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Will Russia Invade Ukraine? Only Putin Knows

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As Biden deals with the Omicron variant, the prospects of a new foreign crisis are brewing in Eastern Europe as tens of thousands of Russian troops amassed near the border of Ukraine. Both the U.S. and its European allies have warned Putin against any new military incursions. With Russian-Ukrainian tensions reaching a fever pitch, the idea that the Kremlin is going to move against Kyiv is keeping the Biden State Department awake at night.

Moscow invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, months after massive street protests led to the downfall of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who had previously signed a treaty that would take Kyiv closer to Russia than the West. After the invasion, the U.S. imposed a series of economic sanctions against Russia that are still in place. After the annexation of Crimea, fighting started in other border regions between pro-government and separatist pro-Russian forces.

NATO and Ukraine have expressed concern over the thousands of Russian troops in the border (EFE)

Blinken warns Putin of “serious consequences” if Ukraine is attacked

At a press conference with the Latvian Foreign Minister, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said to the Kremlin that “any escalatory actions by Russia would be of great concern to the United States (…) and they would trigger serious consequences”. The warning came just a few minutes after Blinken remembered that NATO has “deployed four multinational battle groups to Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland to bolster deterrence in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014.”  

Weeks earlier, it was revealed that the United States had warned its European partners about a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine. Moscow dismissed those concerns, saying that the troop movement near its borders is a matter that only concerns Russia. The rhetorical fight has also intensified significantly. A few days ago, the Ukrainian President accused Putin of preparing a coup against him this week.

This is not the first time that there is a concerning massive military buildup in the Russian-Ukrainian border this year. Moscow sent thousands of combat-ready soldiers and military hardware near Ukraine back in April 2021, just a few months after the swear-in of President Biden. Although Russia eventually withdrew its troops, the tensions between both parties have clearly not subsided.

Ukrainian President Zelensky denounced a Russian-backed coup against him (EFE)

Will Russia invade Ukraine? But most importantly how would Biden react?

Behind all the saber-rattling and troop movement, the central question bugging the mind of the Biden administration is if Putin will go beyond showing its military strength and actually making a military incursion towards Ukraine.

Counterterrorism and foreign policy expert Jason Killmeyer told El American that the question is not if Putin is capable of invading another country since he has done that “twice in less than 15 years”, but that the real question should be “what aims are accomplished with an invasion that can’t be accomplished via continued weakening of Ukrainian sovereignty and a demonstrably cowed NATO.”  And that “A longer-term domination of Ukraine is still in the cards absent direct invasion, as NordStream and Belarusian and other regional levers make clear.”

Although a long-term conquest of Ukraine is still a possible option, Killmeyer also said that an invasion could be proven as an acceptable option for the Kremlin, saying that Biden has “already shown his hand” and that “the price the U.S. and NATO are willing to make Russia pay is likely deemed acceptable by Putin.”

The troubling scenario, argues Killmeyer, is that Russia manages to win a swift victory in an invasion scenario “despite the years of significant Western aid to Ukraine” which could be used as evidence to view “any domestically realistic scale of support to Taiwan”  as insufficient as “the equipment and the gadgets and the planning may not add up to a credible enough deterrent”

The current crisis with Russia reflects a greater (more worrisome) trend for Killmeyer, who argues that the Biden administration’s current strategy towards global affairs will only guarantee “global instability of a greater degree” and warned that currently, it is “Russia and China are setting the global agenda, the pace, and type of engagement, and are telegraphing their moves amidst a U.S. that is backed against the wall and is more reactive than proactive”

Daniel is a Political Science and Economics student from the University of South Florida. He worked as a congressional intern to Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) from January to May 2020. He also is the head of international analysis at Politiks // Daniel es un estudiante de Cs Políticas y Economía en la Universidad del Sur de la Florida. Trabajo como pasante legislativo para el Representate Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) desde enero hasta mayo del 2020. Daniel también es el jefe de análisis internacional de Politiks.

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