Until yesterday, I didn’t believe Russian President Vladimir Putin would order a Russian invasion of Ukraine. When reports surfaced of the 100,000 Russian troops along the Ukrainian border in November of 2021, I was convinced the Russian troop build-up was just leverage that Putin planned to use to win concessions from the United States and NATO and ultimately divide NATO.
It seemed apparent that Putin was bluffing to take advantage of an exceedingly weak American president and an administration with no coherent foreign policy.
Maybe these were considerations for Putin at one time.
However, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said today at a White House Press Conference that a Russian attack on Ukraine could occur before the end of the Olympics,
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., also has come to this conclusion. He said yesterday that an invasion is “much more likely than not” noting that recent troop movements and military exercises in Belarus may be cover for a likely invasion targeting Kiev, Ukraine’s capital.
Cotton believes Russia is encircling Ukraine with troops for a major attack. This tracks with reports that Putin has been positioning his army to launch a multi-front offensive against Ukraine. Putin also has dispatched Russian fleets throughout Belarus, Crimea, and the border of Ukraine—all of which could enable an invasion.
I agree with Senator Cotton, not just because of the continuing Russian troop build-up but due to the way Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov snubbed French President Emmanuel Macron and British Foreign Secretary during meetings in Moscow this week.
According to Politico, a defiant Putin “mauled” Macron with a crude remark and a tirade about how Crimea is part of Russia. The Russian president also threatened a war with Europe if Ukraine ever joined NATO and mocked Macron for talking too much.
Macron said after the meeting that Putin promised Russia would not further escalate tensions with Ukraine. A Kremlin spokesman denied this.
Lavrov’s meeting with U.K. Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss went even worse. During an icy joint press conference after their meeting, the Russian Foreign Minister accused Truss of coming to Moscow “unprepared” and described her as “a deaf person who listens but cannot hear.”
This writer was surprised by the results of the visits by French and British officials to Moscow because this writer assumed Russian officials would use them to divide Europe and undermine U.S. leadership in NATO.
Instead, Putin and Lavrov’s behavior signaled something else — Putin is not just uninterested in further dialogue; he may have decided to mount a major invasion of Ukraine to send a message to NATO and shift the balance of power in Europe.
Sen. Cotton believes a Russian invasion of Ukraine could occur “in days, not weeks.” Although Biden administration officials reportedly think an invasion could occur next week, I believe Putin promised Chinese President Xi not to invade until the Beijing Olympics close on Feb. 20.
If Russia mounts a major invasion of Ukraine, it probably will be followed by the installation of a pro-Putin stooge as Ukraine’s president and the imposition of some arrangement to make Ukraine a Russian client state.
Such a development would be a hollow victory for Putin since the Ukrainian people drove out the last pro-Putin president, Viktor Yanukovych in 2014, and would strongly oppose Moscow installing another. A Ukrainian insurgency also will fight against Russian troops left behind to defend a new Ukrainian puppet régime.
Although Putin may have made up his mind to attack Ukraine, the United States and its European allies should be in constant discussions with Russian officials until the final moments before a possible invasion.
More must also be done to unite NATO members to respond strongly and in unison to a Russian attack, especially Germany.
Whether or not Putin orders an invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration and Congress must do some serious thinking on how a year of appeasing Putin, the botched U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and a global perception of U.S. weakness and bad policies under President Biden got us to this point.
If America doesn’t learn from this crisis, more are likely to follow.
Fred Fleitz is a Newsmax TV Contributor and vice-chair of the America First Policy Institute Center for American Security. He previously served as National Security Council Chief of staff, CIA analyst, and as a member of the House Intelligence Committee staff. Read more reports from Fred Fleitz — Click Here Now.
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