BREMMER: Here's What Putin Will Likely Do Now

Putin medvedevREUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/KremlinRussia’s President Vladimir Putin (R-L) speaks with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s State Duma speaker Sergey Naryshkin and Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev during a meeting of the Security Council at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow.

The ruble is in crisis hours after a shocking central bank rate hike. and Russian President Vladimir Putin has to find a way to explain the mess.

“Putin now needs scapegoats: external and internal,” Geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer told Business Insider over email. “Everything from the US and Europe for sanctions, Ukraine for the fight against Russia, “speculators” for the run on the Russian economy, ineffectual policymakers — PM Medvedev surely at risk here too.”

Bremmer noted Russian media parroting of Putin’s narrative, which keeps him ridiculously popular at home, means that “there’s no chance you see serious discussion of mistakes made by Putin that helped cause this crisis.”

In March, Putin stealthily annexed Crimea and incited a war in the eastern part of Ukraine. After the West brought sanctions, Putin doubled down by sending more men and weapons into eastern Ukraine while saying the sanctions were a plot to oust him from power.

In the meantime, more than $US85 billion of capital and droves of talented people have left Russia this year, and the country’s economy is headed for a prolonged recession

Putin submarineRIA Novosti/ReutersPutin submerging

Bremmer said that capital controls — protections against Russian citizens and businesses withdrawing money from banks — are “looking more likely in this environment.”

In any case, the rashes of oil prices and the ruble have challenged Putin to either back down to get some relief or double down again.

“The best thing for the economy — short of an oil price rise which the Kremlin has no influence over — would be to negotiate a settlement with Ukraine and climbdown the escalation,” Bremmer said. “But that flies against what’s actually sustained Putin’s popularity … and the primary driver of his entire strategy for the past year.”

Bremmer doesn’t see Putin changing his ways.

“That’s why this is a geopolitical problem more than an economic one,” he said. “Oil at $US50 is a serious problem for Putin; oil at $US50 & sanctions is a better narrative. And Putin’s response is likely to geopolitical as well …”

Bremmer noted that Putin’s options include more cyberattacks, “more aggression/incursion around NATO borders, excuses found for expansion of military engagement beyond present zone in Russia, [and] closer ties/integration with China.”

Russian planes have been very active in the Baltic region in the past few months and are regularly intercepted by NATO planes. The Russian military just carried out snap drills in the enclave of Kaliningrad, which borders Lithuania and Poland.

“Potential for ‘accidents’ [is] going way up,” he added.

This post has been updated.

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