After Syria, Putin is pushing his advantage in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of preparing “terrorist acts” against Russian interests in Crimea, focus of the Russian-Ukrainian war since 2014. This rise in tension, said Putin, resulted from the choice of “escalation” by his “partners in Kiev.” Conversely, his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko believed that the deployment of S400 air defense and missile systems in Crimea confirmed the risk of a “large-scale” Russian invasion.

Ukrainian fears have been downplayed by Western analysts and several objectives would explain the tactics of Putin vis-à-vis Ukraine. Putin is starting a new election cycle, both inside Russia with legislative, local and municipal elections on September 18, 2016 and outside Russia with the US presidential elections in November 2016 and the French ones in April-May 2017.

It is also meant to weaken the Ukrainian government by showing the West it’s not a reliable partner, in order to force reconsideration of the Ukrainian issue as a whole from the West’s standpoint – especially French and German – and also the economic sanctions against Russia which proved very damaging to the European Union (EU) – France in particular. After shrinking the West’s operational window in Syria, Putin is therefore pushing his advantage in Ukraine. Up to now, his determination has systematically prevailed over indecision.