Sunday, January 23, 2022

Invading Ukraine is only in Russia's interest as a threat

I'm still not 100% sure that Russia will invade Ukraine, but if it does, what is most revealing is the fact that Russia has made zero demands on Ukraine to avoid invasion. It's dispute isn't even its Ukraine at all. All of Russia's asks are directed at NATO and/or the U.S.

That fact makes it crystal clear that Ukraine is just the hostage. Russia is threatening to kill Ukrainians if a third party, NATO, doesn't give them what they want. It's absurd to think that NATO could possibly give in to Russia's demands when the threat is an invasion of a non-NATO country.

So if Russia invades, I can't see how that would help Russia at all. The most likely outcome is the Russian army getting bogged down in a conflict there that will be hard to ever escape, and will tie up Russian military resources making it harder for Russia to project power elsewhere in the world. Even if it goes better than I can foresee, if the invasion ends up being easy and Putin installs some toadie in Kiev who is like another Alexander Lukashenko (the pro-Russian leader of Belarus), it is not going to do anything to stop NATO from expanding. On the contrary, it will probably accelerate the effort in Finland to join the anti-Russian alliance, and it will likely get NATO to bolster the forces it has along the Russian border in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. So Russian borders will feel even more threatened, with less capability to counter any NATO buildup.

At best, the threat to invade Ukraine is a bluff. If Putin knows it is a bluff he won't actually pull the trigger when he does not get what he wants from NATO. At worst, Putin is too dumb to know his bluff is a bluff. So he pulls the trigger, Ukraine suffers greatly, and Russia gets stuck in a Ukrainian morass it cannot easily escape.