Fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists has escalated dramatically in eastern Ukraine, and Kiev officials say that some 40,000 Russian troops have moved close to Ukraine’s borders. Last week, Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s president, warned of the possibility of a “full-scale invasion on all fronts.”
Truth be told, no one has a clear idea what Russia’s intentions are — which has been pretty much the situation since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis. This is also very much part of the Kremlin’s game plan.
“We should now expect the unexpected from Putin” — Timothy Ash, senior analyst at the Nomura financial investment group
Still, an invasion or comprehensive military offensive seems a less likely scenario at the moment. In addition to leading to a tightening of Western sanctions, Russian troops would face a tough fight and significant casualties, which could lead to an outcry within Russia itself. Ukraine’s military is a much more lethal force than it was when the crisis started two years ago, and its troops have fought the Russian-backed rebels to a standstill.
And even if a Russian push into Ukraine were to succeed, Moscow would be left with the almost impossible task of controlling a large amount of land and a hostile population.
“A frustrated Kremlin is, obviously, even more dangerous and unpredictable than usual,” said Quinn-Judge.