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Why Russia may not be planning the invasion that Ukraine fears

Written by Sarah Rainsford

The build-up has been impossible to ignore: thousands of Russian troops deployed towards Ukraine; US warships reportedly heading for the Black Sea and Russia’s foreign ministry warning them off “for their own good”.

As the hostile rhetoric and military moves around Ukraine have intensified, Western politicians have begun fearing an open invasion and urging Russia’s Vladimir Putin to “de-escalate”.

Russia has refused: the defence ministry this week insisted its moves were in response to “threatening” Nato exercises in Europe.

Then Mr Putin got a phone-call from the White House.

“In Putin’s game of brinkmanship, Biden blinked first,” argues journalist Konstantin Eggert, after Joe Biden made his first call to the Kremlin and proposed meeting Mr Putin “in the coming months”.

It’s just weeks after the US president agreed with an interviewer that Russia’s leader was “a killer”.

President Biden’s new move is now a new topic of debate – disaster prevention or a mistaken concession – but in the run-up to a summit, the risk of major military action by Russia certainly fades.

“That would be really unstatesmanlike: a slap in Biden’s face,” Mr Eggert told the BBC. “But the fact that it was Biden who suggested they meet does give Putin the edge.”

Russian state TV certainly thinks so.

Hosts and guests alike on political chat shows have been hailing Moscow’s show of force, claiming their country stood up to US and Nato hostility. One commentator suggested President Biden’s “nerves had failed him”.

Senator Konstantin Kosachev was widely quoted arguing that the US had realised it was “impossible to achieve military superiority over Russia” and the two countries needed to return to dialogue.

Russia’s recent ostentatious troop movement always looked like grandstanding by a country that’s given up trying to be liked and now wants the West to fear it instead.

When Vladimir Putin sent troops and hardware into eastern Ukraine seven years ago, those were secret operations that are still denied to this day.

This time, Russia seems more intent on sending signals than soldiers.

Read more at BBC News

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Sarah Rainsford

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