haass135_Mikhail SvetlovGetty Images_putinjudo Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Putin's Ukraine Quagmire

Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to throw the United States and its NATO allies off balance by mobilizing Russian troops on Ukraine’s border. But this manufactured crisis is likely to leave Russia facing new sanctions, a stronger NATO, and a neighbor whose people have developed a more separate, anti-Russian identity.

NEW YORK – Russian President Vladimir Putin regularly showcases his skills in judo and other martial arts. Success in these sports often depends on what the Japanese call kuzushi –unbalancing one’s opponent by employing techniques designed to disrupt their physical and mental equilibrium.

Putin has sought to throw the United States and its NATO allies off balance by mobilizing more than 100,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s border. Having made no secret of his view that Russia and Ukraine are organically tied, Putin may well see re-establishing such a relationship as a way to cement his legacy by removing the perceived ignominy suffered by Russia in the decades following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Putin may have believed that threatening Ukraine might destabilize the country and provide an opportunity to replace the current, pro-Western government with one much more deferential to the Kremlin. Even more likely, Putin judged that his troop mobilization would intimidate the US and its relatively new president, Joe Biden, into accepting Ukraine’s return to Russia’s sphere of influence.

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