This is why US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said that the US wants to see Russia “weakened” so that it cannot do this sort of thing again.
This could be achieved through continued Western sanctions that deny Russia access to technology and revenue to rebuild and modernise their military, building up the military resilience of nations on Russia’s periphery, enlarging NATO and responding to any Russian military preparations with greater speed and seriousness.
ONLY ONE REAL OPTION FOR THE WEST
Currently, there is no appetite among western countries to provide Putin with an off-ramp. It would be seen as an invitation to others to try similar adventures and effectively reward the execution and torture of civilians, rape and indiscriminate bombings that have included schools and hospitals.
So the West has only one real option: Keep adding economic, diplomatic and, through Ukraine, military pressure on Russia, to help Putin come to the conclusion the rest of the world has already come to – that Russia’s ultimate objectives in Ukraine are unattainable.
The sooner Putin does, the more room for manoeuvre he can have at the negotiation table before Ukraine rolls back Russian gains.
In reality, Putin only needs to save face with the Russian people. He already controls what Russians read and hear about the war, but that doesn’t stop parents from losing their sons or restocking empty supermarket shelves.
If Russians have already accepted that the war has been to stop Ukraine from becoming a nuclear-armed Nazi state bent on the genocide of Russian-speaking people, Putin can sell them any excuse for climbing down and still claim a great victory.
James Carouso is a Senior Fellow and Chair of the Australia Advisory Board at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington DC, and a former Acting US Ambassador to Australia.