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Russia’s Aggression Against Ukraine Is Backfiring

By Kori Schake

29 Dec 2021 · 5 min read

Western intelligence agencies have warned that Russia is contemplating an invasion of Ukraine, perhaps involving some 175,000 troops. Vladimir Putin’s government has already moved more than 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders, including into Belarus. Russian officials have been making outrageously paranoid and false accusations. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, for example, recently blamed NATO for the return of the “nightmare scenario of military confrontation.” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that the United States is smuggling “tanks with unidentified chemical components” into Ukraine’s Donetsk. And Putin himself has been equally vituperative about NATO, threatening military moves unless it agrees to his terms. “They have pushed us to a line that we can’t cross,” he said on Sunday. “They have taken it to the point where we simply must tell them: ‘Stop!’”

Yet a recent report concludes that despite its massive deployment and threatening rhetoric, Russia is not planning to invade Ukraine. The report, produced by the Critical Threats Project of the American Enterprise Institute, where I serve as the director of foreign- and defense-policy studies, together with the Institute for the Study of War, finds that the political and economic costs of an actual invasion are too high for Russia to sustain. “Putin may be attempting a strategic misdirection that impales the West in a diplomatic process and military planning cycle that will keep it unprepared,” the report argues. Rather than directly invade Ukraine again, Russia instead seeks to further destabilize the country in advance of its elections, station troops in Belarus, divide NATO, and precipitate Western concessions to de-escalate the crisis.

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