Anton Troianovski, “Putin’s Next Move on Ukraine Is a Mystery. Just the Way He Likes It; The contradictory, sometimes menacing messages from the Kremlin have stumped Western officials and Russia experts, showing the Russian leader’s desire to keep his rivals on edge,” New York Times, January 11, 2022 (5:06 p.m.)
“We need long-term, legally binding guarantees” that would roll back the NATO presence in Eastern Europe, Mr. Putin said in December. He added that while the United States has exited treaties in the past, “we need at least something, at least a legally binding agreement rather than just verbal assurances.”
…As best analysts can tell, it is the demand that NATO offer some kind of formal assurances not to expand eastward and to cease military cooperation with Ukraine that is now most important for Mr. Putin.”
Other statements in recent days by Russian officials confirm Putin’s demand that NATO accede to Russia’s demands quickly.
The fact that Putin is making demands which Russian diplomats know NATO cannot accept, and is demanding legally binding commitments which Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov knows would be void under peremptory norms of international law, together with the imperious urgency of his demands, suggest that he is either isolated from policymakers in his anti-covid cocoon, or that he thinks he can remake the world and the international legal order, based on the U.N. Charter, with the force of his threats and his tanks.
His ultimate power is that Russia has nuclear weapons which give him the ability to blow up the world. That is why Joe Biden and NATO have to pay attention to him.
There are no collective leadership checks on Putin like those the Soviet Politburo had on Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis, in October 1962.
In effect, Putin is a terrorist who is holding hostage the whole world, not just NATO and the West.
Whether Biden and the U.S., and NATO and other countries, will deal with him by upholding the U.N. Charter and international law, or yield to his impossible and urgent threats and demands, remains to be seen.
In 1938, when Adolf Hitler made similarly outrageous demands, the West, represented by Ėdouard Daladier of France and Neville Chamberlain of Britain, caved in to Hitler’s military threats, and surrendered the Czech Sudetenland to Germany in the infamous Munich Pact.
Putin is betting that Biden is weak, like Obama, and will in the end cave in when faced with his threats of nuclear war.
The Trenchant Observer