Putin speaking at the rally for the 7th anniversary of Russia's Anschluss of Crimea (March 18, 2021, Moscow)
In 2014, Putin used stealth to advance Russian forces toward and into Ukrainian territory; but this time, the Polish defense analyst says, he flaunted what he was doing in the expectation that such a display of force would be sufficient to achieve his goals. It wasn’t and he didn’t.
First of all, Putin wanted to use his actions as a test of the new US president and to find out whether Joe Biden would support Ukraine or cave. Washington didn’t cave. In fact, Biden’s proposal for a meeting with Putin, while the Kremlin leader may have welcomed it at one level, worked very much against Russia’s plans.
It significantly strengthened the position of Ukraine, Targalski says, because it meant that talks about Ukraine were going to involve the US and the UK facing off against Russia rather than France and Germany who would likely be more willing to compromise with whatever Moscow wants.
Second, Putin wanted to force Kyiv to agree to the Steinmeier plan for elections in the Donbas. Such elections, in which Russian citizens would vote and the OSCE would supervise, would in Putin’s plan lead to the reincorporation of the Donbas into Ukraine but as an entity more loyal to and controlled by Moscow.
That would have weakened Ukraine beyond recognition. And because his bluff didn’t work and the Americans didn’t back down, Kyiv continues to refuse to consider such an arrangement, a second defeat for the Kremlin in this round, the Polish security and defense analyst continues.
And third, Putin had as his goal the sowing of fear and panic among Ukrainians in the hope that they would force Kyiv to accept Moscow’s conditions in order to avoid a major war. But buoyed by Western support, the Ukrainians organized to resist so that Putin and his associates would know that any invasion would cost him dearly.
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