How Would This Prisoner Swap Benefit Putin?

How Would This Prisoner Swap Benefit Putin? American basketball player Brittney Griner, Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, and their families all rejoiced at the latest announcement of a prisoner exchange. In any case, they aren’t the focus of the trade. It involves Russia, the United States, and the future of international politics.

What benefit does this trade have for Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia? So why now? Does he come out stronger or weaker after the exchange? What does this exchange suggest about Putin’s likely behaviour going forward? Since we, as oligarch researchers, know him better than any of the other characters in this drama, we shall focus our commentary on him alone.

It’s tempting to slip into the tired cliche that discussions of prisoner swaps and Putin amount to a rehash of the Cold War. Filmmakers, here’s some more “Bridge of Spies” material for your next production. Putin, as well as other Russian actors (including himself), are aware of the success of hostage and prisoner swaps in the post-Cold War period, beginning with the First Chechen War.

How Would This Prisoner Swap Benefit Putin
How Would This Prisoner Swap Benefit Putin

In September 2022, for example, 55 Russian POWs and Viktor Medvedchuk, a Ukrainian businessman and Putin friend, were exchanged for 215 Ukrainian POWs. These swaps occurred throughout the war with Ukraine.

As valid as this viewpoint is, we don’t believe it fully describes Putin’s current state of mind. Keep in mind that Putin is an oligarch, which makes him an opportunist at heart. We still think any of his actions could pave the way for him to find success. What brand-new avenues have you uncovered?

First of all, we don’t think Putin is using the swap as a negotiation chip toward a peace agreement. But it might also show the world that Putin is “someone the world can do business with,” to paraphrase Margaret Thatcher. Also, this shows that Putin is not hiding out in the wilderness and is not planning to depart the country.

Second, Putin may find Bout useful because of his expertise in evading sanctions. In the future, when Russia tries to sell its oil globally, knowing that Bout’s network is still operational will be of some use to Putin.

However, Putin has essentially reshuffled the deck with the swap, which brings us to our third point. Deflecting attention away from Ukraine. To send out a test signal and see the US response. In short, he wants to learn something and plant the seeds of doubt that will lead to future success.

For instance, the United States’ relationship with Germany might deteriorate if that country opts out of the swap and refuses to take over former Russian colonel Vadim Krasikov, who in 2019 killed a Georgian Chechen in Berlin at Putin’s behest. Putin is acting like the political tycoon that he is. He is the epitome of chaos.

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The question then becomes, “Why now?” Russia’s battle with Ukraine has not been going well for Putin on the military front as of late, so non-military measures, such as the prisoner exchange, will likely become more significant as the Ukrainian winter approaches. The attacks on Ukraine’s power grid are another example, as is this exchange.

In the upcoming months, we anticipate more of Putin’s surprising non-military actions. Western experts are, without a doubt, striving to simulate these situations and predict appropriate responses. Putin, though, is still viewed as a threat and is therefore expected to maintain his lead.

Do you think Putin benefited from this trade? We get the impression that the United States cares more about the Griner-for-Bout deal than Putin does. Putin undoubtedly thinks he’ll reap benefits from the moralising, self-referential tone of the Western discussion of the swap.

In doing so, the United States and certain of its allies are “outed” as members of the alliance that Putin and others are forming. To some extent, this line of thinking could account for his willingness to pursue further interactions. The atmosphere of these conversations is far more significant than the actual content being discussed.

Finally, what can we infer about Putin and his future plans from this prisoner swap? There is no sign that Putin is feeling vulnerable these days, despite recent military defeats for Russia and talk of a possible Russian dissolution. His current popularity rating is at record highs at 79%, and the Russian economy appears to be doing better than many predicted.

This leads us to believe that Putin’s options for future strategic moves may grow. In the first place, he has already hinted, since the swap, that he may institute a nuclear first-use policy. Furthermore, Putin has used the “friends with benefits” strategy throughout his career as an oligarch to couple with and uncouple numerous strategic partners.

In particular, he may seek to forge closer ties with nations that have shown their support for his war effort. The possibility that he and his inner circle are making preparations to flee to Venezuela in the event that his campaign is unsuccessful has recently been widely reported.

It’s possible that new alliances will form with the countries that sat on the sidelines during the UN resolutions condemning the conflict in Ukraine, especially certain African nations that have had longstanding ties to Russia and the Soviet Union. This isn’t even close to being an exhaustive list of Putin’s potential options.

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