Kazakhstan and Finland testify to the defiance and reinforcing perception that Putin made his legendary touch at the reading the vote of Russia.
The clock is ticking loudly for Putin because he has his back against the wall.
Kortunov says he does not know what is happening in the Kremlin, but that he understands public opinion about the enormous costs and loss of life in the war. “A lot of people would start asking, why did we end up in this mess? Why, you know, we lost so many people.”
Putin’s logical option, Kortunov says, is to declare victory and leave on his own terms. But for this he needs an important performance on the field. “Russia can’t just get where it was, on February 24 of this year, say, okay, you know, that’s fine. Our mission is accomplished. So we’re going home… …There must be something that can be presented to the public as a win.”
He used the same playbook to annex Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014 and now threatens, just as then, with potential nuclear strikes if Ukraine, backed by its Western allies, would try to take back the annexed territories.
Ready for peace?
Western leaders are engaged in a battle with Putin. Last Sunday, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Washington would react decisively if Russia used nuclear weapons against Ukraine and made clear to Moscow the “catastrophic consequences” it would face.
Leaders have also vowed not to recognize the regions as part of Russian territory.
US President Joe Biden said Moscow’s actions “have no legitimacy”, adding that Washington “will always respect Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders”. The European Union said it will “never” recognize the “illegal annexation” of the Kremlin and described the move as a “further violation of Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
There is little new in what Putin is doing that makes his moves more predictable and therefore easier to analyze.
Kurt Volker, US Ambassador to NATO and US Special Representative to Ukraine under former President Donald Trump, believes Putin may be gearing up for peace. “I think what he should pursue is brandish the nuclear weapons, make all kinds of threats to Europe and then say, OK, let’s settle. And let me keep what I’ve already brought.”
Fiona Hill, who has advised three US presidents on national security over Russia, also thinks Putin is trying an endgame. “He feels an acute urgency that he lost momentum, and he is now trying to leave the war the same way he entered it. With him as the person in charge and he determines the whole terms of any kind of negotiation.”
Both Danish and Swedish seismologists recorded explosive shock waves from close to the sea floor: the first, around 2 a.m. local time, with a magnitude of 2.3 on the Richter scale, then again, around 7 p.m., at 2.1.
Within hours, churning seas were discovered, the Danes and Germans sent warships to secure the area, and Norway increased security around its oil and gas facilities.
At least four leaks have been discovered so far in Russia’s Nord Stream pipelines 1 and 2, each of which on the surface resembles a boiling kettle, the largest one kilometer wide, and which together spew industrial amounts of toxic greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Russian naval ships were spotted by European security officials in the area in the days before, Western intelligence sources said. NATO’s North Atlantic Council has described the damage as a “deliberate, reckless and irresponsible act of sabotage”.
Russia denies responsibility and says it has launched its own investigation. But former CIA chief John Brennan said Russia has the expertise to inflict this kind of damage “all signs point to some sort of sabotage that these pipelines are only in about 200 feet of water and Russia has a submarine capacity to do that.” ” easily put explosives through those pipelines.”
Brennan’s analysis is that Russia is the most likely culprit for the sabotage, and Putin is likely trying to send a message: “It’s a signal to Europe that Russia can reach beyond Ukraine’s borders. So who knows what he’s up to next. .”
Nord Stream 2 was never operational, and Nord Stream 1 had been reversed by Putin as Europe rushed to replenish gas reserves for the winter, while demand for Russian supplies was reversed and replacement suppliers were sought.
Stretched supply lines
Another factor speeding up Putin’s thinking may be the approach of winter. Napoleon and Hitler both failed to take Moscow because the supply lines through Ukraine were too long and heavy in winter. Volker says that what has saved Russia in the past is now putting pressure on Putin: “This time it is Russia that has to resupply lines, trying to support its troops in Ukraine. That will be very difficult this winter. So all of a sudden, for All these factors have pushed Putin’s timeline up.”
The bottom line, Hill said, is that “this is the result of Ukraine gaining momentum on the battlefield and Putin himself losing it, so he’s trying to adapt to the circumstances and basically take the lead and every advantage.”
Nobody knows what really goes on in Putin’s head. Kortunov doubts Putin will be willing to compromise beyond his own terms of peace, “not on the terms offered by President Zelensky, not on the terms offered by the West….[though] he must be willing to exercise a certain amount of flexibility. But we don’t know what these degrees are [are] probably.”
According to Hill, Putin wants his negotiations to take place with Biden and allies, not Ukraine: “He’s basically saying that you have to negotiate with me and demand peace. And that means recognizing what we have done on the ground in Ukraine.”
After failing in the face of Western military unity backing Ukraine, Putin appears poised to diplomatically test Western resolve by trying to divide Western allies over the terms of peace.
Volker expects Putin to be the first to pitch France and Germany “to say that we must end this war, that we will protect our territories at all costs, by whatever means necessary, and that you must put pressure on the Ukrainians to surrender.” settle.”
If this is Putin’s plan, it could well be his biggest strategic miscalculation ever. There’s little Western appetite to see him stay in power — US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said so over the summer — much less to disappoint Ukraine after all its suffering.
Putin knows he’s in a corner, but doesn’t seem to realize how small a space he has, and that’s of course the most worrying — would he really live up to his nuclear threats?
The war in Ukraine may have entered a new phase and Putin may have his back against the wall, but an end to the conflict may still be a long way off.