Today Vladimir Putin recognized the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and the “Lugansk People’s Republic” as independent of Ukraine, and ordered Russian troops into the breakaway region “to keep the peace.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent on Monday and ordered the Russian army to launch what Moscow called a peacekeeping operation into the area, accelerating a crisis the West fears could unleash a major war.

I see little prospect of a major war, in part for this reason:

It was not immediately clear whether the Russian military action would be regarded by the West as the start of an invasion of Ukraine that the United States and its allies have warned about for weeks since the area was already controlled by Russian-backed separatists and Moscow in practice.

Putin appealed to history in his televised appearance:

In a lengthy televised address packed with grievances against the West, Putin, looking visibly angry, described Ukraine as an integral part of Russia’s history and said eastern Ukraine was ancient Russian lands and that he was confident the Russian people would support his decision.
In his address, Putin delved into history as far back as the Ottoman empire and as recent as the tensions over NATO’s eastward expansion – a major irritant for Moscow in the present crisis.

There has been talk of a “summit” between Putin and Joe Biden, but Putin evidently decided there was no need to wait:

Moscow’s action may well torpedo a last-minute bid for a summit with U.S. President Joe Biden to prevent Russia from invading Ukraine.
Hours earlier, French President Emmanuel Macron gave hope of a diplomatic solution, saying Putin and Biden had agreed in principle to meet.

But the Kremlin said there were no specific plans for a summit. The White House said Biden had accepted the meeting “in principle” but only “if an invasion hasn’t happened”.

Has an invasion happened? It depends on the meaning of the word “invasion.”

Psaki said measures being rolled out in response to Putin’s decree were separate from sanctions the United States and its allies have been readying if Russia invades Ukraine.

Perhaps I am mistaken, but it seems to me that there is no force in the vicinity that can seriously oppose this Russian action. The “diplomacy” being engaged in by the likes of Emmanuel Macron and the threats issued by Boris Johnson’s and Joe Biden’s administrations are pretty much irrelevant, the only question being whether the Russians deem the value of the territory acquired, plus the gain in Russian prestige, to exceed the cost of whatever financial sanctions may temporarily be in place.

In his speech, Putin declared that the moves he announced today “should have been made a long time ago.” They could, in any event, have been made some time ago, and perhaps their timing has something to do with the fact that the U.S. is more or less without a president. Although, to be fair, I doubt that any president could have done much if push had come to shove. Realistically, I think our best hope is that Putin does not proceed to annex the rest of Ukraine.

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