The outcome of the Ukraine crisis will depend on the calculations made these days by Vladimir Putin. After traveling to the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing on February 4, the Russian president will decide what are the next moves of pieces on a chessboard in which he feels very comfortable. Russia has begun military maneuvers on the border and its troops may end up entering the Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk and Luhanks under the crude pretext of ensuring the safety of Russian-speakers. They could also reach the Dnieper River and then ask for a negotiation. Putin ponders these and other options, once Washington has rejected his maximalist demands against the expansion of
NATO have been scrapped by Washington. The Russian autocrat controls the media in Moscow and is convinced that he can bear the costs and emerge strengthened both domestically and internationally from this crisis. In contrast, the US has limited its trump cards to the threat of very tough economic and financial sanctions and the warning that the Nord Stream gas pipeline between Russia and Germany 2 would not be opened.
Joe Biden rules out sending troops to Ukraine and encourages a diplomatic solution that is difficult to find for now. The Republicans support him, but they want to see the sanctions applied as soon as possible, without waiting for the next moves by Putin. NATO works together, while the European Union has a hard time remaining cohesive. The Eastern Member States cling to the guarantee of security that only the US provides through the Atlantic Alliance. Germany is severely conditioned by its dependence on Russian gas and France aspires to act as a great mediating power without being one.
This severe crisis has solidified the China-Russia alliance and in a few months the next critical scenario may be Taiwan. Qin Gang, China’s ambassador to Washington, takes advantage of the precedent created by Putin to say something very similar: “A military conflict between the US and China is likely if Taiwan, encouraged by Washington, continues to move towards independence.”