The recent deployment of Russian troops along Ukraine’s border and Moscow’s indication that it could intervene in the event of a full-scale war in eastern Ukraine are dimming hopes for a peaceful resolution of the conflict that has festered for seven years and cost thousands of lives.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday that Russia had the right to move its forces across its territory at its discretion and was simply taking precautions given the “dangerous, explosive region at its borders” with eastern Ukraine.
Mr. Peskov warned that the situation on the contact line was extremely unstable and said “the dynamics…create the danger of a resumption of full-scale hostilities.”
Question is what the US and NATO should do about it if this happens. Could be very tough to accomplish anything with economic sanctions, partly because there are already sanctions in place and there may not be much more feasible to sanction, and partially because Western Europe is apparently dependent on Russia for energy supplies.
Personally, I tend to isolationism in foreign policy and in general tend to oppose doing largely ineffective things out of righteous indignation. The issue I have is that Western governments tend to make these grandiose statements about how “we will not let this stand” and the like, which they have no realistic way of backing up when their bluff gets called, and Putin in particular has a history of bluff-calling. The problem (beyond the loss of credibility) is that the ostensible ally - in this case Ukraine/Zelensky - is emboldened to take a harder stance than they might otherwise take based on the notion that the US or NATO has their back, when in reality they’re relying on paper tigers, and end up worse off than had they settled upfront.
Of course, a lot depends on what Russia’s ultimate goal is. I think it’s extremely likely that Russia intends ultimately to reincorporate any areas with a lot of Russian speakers back into Russia. But it’s also possible that they have their eyes on the entire Ukraine.