Russia’s war in Ukraine has already racked up a serious economic toll by sending gas prices skyrocketing around the world. There is already concern from Eastern European states that Western capitals may give in to the economic pressure to seek an offramp too early, even as Ukraine appears to be gaining an edge on the battlefield.
But just as Putin spent weeks building a case for the invasion of Ukraine using trumped-up claims of Ukrainian persecution of Russian-speaking groups in the Donbass region, the longtime Russian leader could also be trying to narrow his objectives to lull antsy European capitals into an unsavory peace deal.
“What he’s doing is laying the foundations for an explanation that he’s reached his objectives,” said Jim Townsend, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Europe and NATO during the Obama administration. “He’s going to improve his position around the Donbass so that when they do begin negotiations in earnest, he’ll have the upper hand.”
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