Putin’s Next Move

Russian President Vladimir Putin has the whole world anticipating his next move as he builds up a massive military presence along his country’s border with Ukraine, with U.S. officials anticipating an imminent invasion early next year. An invasion force could include 175,000 troops, but U.S. officials stress that President Vladimir V. Putin’s intentions remain unclear. 

Speaking to reporters in Stockholm, Sweden on Thursday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken referred to “evidence that Russia has made plans for significant aggressive moves against Ukraine.” Speaking to reporters on his official plane later that day, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, referred to “warnings from an intelligence standpoint,” saying “there’s enough out there now to cause a lot of concern.”

Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Mr. Blinken, Mr. Lavrov seemed to scoff at the threat, noting that the United States has repeatedly sanctioned Russia in new and different ways in recent years. “There’s always a first time,” Mr. Lavrov said. “There were other sanctions they refrained from taking in the past.” Biden will raise concerns about the Russian military buildup on the borders with Ukraine “in a professional, candid, straightforward manner where he will make clear without any kind of rhetorical flourish or finger-wagging what the United States is prepared to do both in respect to deterrence and in respect to diplomacy,” an official told reporters. The White House said over the weekend that President Biden and Putin will sit down for a video conference this week, where Biden will raise concerns about Russia’s military activity and “reaffirm the United States’ support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

This has made support for Ukraine’s security an area of bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) chair of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism, told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that he hopes Biden’s meeting with Putin can “bear fruit,” but warned of a strong U.S. response if Kyiv is threatened. “But let me say this – If Russia does decide to move further, it would be a mistake of historic proportions for Moscow,” Murphy said. “Ukraine can become the next Afghanistan for Russia if it chooses to move further, and it’s up to us in the Congress that we are going to be diplomatic, political and military partners with Ukraine.”