Why Putins Ukraine invasion is just a ruse – the real target is the West

Ukraine invasion fears as Putin faces Covid backlash in Russia

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Last month, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba warned the situation at the border with Russia was “seriously deteriorating”, with fears Moscow could be planning another military incursion. On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden will meet with Russia’s Vladimir Putin over a video call for an urgent meeting on the situation.

President Biden spoke to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European leaders ahead of his meeting with Mr Putin to discuss concerns about Russia’s behaviour towards Ukraine.

The White House said the Western leaders all “shared concern about the Russian military build-up on Ukraine’s borders and Russia’s increasingly harsh rhetoric”.

Downing Street said that Mr Johnson promised the group that the UK would “continue to use all the economic and diplomatic tools at its disposal to prevent any Russian aggression against Ukraine”.

However, some analysts have said that a fresh annexation of Ukraine wouldn’t be in Mr Putin’s interest, and suspect his true intentions could, in fact, lie in the West.

Adeline van Houtte, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s lead analyst on Russia, wrote for Politico: “There are multiple reasons to question the narrative that has arisen in the West in recent weeks.”

The first is the numbers, which don’t quite add up – if Russia’s show of force really was a prelude to an offensive, it would require far more troops and air defence.

Russia would also likely be more discreet, with this show of strength now so public it would be impossible to take Ukraine by surprise, as it did with Crimea.

In addition to this, the Ukrainian army is far stronger now than it was in 2014, and an invasion would be extremely costly for Russia, both economically and in manpower.

An incursion of this nature could also be politically risky for Mr Putin who isn’t as popular as he used to be amongst his electorate.

So what is the real intention here?

Ms van Houtte said that Mr Putin is more likely to have his eye set on forcing Western powers to yield on recent matters which he believes go against Russian interest.

Russia has been growing increasingly concerned about NATO activity of late, claiming bomber flights carried nuclear weapons just 20 kilometres from its border last week.

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Russia is also aware that the US has been busy arming Ukraine, which has become one of the leading recipients of US military aid in the world.

Ms van Houtte said: “In the short term, what Putin may have wanted the most was a meeting with the US President Joe Biden, and the military buildup has paved the way for this diplomatic bargaining.

“Putin and Biden are now due to hold talks, where Putin will demand guarantees that NATO will limit its support to Ukraine and stop any potential expansion further east.

“Those demands are unacceptable to the West. Putin knows it, but with his military build-up Moscow has now managed to send a clear message about its red lines and the fact that the bloc will not be allowed to call all the shots.”

Tuesday’s meeting is expected to be a lengthy one, with Mr Biden saying he was preparing for a “long discussion”, adding: “I don’t accept anybody’s red lines.”

Discussing the meeting, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement: “Biden will underscore US concerns with Russian military activities on the border with Ukraine and reaffirm the United States’ support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

She said other topics would include “strategic stability, cyber and regional issues.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “Bilateral relations, of course Ukraine and the realisation of the agreements reached in Geneva [at the June summit] are the main [items] on the agenda.”

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