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A new war has begun. After more than a month of conflict and uncertainty, and after Putin repeatedly denied his intentions to intervene, the Russian invasion of Ukraine finally occured.
This Monday, February 21, Russia sent troops to eastern Ukraine as a “peacekeeping operation.” However, it seems to be only the beginning, as everything indicates that Putin will seek to invade the neighboring country, against the position of the West.
Now countries such as the United States, Germany and other NATO members are preparing to sanction Russia, while Ukraine is “keeping its fingers crossed” that Putin will not decide to invade the extent of its territory.
1. Why did Putin decide to invade?
Since 2014, Kyiv and Moscow have been at loggerheads after the Russian president annexed to his country the province of Crimea, which at the time belonged to Ukraine.
Ukraine’s location is key for both the West and Russia because it is seen as a strategic and military ally.
Although Ukraine is not yet part of NATO or the European Union, it has shown its inclination to be part, because the military organization has offered it full backing to preserve its sovereignty.
During his televised speech, Putin reiterated that Ukraine has always been part of Russia and outlined a long list of grievances against the Ukrainian government, arguing that Kyiv is preparing a conflict against Russia with the support of Western countries, and even accused Ukraine of wanting to develop nuclear weapons to threaten Russia, without offering evidence.
2. Negotiations with the U.S. and NATO failed
César Sabas, an expert in international relations and international security, told El American that Putin’s decision came after closed-door negotiations with NATO and the United States failed.
“It is already clear that Ukraine will not be part of NATO and NATO is not going to get involved in a conflict over Ukraine. What Putin wanted was for NATO to give in by saying that the organization would not expand; then faced with that situation Russia decided to invade,” the expert said.
“Putin seeks to recover the Empire of the Czars, that is to say, to unite Russia, Belarus and Ukraine (…) for Putin it is a strategic imperative to prevent NATO from reaching its borders,” he explained.
3. What will happen with Ukraine?
Putin sent military to Donetsk and Luhansk, two cities in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, whose territory has been seized by pro-Russian separatists since 2014. The Russian leader decided to recognize the two Ukrainian territories as “independent republics,” which served as a stepping stone for him to send Russian troops on a so-called “peacekeeping mission” to the regions.
Following the invasion in the east, Ukrainian President Volodmir Zelensky convened a meeting of his National Security and Defense Council, and has held consultations with his French counterpart Macron, Joe Biden, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in response to Putin’s moves.
It is unknown whether Russia will confine itself to the separatist-held territories, or launch a larger invasion against Ukraine with the rest of the troops it has amassed on the borders. Meanwhile, reactions from the West have been to threaten sanctions against the Kremlin.
“Now with Crimea occupied and these two regions, Russia can deploy its army in that area and now it will be impossible for the Ukrainians to recover it, as long as that is not resolved Ukraine will not be able to join NATO and NATO is not willing to go to a military conflict with Russia,” explained Sabas, who warned that this may be the beginning of new occupations. He warned that this could be the beginning of new occupations. “Putin will most likely want to move forward,” he added.
4. How does the West reacted to the Russian invasion?
After the Russian invasion, Ukraine stated that “it is not afraid of anything or anyone” and asked for “clear support” from its Western allies in the face of Moscow’s advance; however, there is still no clarity as to what the next actions of NATO and the United States will be.
The West promised swift economic sanctions against Russia if Putin invaded Ukrainian territory. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during the Munich Security Conference this weekend that the UK would cut off access to financial resources to Russian companies.
For its part, the European Union announced that it would also sanction Moscow if Putin recognized the sovereignty of the two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.
“So far the West has only threatened sanctions and Germany suspended the approval of the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline,” said Sabas who explained that the West is being cautious with sanctions to prevent Putin from deciding to invade the whole of Ukraine.
“The West does not want to end up breaking the dialogue, if it applies devastating economic sanctions on the Russian economy, that would give Putin the opportunity to say: now I’m going all out,” he said.
5. Ukraine and the Salami strategy
For Sabas, there are two possibilities for the future of Ukraine: one, that a bloody war will take place, and the other, that Ukraine will disappear under the “salami strategy”.
“One possibility is that Russia will set a trap for Ukraine and Kyiv will fall through a false flag losing its entire territory; however, I have never believed that this is Putin’s real intention, I think he prefers to go step by step, making progress in the long term,” the specialist explained.
“I think the strategy he is going to follow is the Salami strategy. If you have a salami on the table you cut it little by little, you eat it little by little and suddenly there is nothing left. I think that is what is going to happen with Ukraine, they take Crimea, the Donbass becomes independent and now it is likely that there will be a military action to expel the military forces. They are gradually stripping it, while Ukrainians are going to feel that the West left them alone,” Sabas said.
“The promise of Western help was an empty promise and now Ukrainians are likely to elect a president who will try to negotiate with the Russians and not with the West. I think that is what Putin is after, that the Ukrainians themselves will return to their Russian sphere of influence,” he added.
Sabrina Martín Rondon is a Venezuelan journalist. Her source is politics and economics. She is a specialist in corporate communications and is committed to the task of dismantling the supposed benefits of socialism // Sabrina Martín Rondon es periodista venezolana. Su fuente es la política y economía. Es especialista en comunicaciones corporativas y se ha comprometido con la tarea de desmontar las supuestas bondades del socialismo