George Soros writes: Putin is a gifted tactician, but not a strategic thinker. There is no reason to believe he intervened in Syria in order to aggravate the European refugee crisis. Indeed, his intervention was a strategic blunder because it embroiled him in a conflict with Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which has hurt the interests of both.
But once Putin saw the opportunity to hasten the EU’s disintegration, he seized it. He has obfuscated his actions by talking of cooperating against a common enemy, Isis. He has followed a similar approach in Ukraine, signing the Minsk agreement but failing to carry out its provisions.
It is hard to understand why US and EU leaders take Putin at his word rather than judging him by his behaviour. The only explanation I can find is that democratic politicians seek to reassure their publics by painting a more favourable picture than reality justifies. The fact is that Putin’s Russia and the EU are engaged in a race against time: the question is which one will collapse first.
The Putin regime faces bankruptcy in 2017, when a large part of its foreign debt matures, and political turmoil may erupt sooner than that. The president’s popularity, which remains high, rests on a social compact requiring the government to deliver financial stability and a slowly but steadily rising standard of living. Western sanctions, coupled with the sharp decline in the price of oil, will force the regime to fail on both counts. [Continue reading…]