How Far will Putin Push?

Eastern European allies stand on edge as Russia seems unwilling to withdraw the nearly 100,000 troops amassed at the border. No one desires a repeat of Russia’s 2014 takeover of Ukraine; however, if military options are off the table, will economic measures be enough to deter further Russian aggression? Whether or not a Russian invasion is truly imminent remains unknown and perhaps contingent on moves by either side. The U.S. and its Allies must know, however, that Putin will not readily submit to the West’s demands.  

Germany’s new Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, stated this week that Russia faces “massive consequences” in the event of an invasion of Ukraine. At a joint press conference with Swedish and Norwegian partners, Baerbock added that “Any form of intervention in the sovereignty of Ukraine would have massive consequences for the Russian regime,” but described consequences as “economic and diplomatic.” Reuters notably also reports that Germany made no comment on the potential impact on the Nordstream 2 Pipeline should Russia engage in military action against Ukraine. 

Among NATO allies, the United States voices the strongest condemnation of Russia’s aggressive overtures, yet rules out a direct military response. President Biden maintains that any response to a Russian invasion involves economic measures, threatening “severe consequences.” Biden said that sending U.S. troops is “not in the cards,” promising instead “economic consequences like none he’s ever seen, or ever have been seen.” During an interview this week with NBC’s Meet the Press, however, Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested: “that we are looking at and we are prepared to take the kinds of steps we’ve refrained from taking in the past that would have massive consequences for Russia.” 

In a statement released from the G7 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and EU), leaders emphasized “massive consequences and severe cost” for Russia, further affirming their “unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” 

If diplomatic channels fail to sufficiently de-escalate tensions to the satisfaction of both sides, will economic measures be enough to prevent another invasion? Russia must weigh the costs. And the West must consider the limits of its commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and international law.

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Aly is a military spouse and mom to two. She has a special interest in international security and foreign affairs, having lived overseas, worked with Sister Cities International and served as a commissioning editor for an international relations website. Aly holds a Masters in Global Studies and International Relations from Northeastern University and currently resides in Tennessee.
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