“Depends on what he does.” If he mounts “a minor incursion,” Biden said, “there are differences within NATO about what countries are willing to do.” (President* Joe Biden, Jan 19, 2022)
(Kyiv, Ukraine) There is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding among those unfamiliar with Eastern Europe, and with the media narrative of the 'coming Russian invasion' of Ukraine.
First of all, Ukraine is a large industrial nation of 40M people. It also is referred to as the 'bread basket' of Europe due to its plethora of black fertile soil used to grow an abundance of wheat. The Ukrainian flag is literally the gold wheat on the bottom half and the blue sky on the top.
Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014, which contains a strategically important warm-water port on the Black Sea. Russia also helped destabilize the 'Donbass' region of East Ukraine and separatist forces control what is now called the Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) and the Luhansk People's Republic (LNR). This development also in 2014 sparked a hot war which has killed over 14,000 people and is still going on today, although now mostly a dormant trench warfare battle after multiple ceasefires and peace negotiations which have largely failed. Still, several soldiers on both sides are routinely killed in dueling artillery and rocket fire.
The Ukrainian government since 2014 has developed a robust defense capability born in the face of hot war sparked almost a decade ago. They have over 200,000 troops available to face any Russian threat from the East. It would not be a cakewalk for Moscow to attempt to push the forward line of troops further west in its favor. It would be bloody and expensive for the Kremlin if it decided to do so. It would also require a much larger force than Russia currently has massed (within its own borders) in the area to effectively occupy Western Ukraine in an effort to force a new government. Russia also does not have unlimited money for this type of expeditionary force, since its economy is not growing and the Kremlin is still trying to swallow Crimea and Donbass financially.
However, that does not mean that Russia will not continue to push for a settlement in its interest in Donbass. This would be a much easier task to ensure that the LPR and DNR remain in Moscow's camp. After all, the populations of these regions already hold Russian passports and use the Russian Ruble as their currency. Over 50,000 residents are in fact now being relocated across the Russian border to allegedly move them out of harms way if fighting once again breaks out in Donbass.
Putin announced tonight he will recognize the two breakaway republics as independent nations. So, it looks like this is the path Russia will take. Now the question is what will NATO and Ukraine do about it?
In short, we do not believe Moscow is going to 'invade' Western Ukraine. We do not believe this is in the best interest of Russia at this time; although, down the road this might change.
We do think Russia will work to further cement its control over Donbass and retain a substantial force in the region to prevent NATO and Ukrainian action.
More on this subject to follow in further articles in the near future.
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