The only question is when and that decision comes down to the Russian president’s calculation of what President Joe Biden and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization might do in response.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken a measure of Biden and found him weak. Besides, the recent trip to Ukraine by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin restirred calls for the government in Kiev to join NATO, something Putin swears will never happen.
To put a stop to Kiev’s rush to NATO membership Putin is readying his forces to attack this winter. That assault is likely to involve airstrikes, artillery and armor formations assisted by a deep penetration inside Ukraine by airborne forces and amphibious assaults into the critical ports of Odessa and Mariupul.
But first anticipate a feint from Belarus toward Poland to draw NATO’s attention away from Ukraine accompanied by some nuclear saber-rattling in the Baltic region.
Earlier this fall Russia’s large-scale Zapad 21 military exercise in Belarus was a rehearsal for the possible coming Ukraine invasion. That exercise dropped 3,500 airborne troops with special operators, a necessary strategic step to soften the enemy’s rear area to ensure success of massed armor formations crossing the international border.
Ukraine’s defense minister Oleksii Reznikov admitted the timing of any invasion remains unclear and that Putin has not as yet decided but it’s clear the Russians are rapidly building capacity to do so. They have significant forces, including tens of thousands of reservists called up in recent months, weapons platforms to include Iskandar short-range ballistic missile systems and other long-range weapons at the Ukraine border region. Significant publicly available satellite imaginary testifies to these massed Russian forces and their offensive equipment.