Russia-Ukraine: Two years of war
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Putin will capitalize on Western divisions, says Fiona Hill
Putin Will Capitalize on Western Divisions, Says Fiona Hill | GZERO World

Putin will capitalize on Western divisions, says Fiona Hill

“To deal with Putin, we have to have collective, coherent, concerted pushback,” Fiona Hill said in January. The former Director of European and Russian Affairs at the National Security Council under President Donald Trump warned that Vladimir Putin would likely exploit the political climate in America and tensions between allies to his advantage. Now would be the moment to act, she added, citing that the stage has been set for Putin to exert “coercive diplomacy” to mix things up to see what he can get out of America’s increasingly weak hand.

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U.S. army instructor from the Joint Multinational Training Group trains Ukrainian service members to operate with M141 Bunker Defeat Munition (SMAW-D) grenade launcher, supplied by the United States.


What We’re Watching: US troops in Eastern Europe, Peru government reshuffle, Denmark lifts COVID restrictions

US deploys troops to Eastern Europe. A day after Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the US of “ignoring” Kremlin demands to limit NATO further expansion to the East, the White House sent more than 3,000 troops to alliance members Germany, Poland, and Romania. This was in addition to an order for 8,500 US troops to be ready to deploy to Eastern Europe on short notice. With Russia continuing to mass more than 100,000 troops along the Ukrainian border, Moscow and Washington have been at loggerheads in diplomatic efforts to defuse the crisis, raising fears of war. Russia wants guarantees that NATO will not expand further East into what the Kremlin sees as its sphere of influence. But the West refuses to accept that demand, offering instead to commit only to limits on weapons deployments in Eastern Europe. It’s worth noting that none of the 3,000 US troops are being sent to Ukraine — neither NATO nor the US have an appetite for sending troops there. But Putin, it seems, just might …

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All eyes on Russia ahead of Putin-Xi meeting
All Eyes on Russia Ahead of Putin-Xi Meeting | Quick Take | GZERO Media

All eyes on Russia ahead of Putin-Xi meeting

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Happy week. We are still in the thick of it when it comes to all things Russia. So let me jump right in.

Latest on the Russia front. Well, really, over the last six weeks, if you weren't paying attention to what people were saying and just what activities were going on on the ground, what you'd be seeing was steady escalation, more and more Russian troops with offensive capabilities to the front, both at the direct border with Ukraine, as well as now into Belarus as well, ostensibly for exercises, but we don't tend to see coincidences in this line of work.

And if the Russians wanted to engage in a full-scale invasion, they're not quite there yet, but they certainly will be by the time the Olympics are over. That's relevant, by the way, because there is this Olympics moratorium on fighting, which is at the United Nations, but which the Chinese actually not only co-sponsored, but actually drafted along with the United Nations leadership. And to the extent that President Putin cares at all about his relationship with China, and Beijing hosting the Olympics and Putin, traveling right over there, it is very, very, very hard to imagine that the Russians would engage in any direct military activities in Ukraine before the Olympics are over. And certainly not while Putin is over there in Beijing for the opening ceremony.

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Putin has a “noose” around Ukraine, says Russia analyst Alina Polyakova
Putin Has a “Noose” Around Ukraine, Says Russia Analyst Alina Polyakova | GZERO World

Putin has a “noose” around Ukraine, says Russia analyst Alina Polyakova

What’s going on in Vladimir Putin’s mind? That’s the million-dollar question.

Ukraine and Russia analyst Alina Polyakova doesn’t think it’s anything good.

Russia's president, she says, has put a “noose” around Ukraine with a troop build-up along the border that could spell invasion in the near term. The US has led an effort to deescalate the situation through diplomacy.

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Is the West united against Russia? Sort of.

Western powers claim that they present a united front against the Kremlin’s current threats in Ukraine. But clearly there are reasons for doubt. President Joe Biden provided more last week when he appeared to question whether NATO would in fact act with “total unity” if Vladimir Putin orders Russian troops across the Ukrainian border.

Do Western allies really agree on a common approach to keeping Russia out of Ukraine? What are the major points of contention among them?

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What would a Russian invasion of Ukraine actually look like?

No one knows whether Russian President Vladimir Putin plans on invading Ukraine. But the president of the United States sure seems to think this is a real possibility, saying Wednesday that Putin will likely "move in" in the near term. Biden, prone to political gaffes, was then forced to awkwardly walk back comments that Russia would face milder consequences from the West in the event of a "minor incursion."

The timing of this blunder is... not great. It comes just as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken prepares to meet his Russian counterpart on Friday in hopes of lowering the temperature after recent diplomatic efforts in Geneva were deemed a failure by Moscow.

Indeed, with the Kremlin having amassed at least 100,000 troops surrounding Ukraine on three sides, the growing threat is impossible to ignore. So what would a Russian military offensive into Ukraine actually look like, and how might the West respond?

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What We're Watching: US and Russia in Geneva, mass testing in Tianjin, a big loss for Venezuela's Maduro

US and Russia in Geneva. Senior US and Russian diplomats opened talks in Geneva on Monday, kicking off a round of discussions between Kremlin and Western officials across Europe over the next few days. Vladimir Putin wants Joe Biden and NATO leaders to redraw the security map of Europe by promising that Ukraine, Georgia, and other Russian neighbors will never join NATO and that the security alliance will not place missile system in Ukraine. That would, in effect, redivide Europe into Western and Russian spheres of influence. The Biden administration and NATO officials have said they will not allow Russia to veto NATO membership for countries that want to join. European leaders have warned the US to honor these promises, and Ukraine’s government is watching and waiting as an estimated 100,000 Russian troops remain poised near the Ukrainian border. Russia says it will pursue its aims by military means if necessary. NATO says it's ready to respond. The US says any Russian incursion into Ukraine will draw harsh sanctions against Russian and more supplies of Western weapons for Ukraine. Putin began this game of chicken, and we’ll be watching in coming weeks to see how far he wants to push it.

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Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukrainian actor and candidate in the upcoming presidential election, hosts a comedy show at a concert hall in Kiev, Ukraine February 22, 2019. Picture taken February 22, 2019.

REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

What We're Watching: Ukraine laughs it all off

Ukraine's comedian cabinet. As Russia threatens to invade, Ukraine's president is looking to defend his homeland... with a bit of humor. In recent months Volodymyr Zelenskiy — who was a famous comedian before he entered politics, and even played the role of president in a TV series before his 2019 election — has hired members of his old comedy troupe to occupy top positions in his government, including intelligence chief. Zelenskiy is known to crack jokes in moments of extreme tension, and last summer mocked Vladimir Putin for writing a long essay describing Russia and Ukraine as a fraternal single nation. While supporters say Ukraine's president wants his former buddies because they'll be loyal, critics argue that the bad optics of a government being run by comedians who may be out of their depth when faced with a master political strategist like Vladimir Putin. With 100,000 Russian troops at their border, the last thing the Ukrainians need is a bad joke, or even worse an amateur mistake that Putin can use to his advantage.

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