Vladimir Putin ‘exploiting’ West’s key weakness in Ukraine: ‘Increasingly obvious’

Ukraine: Expert outlines Putin's method for possible invasion

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Vladimir Putin is believed to have ordered troops into Ukraine this evening, just hours after recognising breakaway regions as independent states. The Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree recognising the independence of Moscow-backed regions Donetsk and Luhansk late on Monday afternoon. He proceeded to order a “peacekeeping operation” in the two eastern Ukrainian regions, one of the most significant moments in the post Cold War world. 

The events of the last 24 hours are set to trigger further sanctions from the West, though it remains unclear what these sanctions will be.

Dr Paul Flenley, a senior lecturer in politics and international relations at the University of Portsmouth, told Express.co.uk there remains intense division over how to approach the Russia-Ukraine issue.

He said: “If [Putin] went in and took the eastern part of Ukraine, and this is something he’s exploiting and that’s becoming increasingly obvious, there wouldn’t necessarily be unity in the West as to what to do.

“The extent to which the West would intervene to help the Ukrainians, there’s a lot of vagueness about the nature of any kind of unified Western threat, and there’s an unwillingness.

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“This is all partly testing the West since the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“There appears to be an unwillingness, on the part of the United States particularly, to engage directly in military ventures.”

He added: “If Putin was mad and decided to take Kiev, it’s not altogether obvious that the West would militarily do anything.

“Strike sanctions possibly, but nothing substantial in terms of military intervention to prevent it, because there’s no appetite for that, really.”

British soldiers have been training Ukrainian forces in the country since 2015, following the annexation of Crimea, but were pulled out recently amid mounting fears of an invasion.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab promised last month that the UK would support Ukraine to defend themselves.

He said: “We’re standing shoulder to shoulder saying there will be very serious consequences if Russia takes this move to try and invade and also install a puppet regime.”

When asked if the UK would send troops to Ukraine upon an invasion, he said: “It’s extremely unlikely we would do that, but what we can say is we’re already willing and engaging in training programmes to support Ukrainians defending themselves, that’s absolutely right.”

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US President Joe Biden reiterated over the weekend that his country will not send troops into Ukraine itself.

John F Kirby, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, told reporters that while America’s military presence in Poland and Romania has been significantly increased, that is where they will stay.

He said: “There’s no intention, there’s no plan and there’s no approval to put these troops into Ukraine.

“They’re being sent to Poland. They’re going to stay in Poland.”

Both President Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson have urged Russia to reconsider diplomacy.

Mr Biden has agreed to meet his Russian counterpart on the condition that a Russian invasion has not happened, though it remains unclear whether this is still the case after this evening’s news.

However, Dr Flenley argued any resolution may not be on Putin’s agenda. He said: “I was thinking recently that it serves Putin not to have a resolution of the situation.

“He’s playing the long game really. The longer it goes on… he’s already got a lot of what he wants — Russia is now back at the top table.

“The Americans, up until this, had largely begun to forget about Russia and were interested in China. Now everybody’s visiting Moscow, talking about Russia.

“So Putin has gone from being ignored and isolated to being in the centre of international politics. He can keep this running.”

He added: “It’s the West that really wants a resolution and I think he realises that we will tire of this, but he could keep it going.”

Putin has demanded a legally binding pledge that NATO does not expand further, specifically that Ukraine never joins the military alliance.

NATO and its 30 member states remain adamant that the open-door policy to new members will not change, though there is no prospect of Ukraine joining any time soon.

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