Prelude to the Russian invasion of Ukraine

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An unclassified 2021 U.S. intelligence document on Russian military movement (nearby the Ukrainian border).
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The 2021–2022 Russo-Ukrainian crisis includes quotes both from the Prelude to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine and from the February 24, 2022 invasion by Russian troops with its aftermath.

For context, in March and April 2021, Russia massed about 100,000 soldiers and military equipment near its border with Ukraine, representing the highest force mobilization since the country's annexation of Crimea in 2014. Satellite imagery showed movements of armor, missiles, and other heavy weaponry. The troops were partially removed by June but in December once again over 100,000 Russian troops were massed near the border.

The ongoing crisis stems from the protracted Russo-Ukrainian War that began in early 2014. In December 2021, Russia advanced two draft treaties that contained requests of what it referred to as "security guarantees" including a legally binding promise that Ukraine would not join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as well as a reduction in NATO troops and military hardware stationed in Eastern Europe and threatened unspecified military response if those demands were not met in full. The United States and other NATO members rejected these requests, warning Russia of "swift and severe" economic sanctions should it further invade Ukraine. On February 24, Russian troops invaded Ukraine.


(in Chronological order)


The 2014 invasion [of Crimea] marked the start of the Russian war on Ukraine. ~ Anne Applebaum
  • Russia feels bound by no international legal constraints on its actions in Ukraine, least of all the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, by which Russia and western states pledged to respect Ukrainian territorial integrity in return for Kiev's surrender of its Soviet-era nuclear arsenal. Putin dispensed with that particular piece of paper in a couple of lines.
  • That in turn brought up the burning question of whether the ambition of current military options ranged further than Crimea to the largely pro-Moscow, Russian-speaking industrial east, potentially slicing Ukraine in two. Putin clearly, very deliberately, left the option open.
  • Speaking of the sanctions, they are not just a knee-jerk reaction on behalf of the United States or its allies to our position regarding the events and the coup in Ukraine, or even the so-called Crimean Spring. I’m sure that if these events had never happened... they would have come up with some other excuse to try to contain Russia’s growing capabilities, affect our country in some way, or even take advantage of it... However, in this case I would like to speak about the most serious and sensitive issue: international security. Since 2002, after the US unilaterally pulled out of the ABM Treaty, which was absolutely a cornerstone of international security, a strategic balance of forces and stability, the US has been working relentlessly to create a global missile defense system, including in Europe. This poses a threat not only to Russia, but to the world as a whole – precisely due to the possible disruption of this strategic balance of forces.
  • The 2014 invasion [of Crimea] marked the start of the Russian war on Ukraine; the subsequent annexation warned Ukrainians that the international legal system would not protect them.


Ukraine has always had a special significance for Russia... Ukraine was part of Russia for a long time. ~ Henry Kissinger
  • Our problem is that we do not fully understand Putin’s calculus, just as he does not understand ours. In Putin’s view, the United States, the European Union and NATO have launched an economic and proxy war in Ukraine to weaken Russia and push it into a corner. As Valery Gerasimov, chief of staff of the Russian armed forces, has underscored, this is a hybrid, 21st-century conflict, in which financial sanctions, support for oppositional political movements and propaganda have all been transformed from diplomatic tools to instruments of war. Putin likely believes that any concession or compromise he makes will encourage the West to push further.
  • The Revolution of Dignity and the war brought about a geopolitical reorientation of Ukrainian society. The proportion of those with positive attitudes toward Russia decreased from 80 percent in January 2014 to under 50 percent in September of the same year. In November 2014, 64 percent of those polled supported Ukraine’s accession to the European Union (that figure had stood at 39 percent in November 2013). In April 2014, only a third of Ukrainians had wanted their country to join NATO; in November 2014, more than half supported that course. There can be little doubt that the experience of war not only united most Ukrainians but also turned the country’s sympathies westward.
    • Historian Serhii Plokhy The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine (2015) p 353


  • Of particular concern to Russia are plans to expand NATO to Ukraine. These plans were articulated explicitly at the Bucharest NATO summit of April 2008, when Georgia and Ukraine were promised eventual membership in NATO. The wording was unambiguous: “NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO.” With the “Orange Revolution” victory of pro-Western candidates in Ukraine in 2004, State Department representative Daniel Fried rushed there and “emphasized US support for Ukraine’s NATO and Euro-Atlantic aspirations,” as a WikiLeaks report revealed.




  • We ‪assess that Russia does not want a direct conflict with US forces. Russian officials have long believed that the United States is conducting its own ‘influence campaigns’ to undermine Russia, weaken President Vladimir Putin, and install Western-friendly regimes in the states of the former Soviet Union and elsewhere. Russia seeks an accommodation with the United States on mutual noninterference in both countries’ domestic affairs and US recognition of Russia’s claimed sphere of influence over much of the former Soviet Union.
  • It may just be grandstanding for domestic purposes, but the effort poses grave implications for American and international security... No politician or member of the U.S. foreign and security establishment has ever even attempted to explain why Russian involvement in Ukraine — with its territorial issues, its huge Russian minority, and deep historic, cultural, and emotional ties to one another — somehow implies Moscow’s desire to attack Poland or Romania, which contain no Russian minorities or territorial disputes.
  • Moreover, as far as Ukraine itself is concerned, the suggestion of a resemblance between U.S. “deterrence” there and deterrence in Poland and Romania is based on a very dangerous misconception. Romania, Poland, and the Baltic States are NATO members, covered by the Article 5 guarantee in the NATO Treaty whereby the United State is legally obliged to fight for them if they are attacked. Ukraine is not a NATO member, and even if a U.S. administration were willing to make an immediate offer of membership, this would certainly be blocked by the other European NATO partners... A promise of U.S. “deterrence” in Ukraine is therefore essentially a lie — and a very dangerous one, if a Ukrainian government were to believe it and act accordingly.
    • Anatol Lieven, Congress wants to put even more troops in Russia’s backyard,Responsible Statecraft, September 21, 2021
  • The GOP senator has swapped his hold on Biden’s ambassadors for a vote on more sanctions for Russia over Nord Stream 2. Both Senator Ted Cruz’s bill to sanction the Russia-Germany Nord Stream 2 pipeline and the process by which it has been introduced are poster-children for the dysfunctionality of America’s present system of government when it comes to the formulation of foreign policy. Senator Cruz’s bill, which is to be introduced to the Senate in early January and is considered likely to pass with bipartisan support, would place sanctions on Russia and on companies involved in the construction and management of the pipeline, which is designed to carry gas under the North Sea from Russia to Germany and Western Europe.
    This pipeline would partly replace existing pipelines from Russia to Germany and the European Union across Ukraine. In the past, Russian attempts to pressure Ukraine either to pay its unpaid gas debts or to ally with Russia by cutting off Ukrainian gas led to Ukraine taking gas bound for the EU for itself, thereby disrupting supplies to Western Europe.
  • Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, warned on Friday that the Kremlin perceives the United States and its allies as stoking the war in eastern Ukraine... “The civil war in Ukraine, ongoing for eight years, is far from over,” Mr. Lavrov said, in remarks carried by the Russian Information Agency. “The country’s (Ukraine's) authorities don’t intend to resolve the conflict” through diplomacy, he added. “Unfortunately, we see the United States and other NATO nations supporting the militaristic intentions of Kyiv, provisioning Ukraine with weapons and sending military specialists,” Mr. Lavrov said. After Russian troops massed near the Ukrainian border over the fall, officials in Moscow repeatedly characterized the eastern Ukraine conflict as a pressing security concern for Russia, though it has been simmering for eight years now between Ukraine’s central government and Russia-backed separatists.
    • Russian Foreign Minister Levels New Warning on Ukraine, Andrew E. Kramer, New York Times, Dec. 31, 2021


  • The problems with Russia are not just NATO expansion. There were also a process that began with the second Bush administration of withdrawing from all of the arms control — almost all of the arms control agreements that we had concluded with the Soviet Union, the very agreements that had brought the first Cold War to an end.... In effect, what the United States did after the end of the Cold War was they reversed the diplomacy that we had used to end the Cold War, and started sort of doing anything, everything the opposite way. We started, in effect, trying to control other countries, to bring them into what we called the “new world order,” but it was not very orderly. And we also sort of asserted the right to use military whenever we wished. We bombed Serbia in the ’90s without the approval of the U.N. Later, we invaded Iraq, citing false evidence and without any U.N. approval and against the advice not only of Russia but of Germany and France, our allies. So, the United States — I could name a number of others — itself was not careful in abiding by the international laws that we had supported.
  • After weeks of unsuccessfully attempting to either bully Russia’s Vladimir Putin into submission or bait him into war, US president Joe Biden may finally be looking for a face-saving exit from of the Ukraine “crisis” of his own making... Putin finally drew a red line at NATO membership for Ukraine specifically, and against the US definition of “diplomacy” — “do exactly as we demand, without question or objection, and we may consider deigning to allow you to kiss our feet for a little while before kicking you in the face again” — specifically. Bullies really, really, really hate to be told “no,” and tend to go into full bluster and posture mode at the first hint of that happening, which explains the Ukraine “crisis.” Unfortunately for THIS bully, Putin remains seemingly un-frightened. Even as the US and its poodles met in Munich, of all places, to issue more threats, he declined to play the role of Neville Chamberlain. So now Joe says he may be ready to talk. Whether the willingness is real, or just another exercise in fake “diplomacy,” remains to be seen. As does whether Putin will give Biden a graceful/deniable way out of this mess, or insist on rubbing his nose in the thick layer of filth US “diplomacy” has previously deposited on the ground. With two nuclear powers at loggerheads, the stakes are far too high for further attempts to disguise US hubris and megalomania as “diplomacy.”

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