Has the war begun between Russia and Ukraine?

The Russian army, on Putin’s orders, entered the territories of the breakaway republics of Lugansk and Donetsk. Will Russia Stop Here? And how will the West react?

1. Isn’t the entry of troops into the Donbass an invasion of Ukraine?
Moscow denies this, since it maintains that military intervention in what yesterday recognized as two independent republics serves to protect the Russian-speaking population (and in many cases Russian, given that so many inhabitants of the region already have a Russian passport), is limited to secessionist areas and take place on the wave of recognition; therefore, technically, from the point of view of Russian law it is not an action against Ukraine.

Furthermore, in terms of costs and risks, this limited military option has the advantage for the Kremlin of being conducted in non-hostile territory – the Lugansk and Donetsk republics are pro-Russian – and with an infinitely lower economic cost than an invasion that target Kiev.

2. Will Moscow stop at the two republics of Lugansk and Donetsk?
It is a question of understanding whether the de facto annexation of the two republics will be enough for the leader of the Kremlin – similar, Franco Venturini remembers, to that of Crimea in 2014 – or if he will go further. In this second case, one wonders how far.

On the one hand, Russia could be satisfied, because Ukraine does not have the slightest chance of preventing the occupation and annexation of territories it has not controlled for years.

But Putin could also decide to take more, and that is the other territories of the Donbass – the region to which Lugansk and Donetsk belong – still under Ukrainian sovereignty, starting from the port of Mariupol, of great strategic importance. (The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, explained that the borders recognized by Moscow are those relating to the time when the two Republics were proclaimed, before the Ukrainian army reduced them significantly).

Putin, on the other hand, could even attack the port of Odessavital for Ukrainians.

Or again – hypothesis 3, the most disturbing and, at the moment, least probable – Fly it could directly attack Ukraine and its capital, Kiev.

Putin’s position on the neighboring country was known, but hearing him repeat yesterday that Ukraine is an integral part of Russian history and culture has hinted that sooner or later it may want to complete the work. Not necessarily now, however.

3. How will the West react?
Putin knew that the West could not accept the fiction of a humanitarian intervention to protect the pro-Russians in the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.

For now, Western countries are reacting in a verbally indignant but practically cautious manner, announcing proportionate sanctions.

Joe Biden assured that the United States will guarantee the territorial integrity of Ukraine. But in reality the Americans know that the Russians have controlled the Donbass since 2014 and the real breakthrough will only come in case of further moves. So no wave of sanctions, but sanctions commensurate with developments: what the Europeans want and America is adapting. For this reason, for now we will limit ourselves to blocking trade with the pro-Russian territories. In short, sanctions will grow in weight only if Moscow dares more: if it occupies the whole of the Donbass, blocking the supply of technological material to Russian companies; if it touches Odessa, exclusion of Russian banks from the Swift international payment system; and only if they attack Kiev will lethal sanctions, those on gas and oil, be triggered.

4. How does Italy rank?
He is in an awkward position, which Draghi explained very clearly on Friday: We do not have nuclear power like France nor coal like Germany. We have gas, so we are the most exposed. Because 40% of the gas we need is imported from Russia. For this reason, with Germany – which has the colossal partnership of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline with Moscow – we are the most staunch supporters of the thesis that energy sanctions should only be triggered in the event of a catastrophe (attack on Kiev). And for this Draghi has not at all given up on the idea of ​​going to Moscow in these days: it is Italy’s vital interest to do everything possible to avoid further pushes from Putin.

5. Why did Putin get this far?

Recognizing Lugansk and Donetsk, bringing in its military units, for the Kremlin an alternative to the scenario of invading and occupying the whole of Ukraine. Once again the Kremlin judoka tries to unbalance the opponent: but once again he risks losing his balance. In between, groped to avert both military scenarios, there is diplomacy: which according to all the actors – UN Security Council to China – still remains in the field.

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