Putin's big miscalculation


Is Russian President Vladimir Putin planning to invade Ukraine, potentially launching a new war in Europe? The answer remains elusive after a week of intensive diplomacy, with consecutive meetings between Russian officials and US, NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe envoys.

Without a breakthrough, a senior US official declared ominously that the "drumbeat of war is sounding loud," as both sides made pessimistic statements.

This is hardly a surprising outcome.

With more than 100,000 Russian troops massed on Ukraine's borders, the US and its allies refused to make any concessions. That may be exactly what Putin expected when he made patently unreasonable demands of the West, in exchange for not attacking a neighbor yet again.

But, in the end, this may not turn out the way the Russian President hopes.

Before the meetings started, it looked like Putin had the West (and Ukraine) in a bind. He argued NATO must agree to Russia's demands, including a vow not to add new members and a retreat of NATO forces to their positions dating back to 1997 -- a set of commitments NATO said from the outset it wouldn't consider. It seemed easy to imagine that Putin could turn to the Russian people and say, 'Look, I tried diplomacy, but the West rejected it. We have no choice but to invade Ukraine.'

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