Vitaly Portnikov, en sentral kommentator i ukrainsk media, mener Russland nå er i ferd med å få det meste ut av konflikten i Ukraina og vil se seg om etter neste mål. Det tror Portnikov blir et Nato-land.

Paul Goble i den pro-ukrainske nettavisen The Interpreter forklarer Portnikovs analyse slik:

The situation in Ukraine is moving toward a frozen conflict out of which he cannot extract more benefits for himself and his self-conception, … and consequently he is looking elsewhere with the Baltic countries being the most likely target.

Portnikov tror ikke Putin ønsker fred. Det er i krig og konflikt han best kan fremme sitt lands interesser:

“What will the West do?” It will try to achieve peace. “What will Putin do? He will fight,” Portnikov says. He can’t achieve anything in peacetime, but war gives him a chance to use the one part of his state which is still relatively strong in order to bring pressure to bear on other leaders to take him and Russia into greater consideration.

Han mener Putins ultimate mål er at Russland pånytt blir anerkjent som supermakt, og at Vesten aksepterer at landet får sin «innflytelsessfære»; et slags nytt Jalta (1945). Ukraina er et skritt på veien, men ikke nok for å oppnå dette. Ukraina er ikke viktig nok for Vesten.

But Putin recognizes that not all military actions bring him equal benefits. More moves in Ukraine will not prompt Western leaders to rush to meet with him. They may instead simply increase sanctions and his isolation – and even do more to help Ukraine. What they won’t do is agree to some new grand bargain. Ukraine isn’t useful to Putin in that regard.

Derfor vil Putin finne seg et Nato-land. For om Nato blunker der, vil dette framstå som en Vestlig aksept for Russlands innflytelsessfære. Det vil også gi en helt annen prestisje enn invasjonen av Ukraina.

But one act of aggression, albeit an extremely risky one, that could prompt the West to talk with him about “a new Yalta” would be an attack on a NATO country – and in Russia’s case that means Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania. Such an attack would show very quickly whether NATO leaders are prepared to act “seriously” or to “again limit themselves to sanctions and anger.”

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