“We imagine President Putin has made the choice,” Mr. Blinken mentioned on Sunday, “however till the tanks are literally rolling and the planes are flying, we are going to use each alternative and each minute we’ve got to see if diplomacy can nonetheless dissuade President Putin from carrying this ahead.”
The knowledge handed to Mr. Biden from the intelligence businesses left unclear whether or not Mr. Putin’s orders would lead to an enormous invasion or a extra gradual strategy that might give the Russian chief extra alternatives to use fissures simply beneath the floor within the Western alliance arrayed towards him. He might, for instance, take a look at the proposition that Germany or Italy, the 2 Western European international locations most depending on Russian-provided fuel, would possibly falter of their resolve.
These have been the eventualities being mentioned most intensely this weekend on the Munich Safety Convention, the annual assembly of presidency ministers, company leaders and strategists, the place diplomats, authorities ministers and company leaders gamed out Mr. Putin’s decisions.
“If he’s intent on escalating, I don’t assume it’s a sudden blitzkrieg to Kyiv and the ouster of the Zelensky authorities,’’ mentioned Ian Bremmer, the president of the Eurasia Group, a geopolitical consulting agency. “It’s more likely to appear to be a recognition of the independence of the breakaway territory” round Luhansk, within the east.
“You hope, if you’re Putin, that results in extra skittishness of among the NATO allies, much less alignment with NATO, extra alternatives for Russia to get what it needs with out having to go full-scale into Ukraine,” Mr. Bremmer mentioned.
A number of weeks in the past, some American officers shared that sentiment. Mr. Putin, they famous, presumably wished to attain his purpose — regime change, and a halt to Ukraine’s drift towards the West — as cheaply and with as few casualties as potential. All he sought was a pleasant, pliable authorities just like the one he has in Belarus, mentioned one senior American official, who spoke on situation of anonymity due to the continuing diplomacy. The president of Belarus, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, has tied the safety of his nation to the presence of the Russian navy. (“They are going to be right here so long as essential,” mentioned Mr. Lukashenko, who’s contemplating inviting Russia to put its nuclear weapons again on Belarusian territory.)
It could be, many suspect, a refinement of Russia’s hybrid-warfare playbook. “Putin has developed and demonstrated over a decade of aggressive motion that he is aware of the best way to fine-tune grayscale warfare that’s exhausting to attribute,’’ mentioned Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat who’s near Mr. Biden.