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From an article in The Economist:

For his part, Mr Putin appears, at least for now, to have ruled out a full-frontal invasion. On June 24th he theatrically instructed the ever-loyal upper house of parliament to cancel the authorisation for military force in Ukraine that he had ordered up in early March. The move was largely an empty fob to Mr Poroshenko and another way to ward off more Western sanctions.

What does the expression an empty fob to smb. mean here?

An empty (futile, obvious) fraud attempt, possibly? Or something more imaginative, like Mr. Poroshenko suddenly finding his watch pocket (fob) empty?

I find instances of the former sense in oldish texts (like this one, from the XIX century)

One has got a broken nob

The other's got an empty fob

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

First, the necessary background: Putin is president of Russia and Poroshenko is president of the Ukraine, and the two nations are in conflict over the Crimea (a district of Ukraine that Russia wants to lay claim to).

Second, the meaning: fob is here being used as a noun in the sense of "an attempt to fob (something) off". According to The Learner's Dictionary, fob off can mean

2: to present or offer (something fake or false) as genuine or true

So, Putin has caused his authorization to use military force against the Ukraine to be cancelled. This is intended to be seen as a peace-making gesture to the president of Ukraine, but everyone knows that Putin can get another authorization at a moment's notice (or even retroactively, if he needs one); so it's really a meaningless, useless thing to Poroshenko, who still has to worry just as much about a Russian invasion as he did before. The only thing Putin's gesture is likely to accomplish is to get Western countries to put aside their threats of sanctions against Russia.

Therefore, the move was "an empty fob"; that is, it is a "gift" that cost nothing, that means nothing, that has no actual value, but was presented as if it were (and is perceived by some Western countries) as a meaningful gesture worth a positive response.

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