The land grab gives Vladimir Putin breathing space and avoids a humiliating defeat in Ukraine

In 2014, Vladimir Putin signed the annexation of Crimea into law.

It was a moment of Russian triumph: it had carried out a major operation without military expense, confronting Ukraine and the world with a fait accompli that no one dared challenge.

Never before has a shorter or more victorious war been fought.

The circumstances couldn’t be more different this time. So what’s the game?

On the one hand, it is a declaration of intent and a commitment.

Russia’s constitution was amended in 2020 to prevent Mr Putin – or any subsequent president – from ceding territory once acquired.

This also rules out a partial withdrawal as part of a peace agreement.

There’s also marginal military utility, as he’ll be able to recruit Ukrainian men, providing much-needed cannon fodder for his hollowed-out army.

Most significant, however, is the thinly veiled nuclear threat. If Putin thinks it’s in his interest and can get away with it, he may well be tempted to use nuclear weapons.

However, the immediate goal is probably not to provide a legal excuse for dropping a bomb; it is designed to scare Ukraine’s western partners enough to force Kyiv into a “ceasefire” to allow “talks.”

In practice, that would mean freezing the war along the current line of contact and giving Russia control of much of south-eastern Ukraine, including the strategically important Crimean land bridge.

That would give Putin valuable breathing space.

The world would breathe a sigh of relief and settle for a new Cyprus or a new Korean peninsula – an imperfect but lasting peace that could last for decades. He wouldn’t have won, but he would have avoided a humiliating defeat.

Ukrainians believe that such a peace would last only until Russia was rearmed, retrained, and ready to march on Kyiv again.

That is why they will ignore today’s signing ceremony for the annexation of four more areas of Ukraine and continue to fight as hard as possible to take back their lands. After all, they’re winning right now. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd. 2022)

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022] The land grab gives Vladimir Putin breathing space and avoids a humiliating defeat in Ukraine

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