Thu. Jan 20th, 2022

Your leader (“A two-track strategy to scare Putin over Ukraine”, FT View, December 30) argues that while Vladimir Putin is playing a strong weak hand, Russia could be deterred from further attacks on Ukraine provided the West does not play its strong hand weak.

But that argument is flawed. First, Putin can not be deterred if he chooses to invade or launch some form of military operation against Ukraine. He calculated the risks. Except for a catastrophic mistake, this situation will not escalate into military conflict. The cost in blood and treasure is too great. Secondly, it is Putin, not the West, who is holding the stronger hand and more importantly the initiative. Geography matters. He is there and we are not.

Third, Ukraine is the surrogate as far as Putin is concerned for addressing what he sees as his many grievances with the West, brought home by NATO’s eastern enlargement.

That said, Putin wants an agreement. It was no coincidence that treaty claims were sent to the US and NATO simultaneously. And honestly, the west also needs an agreement, especially if China, as the US claims, is “the pace threat”.

For the first time in a long time, there is a real opportunity to ease the tension. The issue is not who has the stronger or weaker hand. The question is whether both sides will recognize and seize the opportunity.

Harlan Ullman
Senior Advisor, Atlantic Council Washington, DC, USA

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