Russia: Putin ‘playing a game of chess’ says expert

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Evelyn Farkas, who was deputy assistant secretary of defence for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia from 2012-15, warned that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is currently “more likely than not”. Ms Farkas, who said she is “distressingly convinced” of the impending invasion, also reminded President Biden that Washington could be obliged to intervene using military force if Moscow decides to invade Ukraine.

The former defence official, who worked under the Obama administration, claimed that the diplomatic talks between Moscow and Washington which are taking place this week are likely to fail, instead urging the US to prepare for war, in order to prevent a crisis that goes “far beyond” Ukraine.

She said: “President Vladimir Putin is more likely than not to invade Ukraine again in the coming weeks.

“As someone who helped President Barack Obama manage the U.S. and international response to Russia’s initial invasion of Ukraine in 2014, and our effort to keep Moscow from occupying the whole country into 2015, I am distressingly convinced of it.

“Why? I see the scale and type of force arrayed by the Russian military, the ultimatums issued by Putin and his officials, the warlike rhetoric that has until recently saturated Russian airwaves, and the impatience with talks expressed by his foreign minister.

“Add to that the likely anxiety produced in Putin by the demonstrations last week in Kazakhstan—and Moscow’s success in tamping them down.

“But the basic reason I think talks with Russia will fail is that the United States and its allies have nothing they can immediately offer Moscow in exchange for a de-escalation.

“The United States must do more than issue ultimatums about sanctions and economic penalties. U.S. leaders should be marshalling an international coalition of the willing, readying military forces to deter Putin and, if necessary, prepare for war.”

She added: “If Russia prevails again, we will remain stuck in a crisis not just over Ukraine but about the future of the global order far beyond that country’s borders.

“Left unrestrained, Putin will move swiftly, grab some land, consolidate his gains, and set his sights on the next satellite state in his long game to restore all the pre-1991 borders: the sphere of geographical influence he deems was unjustly stripped from Great Russia.”

Mr Putin has built up more than 100,000 Russian troops on the Ukrainian border, according to Ukrainian security officials.

In response, the Biden administration has threatened the Russian leader with sanctions “like none he’s ever seen” if Ukraine comes under attack.

Writing in Defense One magazine, Ms Farkas also compared the Russian military with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, adding that “Putin will force us to fight”.

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She said: “To be sure, nuclear-armed Russia is far more powerful than Saddam’s Iraq.

“But from my 96-year old father who witnessed world war, I learned si vis pacem, para bellum: he who wants peace must prepare for war.

“Only a balance of military power—a deterrent force and the political will to match—can keep war at bay and the military dynamic frozen.

“The horrible possibility exists that Americans, with our European allies, must use our military to roll back Russians—even at risk of direct combat.

“But if we don’t now, Putin will force us to fight another day, likely to defend our Baltic or other Eastern European allies.”

US and Russian officials began talks in Geneva on Monday.

Speaking to ABC News on Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he doesn’t expect to see any progress in relations with Russia while tensions with Ukraine remain high.

He said: “If we’re actually going to make progress in these talks starting next week, but I don’t think we’re going to see any breakthroughs next week, we’re going to listen to their concerns, they’ll listen to our concerns and we’ll see if there are grounds for progress.

“But to make actual progress, it’s very hard to see that happening when there’s an ongoing escalation.”

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