Following the annexation of Crimea, what’s next on Putin’s agenda? This will depend on Putin’s cost-benefit analysis vis-à-vis the three original targets of the Crimean takeover.
- Target 1: Ukraine – which is to be punished, humiliated, de-stabilized and, if possible, de-railed.
- Target 2: the “West” (the US, EU, NATO) – to be intimidated and if possible paralyzed as far as the sanctions on Russia are concerned.
- Target 3 (the most important): Putin’s domestic political base — currently rallied around the flag– and Putin will soon face a grim economic reality – likely stagflation, a plunging ruble against the dollar and the euro and growing food prices – in addition to the already very sour views of the regime’s morality as shown in public opinion polls.
If Putin feels that the costs might begin to exceed the benefits for further action in Ukraine, he will stop and wait for a response from Russians at home and the West. If he feels that he can and should do more to advance on his three targets, then he will continue.
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