“Boring” is perhaps the prevalent impression of President Vladimir Putin’s televised four-hour-long Q & A session that aired last Thursday (April 16), which was meant to demonstrate his good health and relaxed attitude to the great many problems worrying his loyal subjects….
Typically, such commentary by high officials is merely camouflage for Russia’s real intentions. But Moscow is unlikely to try to escalate the conflict in the coming few weeks as the Russian Armed Forces are going through the spring draft cycle. Even more importantly, Putin obviously wants to stage picture-perfect May 9 Victory Day celebrations in Red Square, even if the list of confirmed foreign guests is embarrassingly short. By mid-May, however, these restraining influences will disappear, and any sudden exacerbation of the economic crisis (the recent strengthening of the ruble actually makes it more vulnerable to a new collapse) could trigger the order to launch a new military offensive. Neither Lavrov nor the top brass are apparently involved in the decision-making on this crisis manipulation; while Putin’s performance indicates that he is briefed primarily by the Federal Security Service (FSB) and is supplied mostly with news and analysis he wants to hear. His leadership style is turning increasingly self-defensive and mistrustful of even the top elites, whose predatory corruption curtails his options for playing a benevolent “father of the nation.” Peace just does not work for him, and it remains to be seen how far he is prepared to go on the “hybrid war” path.
The rest of the article is in the Eurasia Daily Monitor, April 20.