Will Russia invade Ukraine? It has been a perplexing question at the beginning of 2022. Media speculate what the real Russian objectives are, but the best answer one can find in the New York Times column (January 20, 2022) titled “Fears of an Invasion. We explain the latest on Russia and Ukraine.” After presenting the opinions of notable experts, the author quotes one of them: “The expert opinion that I can authoritatively declare is: Who the heck knows?”
Just hours later, the Russians, it seemed, showed their cards.
What does Putin want?
In 2014, with Russian support, insurrection started in two of Ukraine’s eastern provinces, Donetsk and Luhansk, commonly known as Donbas. Before that insurrection, it was a vibrant industrial area with coal mines and the metallurgic industry. After eight years of destruction and about 15,000 people killed, everybody wants peace. Ukraine is getting stronger, economically and militarily, and hopes that the fatigued rebels might be ready to negotiate.
For Putin, it would be a loss. On January 21, 2022, the message came from Russia that the Duma, the lower chamber of parliament, would discuss recognizing as independent states the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic. Things like that do not happen without coordination with the Kremlin. If Russia recognizes the two current provinces of Ukraine as independent states, it could respond to the request from these provinces to protect their sovereignty from an outside aggressor. With that logic, Ukraine defending its territory is the only possible “aggressor.” In Putin’s interpretation, the Russian military amassed now on the Ukrainian border would not be an aggressor; it would be “defending” the newly recognized republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Russia pulled the same trick in 2008 to take control of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two disputed regions in the Caucasian country of Georgia. There was an…