Skip to main content


Putin’s posturing is all for show

Ukrainian soldiers on the Russian border. Sean Gallup/Getty

“There will be no war between Russia and the West,” says former US ambassador to Nato Robert Hunter in the Financial Times. What Vladimir Putin really wants is to “play in the big leagues” – and to be recognised as a player by the US. There’s little chance he ever intended to invade Ukraine, which would only make Russia a “pariah state” for years to come. Frequently overlooked, as western media bang the drums of war, is the fact that Putin has tabled two draft treaties with only the final terms to be worked out. A little dose of international diplomacy would bring a peaceful solution well within reach.

It’s easier for Putin, who answers only to himself, than for Joe Biden, who has 29 Nato allies to keep happy. The crucial sticking point is that the Russian president wants an end to Nato expansionism, but Nato refuses to block new members. The solution is a classic diplomatic fudge: countries will be allowed to apply to join Nato, on the tacit understanding that none, including Ukraine, will be voted in. There are no “serious countries” left who could reasonably apply, but this arrangement reassures Putin that his sphere of influence will remain intact, while allowing Nato to keep boasting of its “open-door policy”. As long as Putin remembers “where his country’s real interests lie”, that is.

Get our daily newsletter in your inbox

We cut through the noise to give you a fresh take on the world – in just five minutes a day. Sign up for the newsletter here.