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Peace of Westphalia Day

This is a special day for those of us here at peaceofwestphalia.org, because it is the 374th anniversary of the signing of the treaties of Munster and Osnabruck that make up the Peace of Westphalia. I celebrated, as I always do, by making a Mazarin torte. It is an excellent opportunity to pick up a “peace rider” mug. I hope everyone has a great day and enjoys peace in your lives.

Speaking of peace, or the lack of it, someone recently referred me to the article “Addressing Putin’s Nuclear Threat,” which covers similar ground to my blog post a few days ago but with the advantage that it is written by a professional intelligence operative specializing in Russia. The gist of the article is that Putin will have no moral qualms about deploying NBC weapons, but that he will not deliberately back himself into a corner where escalation is the only option. The best path for the U.S., according to this author, is to respond to Putin’s escalation by ramping up in an asymmetric fashion, a “conventional campaign that eliminates Putin’s forces in Ukraine.” He admits that the “challenge would be in doing so without instead validating his narrative of inevitable existential battle with the West, justifying his first use of nuclear weapons.”

And that’s where I lose confidence in this article. The author mentions several times that Putin “will always allow for an escape route” rather than allowing himself to be backed into a corner, but he doesn’t specify what form that escape route might take except to say that “Putin’s off ramp should not be some face-saving deal the West must choreograph that he will be perceive as weakness and therefore raise the stakes.” Granted, it would do no good to propose a solution that Putin would see as a sign that he could ramp up the pressure; on the other hand, given the deplorable state of Russia’s war against Ukraine, which the author admits that Putin himself must recognize, is “raising the stakes” really an option Putin is looking for now? I think it’s much more likely that he would like a way to get out of the war and appear a victor, at least domestically. It makes much more sense to me to figure out what it would take to fulfill that fundamental requirement, which would not escalate but rather de-escalate dramatically by ending the fighting.

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