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The Daily Vertical: What Putin Wants (Transcript)

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

Vladimir Putin wants a bunch of things.

He wants NATO to be scaled back to where it was at the turn of century, essentially reducing it from 28 to 19 members.

He wants the United States to repeal the Magnitsky Act and end all sanctions against Russia.

He wants the United States to compensate Russia for losses incurred by both Western sanctions and Russian countersanctions.

I'm surprised Putin didn't ask for a pony, an ice cream cone, and a free trip to Disneyland as well.

And what happens if these demands are not met?

Well, then Putin says Russia will pull out of a 16-year-old Russian-American disarmament program to turn weapons grade plutonium into fuel.

That agreement, it should be noted, has pretty much been on ice since 2014.

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So what's going on here? Is Putin trying his hand at comedy?

No. And these absurd demands aren't about a dead-in-the-water agreement on plutonium.

They came as a cease-fire in Syria collapsed following repeated violations by Russia.

They came amid reports that Russia was increasing defense spending, delivering surface-to-air missiles to Syria, and commencing large-scale civil defense drills.

And in this context, they're a message and a marker.

They're a signal that, as Moscow and Washington go their separate ways in Syria, the standoff between Moscow and the West is about to intensify even further.

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