Russian President Vladimir Putin is using the crisis he created by mobilizing a large military force around Ukraine to achieve two major objectives: first, advancing and possibly completing his efforts to regain effective control of Ukraine itself, and second, fragmenting and neutralizing the NATO alliance. Russian military preparations can support a massive invasion of Ukraine from the north, east, and south that could give Putin physical control of Kyiv and other major Ukrainian cities, allowing him to dictate terms that would accomplish the first objective. Such an invasion, however, might undermine his efforts to achieve the second objective because it could rally the NATO alliance around the need to respond to such a dramatic act of aggression. An invasion would also entail significant risks and definite high costs. A Russian military action centered around limited military operations in southern and southeastern Ukraine coupled with a brief but widespread and intense air and missile campaign could better position Putin to achieve both aims as well as reduce the likely costs and risks to Russia.
ISW’s Russia team is closely monitoring the ongoing situation around Ukraine, including Russian force deployments, rhetorical changes, and Western responses. This issue includes coverage of Russian activity in Vietnam, Egypt, Belarus, the Balkans, India, Tajikistan, and Germany.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is pressuring Ukraine and the West on multiple fronts. He has set conditions to conduct military operations against Ukraine on a large scale. He is exploiting Russia’s leverage on Europe’s energy supplies and enabling Belarusian escalation against Poland, a NATO country. These efforts are parts of a deliberate campaign supporting specific demands Putin is making of the West, including permanently abjuring further enlargement of NATO and military support to Ukraine. He may not launch the invasion he has prepared, but he is determined to use its threat along with his other tools of leverage to compel the West’s formal recognition of Russia’s suzerainty over the former Soviet states. Nord Stream 2 is part of these efforts and always has been. It is a threat to Europe’s security and to Ukraine’s independence. This pipeline will change the geopolitical landscape in Europe for years to come. It is worth renewing the fight to prevent Nord Stream 2 from starting operations.