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The recognition of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics is a chance for Russia to climb down from the peak of escalation with a concrete result, because retreating empty-handed would have been a ruinous outcome for the Kremlin’s prestige.
Putin could have gotten out of this trap, had the Russian side positively evaluated the limited Western concessions that are on the table: arms control of medium-range weapons systems, as well as confidence-building, transparency, and verification measures in the NATO-Russia borderlands, and measures of crisis communication.
A new spiral of international escalation would rapidly accelerate and entrench the repressive trends that have been in ascendancy in Russian public life in recent years. Any dissatisfaction will be crushed with redoubled strength, including when it emerges within the in-system opposition.
Following Moscow’s demands for security guarantees from the United States and NATO, Carnegie Moscow Center director Dmitri Trenin was interviewed by Kommersant’s Elena Chernenko about Russia’s future steps with regard to Ukraine and the West.
If Moscow believes that the main security threat it faces is NATO military infrastructure moving closer to Russia’s western borders, it would make sense to focus on the infrastructure itself rather than the theoretical possibility of NATO expansion.
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