When diplomats want to explore a way out of a crisis, they like to talk about striking a “grand bargain” and try to avoid the word “climb-down,” which tends to imply an acknowledgement of failure or defeat. Nevertheless, Russia and the United States, trapped in costly confrontations over Syria and Ukraine, may need to agree to a sort of “grand climb-down” that allows the two powers to get out of unsustainable positions as painlessly as possible.
Moscow and Washington both begin 2015 stuck with the consequences of poor strategic bets.
Russia’s intervention in Ukraine now looks like a truly disastrous mistake, as Western sanctions and the collapse of the price of oil have converged to undermine its economy. Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to spout defiance at the West, but some of his closest allies are urging compromise. At some point, Putin may have to choose between his global ambitions and his continued political survival. He is likely to plump for survival.