Popular publication columnist Bill Powell believes that during past conflicts in Chechnya, Georgia, Syria and Crimea, during his two decades in power, Putin managed to set clear, achievable military goals for his armed forces that allowed the president to declare victory to his people and the watchful outside world. His latest initiative in Ukraine is unlikely to be any different from previous ones, writes Newsweek.
The author further writes that in an instant, the Russian military invasion of Ukraine destroyed the security system in Europe, which, to the fury of Russia, was focused on the eastward expanding NATO bloc. Once Kyiv falls, analysts expect military tactics to give way to a political settlement that will lead to a Russian-friendly government in Kyiv. By February 25, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was considering an invitation from Moscow to negotiate "neutrality" in neighboring Belarus. If these talks go through, Putin will be able to withdraw troops and end the conflict while dealing a humiliating blow to the West. And this, according to military and Russian experts, may be a real moment.
Ukraine, of course, is not a member of NATO; the possibility that it may someday join the alliance is a key issue in the current conflict. Putin's actions, brazen defiance in the face of repeated warnings and threats of sanctions from US President Joe Biden and Western allies, now make sure Ukraine's NATO membership will never happen. The Kremlin's actions will also serve as a stern warning to the former Soviet Union about the possible consequences of too close relations with the West.
Now, Western diplomats and intelligence officials believe Putin is seeking to behead the pro-Western leadership in Kiev, led by Zelensky, and replace it with a government loyal to the “new czar,” as former Estonian President Toomas Ilves calls Vladimir Putin. This could happen, US intelligence officials told Newsweek, within a few days. The Russian president does not want or need to occupy all of Ukraine to achieve his higher goals, analysts and intelligence officials say.
According to columnist Powell, Vladimir Putin now has the full and undivided attention of the whole world, just like every general secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU did in the Soviet era. In a chilling televised speech after the invasion began, Putin warned: "Whoever tries to interfere in Ukraine's affairs must know that Russia's reaction will be immediate and will lead to consequences that you have never experienced in your history."
Russia is now back in the spotlight, it remains a great power. This is exactly the place where Putin wants to see his nation. He believes that Russia should always command respect from the rest of the world, "and when it doesn't command respect, it must command fear", as Russian political scientist Fyodor Lukyanov, who is close to the Kremlin, put it.
How effective the sanctions will be is unclear, Newsweek noted. Putin, for his part, believes he has effectively protected his country from sanctions. Russia has over $630 billion in hard currency reserves and earns $14 billion a month from oil and gas exports. As Russian ambassador to Sweden Viktor Tatarintsev told the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet , a few days before the invasion began, "Excuse my language, but we don't give a damn about your sanctions".