Experts Assert Biden Can Still Stop Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

Vladimir Putin is showing readiness to risk a military clash by massing Russian soldiers near Ukraine’s border, but analysts think an invasion is unlikely. On Tuesday, President Biden had a video chat with Putin to discuss the prospect of an invasion.

Biden was anticipated to warn of catastrophic repercussions if Russia launches a military attack. Meanwhile, Putin was expected to restate his demand that NATO denies Ukraine membership.

It’s unclear how the video chat ended, as Putin evaluated the cost of an invasion.

Former Pentagon official Jim Townsend, an associate senior researcher in the CNAS Transatlantic Safety Program, said Putin is an opportunist who views invading as one of several possible routes to attaining his regional aims.

Russia’s Imminent Invasion

According to Townsend, if Putin believes the Western response will not be as harsh as they expect, he has the option to invade. However, if the West shows Putin he will face something grave, he may alter his mind.

US intelligence agencies believe Russia will launch a military attack early next year. Officials say Russia’s plan involves 100 battalion strategic groups and 175,000 troops, half of whom are currently approaching the border.

Officials have also seen an increase in Russian propaganda denigrating NATO and the Ukrainian government. The measures fueled fears of a takeover, similar to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

The Russian military has long backed separatist groups along Ukraine’s border, though the Kremlin denies direct involvement. The deployment of soldiers and regions in which they are placed, together with other signals — night maneuverings, etc. — obviously imply Russia is making moves to invade. 

Putin stated last week that any attempt by the US or its partners to put military systems in Ukraine would be met with retribution.

Putin’s gamble isn’t about NATO membership, says Jeffrey Edmonds, a former National Security Council Russia director, and CNA senior researcher. He observed growing Russian discontent with NATO’s security aid to Ukraine and increasing Black Sea activities.

He doesn’t believe Putin decided to invade yet, but he believes Putin is gloomy about the result, which is why this buildup is unusual. 

Biden Has To Be Firm

Before the video chat, Biden stated he would debate Russia’s strong attitude toward Ukraine. This means asserting US support for Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty and threatening Russia with harsh economic costs if it invades.

In addition to barring Russia from the SWIFT international financial system, the Biden administration is rumored to be studying further economic “nuclear weapons.” Biden also warned Putin the US may send troops to NATO countries in Eastern Europe.

Townsend stated they are nearing the end of being able to change what he is doing. 

Daalder says Biden’s address to Putin should include a strong warning about the military consequences of the invasion. He said Biden should and must impact that one area. 

Invading Ukraine with 175,000 troops won’t be simple. With 250,000 troops, Ukraine soldiers have been fighting in eastern Ukraine for seven years. The US and NATO have improved the Ukrainian military’s effectiveness and lethality.

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