Operation Eviction?

In a recent NYT column, Fiona Hill gave a convincing summary of the Kremlin’s strategy:

This time, Mr. Putin’s aim is bigger than closing NATO’s “open door” to Ukraine and taking more territory — he wants to evict the United States from Europe…

If Russia presses hard enough, Mr. Putin hopes he can strike a new security deal with NATO and Europe to avoid an open-ended conflict, and then it will be America’s turn to leave, taking its troops and missiles with it…

Hill’s piece offers an intelligible outline and a consistent explanation of Putin’s strategy, helping the reader make sense of the Kremlin’s game. Otherwise, Moscow’ recent actions would seem absurd, with so little to be gained and so much to be lost. But to accept Hill’s logic one has to admit not only that Putin is a skillful operative but also that he or someone close to him is a smart and risk-loving strategist:

Mr. Putin plays a longer, strategic game and knows how to prevail in the tactical scrum. He has the United States right where he wants it.

Frankly, I suspect this might be mistaking chronic ressentiment for strategy. What if it’s a long game simply because some petty man has kept his wounded pride festering for a couple of decades? I hope so – because a wounded pride can carry a man all the way to defeat, sometimes with astonishing efficiency.

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