“We consider President Putin has made the choice,” Mr. Blinken stated on Sunday, “however till the tanks are literally rolling and the planes are flying, we are going to use each alternative and each minute now we have to see if diplomacy can nonetheless dissuade President Putin from carrying this ahead.”
The knowledge handed to Mr. Biden from the intelligence companies left unclear whether or not Mr. Putin’s orders would lead to an enormous invasion or a extra gradual strategy that may give the Russian chief extra alternatives to use fissures simply beneath the floor within the Western alliance arrayed in opposition to him. He might, for instance, check the proposition that Germany or Italy, the 2 Western European nations most depending on Russian-provided gasoline, would possibly falter of their resolve.
These had been the situations being mentioned most intensely this weekend on the Munich Safety Convention, the annual assembly of presidency ministers, company leaders and strategists, the place attendees gamed out Mr. Putin’s decisions.
“If he’s intent on escalating, I don’t assume it’s a sudden blitzkrieg to Kyiv and the ouster of the Zelensky authorities,” stated Ian Bremmer, the president of the Eurasia Group, a geopolitical consulting agency. “It’s more likely to seem like a recognition of the independence of the breakaway territory” round Luhansk, within the east.
“You hope, in case you are Putin, that results in extra skittishness of a few of the NATO allies, much less alignment with NATO, extra alternatives for Russia to get what it desires with out having to go full-scale into Ukraine,” Mr. Bremmer stated.
A couple of weeks in the past, some American officers shared that sentiment. Mr. Putin, they famous, presumably wished to realize his aim — a halt to Ukraine’s drift towards the West — as cheaply and with as few casualties as doable. All he sought was a pleasant, pliable authorities just like the one he has in Belarus, stated one senior American official, who spoke on the situation of anonymity due to the persevering with diplomatic efforts. The president of Belarus, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, has tied the safety of his nation to the presence of the Russian army. (“They are going to be right here so long as needed,” stated Mr. Lukashenko, who’s contemplating inviting Russia to position its nuclear weapons again on Belarusian territory.)
It might be, many suspect, a refinement of Russia’s hybrid-warfare playbook. “Putin has developed and demonstrated over a decade of aggressive motion that he is aware of how one can fine-tune gray-scale warfare that’s laborious to attribute,” stated Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat who’s near Mr. Biden.