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Can Putin still claim victory in defeat?

It’s perhaps one of the questions most often posed recently. At the time of this writing, Ukrainian forces were making significant gains in the eastern Russian-occupied areas. In fact, a sense of an inevitable Ukrainian victory was palpable.

Laas Leivat
Laas Leivat

Putin’s bound to retaliate. But will an end to the conflict, which cannot be perceived by the world as even a partially successful campaign for Moscow, translate into a weakened, politically vulnerable Putin? The prognostications range over a wide spectrum.

Putin is already seen as a pariah internationally, which doesn’t mean he’s lost any overbearing sense of contempt for the West. But the “we must avoid humiliating Putin”, is a cautionary warning that has significant resonance among European politicians. The most audible proponent has been French President Emmanuel Macron who stated this to the media in June. His reasoning? The fighting will eventually cease and a diplomatic solution will be available only if Putin is treated as a competent, reasonable party to a possible agreement.

This conventional wisdom also stresses that Putin must not be humiliated so as to keep him from doing something dangerously insane. Many say it’s vital that a self-confident, proud Putin be invited to the negotiation table because a disgraced adversary will not co-operate in any meaningful way.

Other observers insist that Macron got it wrong. Humiliation is not about...

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