Europe is on the verge of war. Putin has put himself in a corner and NATO should help him get out of it – for the sake of Europe's peace and security.
For the last few weeks – in the midst of a very cold winter – Putin has deployed about 120,000 troops on the Russian side of the Ukraine border. I am not sure that Putin now knows what he is going to do with them.
An attack on Kiev, the national capital, would require more than 120,000 troops. Ukraine is, in geographical terms, one of Europe's largest countries and Russia cannot mount a surprise dash across half of the country to capture the capital with only 120,000 troops.
Russia in 2014 stole some of the Russian-dominated eastern part of the country. Kiev is in the non-Russian part of the country. The citizens are well armed, including by western powers. And the war will be televised.
Putin risks having his soldiers return home in body bags. As Russia will recall from its disastrous Afghanistan invasion (1979-89), invading a country is different from occupying it. Ukrainians can make life very difficult for Russian occupiers.
Putin is not such a smart operator as he thought he was. He acted in the last few weeks because he wanted to exploit what he thought were US weaknesses – the US has been defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan, and domestically there is a toxic political culture.
But ironically Putin's bullying has brought the US political class together in a rare show of agreement. Republicans and Democrats both want to resist Russia.
Meanwhile his action has also reopened the debate in the neutral western European countries – notably Finland and Sweden – on whether they too should join NATO to withstand potential Russian aggression.
Putin's grandstanding has gone badly wrong.
How to resolve this crisis?
The roots of the crisis go back to the end of the Cold War three decades ago. It was agreed between the Soviet and US leaders that the Soviet Union would withdraw from East Germany (thereby easing the reunification of the two Germanies), while NATO would not seek to recruit former members of the Soviet empire (since to do so would inflame traditional Russian fears of an invasion).
NATO has not honoured that agreement in recent years. It has recruited former members of the Soviet empire.
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