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White House Trying To Discourage Russia From Deeper Military Incursion


The White House appears to be trying to discourage Russia from moving its troops beyond the contact line separating Ukraine from self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics (red line in the map below):

  • Reuters circulated a source report noting that "President Vladimir Putin's decision to send troops he called peacemakers into breakaway regions of Ukraine did not as yet constitute a further invasion that would trigger a broader sanctions package." A source told Reuters that "sending Russian troops into the separatist regions was not a departure from what Russia had done already, which was why it did not trigger the broader sanctions.
  • Note that the sanctions announced by U.S. President Biden immediately after Russia's move to recognise the separatist "republics" were limited to parts of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian rebels and thus had mostly symbolic meaning.
  • The White House said in a statement that they would "take further measures tomorrow to hold Russia accountable for this clear violation of international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity" which would be in addition to "the swift and severe economic measures we have been preparing in coordination with Allies and partners should Russia further invade Ukraine."
  • This means that the Biden administration still keeps some fair amount of powder dry, likely in a bid to deter Russia from escalating military aggression against Ukraine. While the official (and perhaps permanent) deployment of Russian troops into the separatist "republics" inevitably adds to the tension in the region, a dramatic escalation of the ongoing crisis could still be prevented should Russia decide not to move past the so called "contact line."
  • As flagged in our earlier bullet, there is notable ambiguity around how Russia wants to define the borders of Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics. The pro-Russian rebels lay territorial claims to entire Donetsk and Luhansk regions in their historical frontiers (grey area in the map below). If Moscow decides to back these claims, it could serve as a justification of a military incursion deeper into Ukraine's territory.

Fig. 1: OSCE Ceasefire Violations In Donbas

Source: OSCE

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