A worrying thought. The Western sanctions are clearly not the deciding factor in the rouble crash, that accolade goes to the oil price slump, but they are undoubtedly a factor. So Moscow would want them lifted, but the political cost of simply backing away from their ill-starred and ill-considered Donbas adventure is likely to be considered too great. So, I cannot wonder if the temptation will be to escalate the conflict, possibly throwing in a brigade or two of troops. Why? Short-term, this means things get worse, but I suspect the West would think twice about serious extra sanctions, fearful of the risk of collapse and chaos in a fragile Russia. But, the calculation would go, it might be enough to force Kyiv to make a deal, which would allow Putin to claim success and withdraw from the region (keeping Crimea, of course), claiming peace with honour. This in turn could be leveraged to get the sanctions regime lifted or at least eased, hopefully providing a degree of macroeconomic relief. After all, the alternative would seem to be a frozen conflict and indefinite sanctions. So, will the Kremlin think short-term escalation may bring medium-term relief, as a better option to long-term sanctions? We’ll see if units around Ukraine start to be brought back to full operational readiness. Or if Strelkov comes back in from the cold!
Putin, the Rouble Crisis and Ukraine: will he be tempted to up the ante?
Posted by Mark Galeotti on December 16, 2014
This blog's author, Dr Mark Galeotti has been researching Russian history and security issues since the late 1980s.
Educated at Cambridge University and the LSE, he is now senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations Prague and director of the consultancy firm Mayak Intelligence. Previously he has been Professor of Global Affairs at New York University, head of the History department at Keele University in the UK, an adviser at the British Foreign Office and a visiting professor at MGIMO (Moscow), Charles University (Prague) and Rutgers (Newark).
His books include the edited collections 'The Politics of Security in Modern Russia' (Ashgate), 'Russian & Soviet Organized Crime' (Ashgate) and 'Spetsnaz: Russia's Special Forces' (Osprey) and he is a regular contributor to Jane's Intelligence Review, Oxford Analytica and many other outlets. He is a contributing editor to Business New Europe.
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