We’re now three weeks into Russia’s war with Ukraine. As casualties and destruction mount, many are left wondering how it might end.
Anticipating the war’s trajectory is difficult, not least because decisions about its future reside almost entirely with one man: Russian President Vladimir Putin. With no one in the Russian system to check or constrain him, Russian policy and Putin’s whims are one in the same. This is the reality with personalist authoritarians like Putin: The only thing predictable about them is their unpredictability.
Putin’s own penchant for risk and the patterns evident in other authoritarian regimes suggest that doubling down to secure his maximalist aims in Ukraine is the more likely outcome
Just as Putin’s decision to wage war surprised many, so too will his decisions in the days and weeks to come. It is possible that amid rising discontent with a war showing limited gains on the battlefield, Putin will lessen his demands to facilitate an end to the destruction. Because there is no politburo or political party to navigate or any coherent ideology to conform to, Putin has the latitude to change course.
The Kremlin’s control over Russia’s information space, which has only grown since the war began, means Putin could sell a settlement to his public. Putin has said he seeks to ensure Ukraine’s neutrality and demilitarization, acceptance of Russian control over Crimea, and independence for the regions in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region. Putin already appears to have moved away from his objective of regime change in Kyiv and could move to accept creative solutions on issues like demilitarization.
Read the full article from Foreign Policy.
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