On Thursday, Putin’s defense minister announced a partial troop withdrawal, a step welcomed by the Ukrainian president in a nervous Kiev. Putin offered President Biden an olive branch by appearing at his online climate summit. And on Friday, Mr. Navalny said his hunger strike calling for better medical care had “reached enough” after being seen twice by civilian doctors.
“No matter how hard the system tries to show itself as a deaf-mute monolith weighing thousands of tons, it actually continues to react to pressure from within and without,” one of Mr. Navalny’s best aides, Leonid Volkov, published on Twitter.
In Medvedev’s article interpreting the events of the week published Friday morning, he compared the current state of world affairs to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, when the United States and the Soviet Union were on the brink of nuclear war. The problem today, unlike the original Cold War, he wrote, was that the United States no longer respected Russia’s strength.
“If the consequences of the victory are so great as to question the continued existence of the winner, then this is not a victory,” wrote Mr. Medvedev, Putin’s Security Council vice president, in a not-so-veiled reference. to the Russian nuclear arsenal.
One risk of Putin’s growing approach to foreign policy is that he may have to up the ante to achieve the desired effect. This was the case with the accumulation of Russian troops near Ukraine. While the war in eastern Ukraine has lasted since 2014, with Moscow sending weapons and men to the separatists it supports, the Kremlin from the start of hostilities had not threatened to invade Ukraine openly as it has done in recent weeks. .
Mr. Pavlovsky, who advised the Kremlin until 2011, likens Putin’s system to a ratchet: a mechanism that, even with occasional pauses, can only turn in one direction.
“When the system is all built on the principle of escalation, it can’t really go back,” he said.