Opinion: Putin’s big miscalculation – CNN

Without a breakthrough, a senior US official declared ominously that “the drums of war are beating loudly”, with both sides making pessimistic statements.

This is not a surprising result.

With more than 100,000 Russian soldiers massed on Ukraine’s border, the United States and its allies refused to make any concessions. This may be exactly what Putin expected when he made clearly unreasonable demands on the West, in exchange for never attacking a neighbor again.

But, in the end, this may not come out the way the Russian president hopes.

Before the meetings even started, Putin seemed to have gotten the West (and Ukraine) in trouble. He said NATO should agree to Russia’s demands, including a pledge not to add new members and a retreat of NATO forces to their positions dating back to 1997 – a set of commitments that NATO has said from the outset it will not take into account. It seemed easy to imagine that Putin could turn to the Russian people and say, ‘Look, I tried diplomacy, but the West rejected it. We have no choice but to invade Ukraine.

On paper, the stunt might look like a win for Putin. The Russian people might think that Putin’s fictitious claims that Ukraine poses a threat to larger and better-armed forces. But in the long run, this maneuver may backfire.
Russia’s threatening position towards Ukraine, is persistent threats Even as talks continue, it is cementing the Kremlin’s image as a bully who puts his neighbors in danger. And the more Putin threatens, the more he inadvertently makes clear why Russia’s neighbors believe they need to join NATO to protect themselves.
Ukraine, of course, does not pose any serious military threat to Russia. It had the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal, but it transferred it to Russia in exchange for a commitment to respect its borders and sovereignty, a commitment Russia violated when it invaded and annexed Ukraine’s Crimea. This agreement, known as the Budapest Agreement, is just one of several that Russia has signed and brazenly violated.
The only threat Ukraine poses to Putin — not to Russia — is to become a functioning democracy at a time when the Russian leader seeks to establish himself as an irremovable authoritarian, and is now committed to defending other autocrats.
By making self-fulfilling prophecies about a looming confrontation, Putin may have cemented a NATO alliance that, incidentally, was not likely to accept Ukraine anytime soon.
The message to Moscow was clear. 30 NATO allies, according to US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who spoke separately but in “complete unity,” assured Russian officials that each country He’s right To choose their alliances, borders cannot be changed by force.
Perhaps that was no surprise to Putin. But he may have been surprised when non-NATO countries – namely Sweden and Finland – started talking about accession, directly as a result of his military threat to Ukraine. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, in his New Year address to the nation, spoke of “the possibility of a military alignment and an application for NATO membership.” In response, the undiplomatic Russian Foreign Ministry threatened “serious military and political consequences” against Finland.

Nobody knows if Putin is planning an invasion. But 100,000 soldiers massed on the border of Ukraine are ready to act. If what Putin wants is attention, he’s got it. If he wanted to distract his people from domestic problems, he got that for some time. But he will have to make a decision soon. When the winter ice melts, the muddy roads will make the invasion more difficult. And waiting is expensive.

The last thing Biden needs

However, it is not as expensive as the real conquest.

As he claims that Ukraine and NATO are a threat to Russia, Putin is stirring up patriotic sentiments at home. But it also ignites Ukrainians’ commitment to defending their country. Ukrainians are under no illusion that they can hold off the Russian army, but continuing the invasion can be very costly. It is not only the Ukrainians who will pay the price.
The Biden administration is considering a set of crippling economic sanctions. That could help change Putin’s cost-benefit analysis. And the Ukrainians, receiving support from the United States to defend themselves, could make an invasion painful, which Washington makes sure Putin understands.
General Mark Milley, the top US military official, spoke to his Russian counterpart a few weeks ago. He reportedly indicated that the invasion would be followed by a resistance campaign similar to the one that expelled the Soviets from Afghanistan and demoralized the collapsing superpower.
The former Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, said in an interview with an interlocutor that every Ukrainian town, every house, would become a fortress, making sure that “thousands of coffins” would be returned to Russia.
During the talks this week, Russian diplomats tweeted undiplomatic messages seeking to intimidate people back home, or perhaps to provoke their wrath. At one point, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov presented a ugly claim About the former Eastern European nations turned into Soviet satellites by invading Soviet Union armies – a reminder to new members of NATO with the old Kremlin boot on their throat during the Cold War.

Whatever happens this week as dozens of diplomats gather in Europe, the final decision will be made by one man in Moscow. Putin may choose to invade, and he may succeed in cutting off another slice of a country whose sovereignty Russia once pledged to respect. However, in the process he has sent a message to the whole world about the direction he is heading for his country.

As nations voluntarily seek to join alliances led by democratic nations, Russia—which was destined to become a peaceful member of the family of nations—is now a despotic power, suppressing its people’s demands for democracy, defending autocratic rulers across the region and engaging in intimidation and conquest. forced.

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