Vladimir Putin resorts to Plan B

If you’ve followed Vladimir Putin closely in recent years, you’ve observed that every sinister political move he makes is driven by money. Accordingly, it’s been easy to parse that Putin installed Donald Trump as president in the hope getting sanction relief (billions in cash) and the opportunity to further invade Ukraine (billions in natural resources). The trouble for Putin: the Trump experiment has failed.

Nearly two years in, it’s clear that Donald Trump has no ability to ease U.S. sanctions against Russia. The best that Trump has been able to do is to fend off additional sanctions that both parties in Congress have tried to levy against Russia, in retaliation for helping Trump rig the 2016 election. And the Trump-Russia scandal has become such a mess for Donald Trump, it’s now very likely he won’t finish his term, and for that matter it’s likely he’ll end up in either federal or state prison for it. So what is Putin supposed to do now?

This past week we’ve seen two strong hints from Vladimir Putin about what his Plan B looks like. First, he’s launched minor military aggression against Ukraine, as a trial balloon to see how the European Union responds. If the sanctions are never going to get eased anyway, and Europe doesn’t threaten military action, then why not cash in by stealing a country and its resources?

Second, now that Donald Trump is no longer of any use to him as a willing puppet, Vladimir Putin appears to have decided that he’s going to blame Trump for the worsening Trump-Russia scandal, and destroy him. Whether that leaves Trump as a damaged and weak opponent of Russia, or whether it leaves Trump ousted altogether, remains to be seen. But Putin is clearly preparing for – and to some extent trying to lay the groundwork for – a post Trump world.

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