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Vladimir Putin may (or may not) enjoy 80 percent public support in Russia for his Ukraine policy; but it has become increasingly clear that he has bitten off more than he can chew.Leave to one side the moral and geopolitical background of the Ukraine imbroglio. The fact remains that Russia is too weak to challenge the West further, at least in the way that it did in Ukraine. Russia's GDP is around $2 trillion, and its population of 143 million is falling fast. This means that the West can inflict much more damage on Russia than Russia can inflict on the West.It retains a formidable nuclear capacity, but it is inconceivable that Russia would use it to secure its aims in Ukraine.Putin will most likely try to prop up eastern Ukraine's separatists as long as he can – as events in the last week have shown – and will absolutely refuse to give up Crimea.Support for Putin, though broad, may not be deep.It is natural and right to think of possible compromises: Ukraine's guaranteed neutrality, greater regional autonomy within a federal Ukraine, an interim international administration in Crimea to supervise a referendum on its future, and the like.
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