Why Is Russia Threatening to Invade Ukraine?

For Putin, the current standoff is a chance to overturn what he sees as an unjust post-Cold War order—and create a new one in its wake.

For the first two decades of his rule, Putin saw his own geopolitical maneuvering as essentially reactive, a response to what he and the Russian policy élite viewed as long-standing Western efforts to weaken Russia. “In Putin’s reality, Russia was encircled and under threat, and was required to defend itself,” Tatiana Stanovaya, head of the analysis firm R.Politik, told me. But, throughout the past year, that dynamic has undergone a fundamental transformation. In mid-November, Putin gave a speech at the Russian Foreign Ministry in which he said that Western states do not respect Russian interests or ultimatums, and the only way to get them to do so is by keeping tensions high and threatening force. “He made clear that Russia will no longer stand around whining and complaining about the injustices of the world,” Stanovaya said. “It is ready to act, to use force to stand up for its position. This is a principally different Putin, and a different Russia.”

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