US President Joe Biden admitted this week that American diplomats still did not know how Russian President Vladimir Putin could bring an end to his faltering war in Ukraine and save face. Western analysts see no good options.
The question of Putin’s “off-ramp” — or decisions that allow him to end the fighting without admitting defeat — has exercised Western policymakers and foreign policy experts since the very start of the war in February.
“Where does he find a way out?” Biden asked on Thursday while talking in New York. “Where does he find himself in a position that he does not, not only lose face, but lose significant power within Russia?”
A French diplomat, talking recently on condition of anonymity, stressed that European allies were no closer to reading Putin’s thinking, other than his desire to secure what appears to be an increasingly unlikely military victory.
“There’s a war that he is not managing to win, but what would satisfy him? We don’t have the answers,” the diplomat said.
Instead of looking for a negotiated climbdown, Putin has escalated in recent weeks, formally annexing four regions of Ukraine on September 30 and approving a partial mobilisation of up to 300,000 men for the war.