Live Updates: Putin Orders Forces to Ukraine’s Breakaway Regions
President Vladimir V. Putin signed a decree that allowed for troops to enter Donetsk and Luhansk for “peacekeeping.” The U.S. and E.U. said they would begin imposing limited sanctions.
President Vladimir V. Putin has ordered Russia’s defense ministry to deploy troops in two Russia-backed separatist territories in Ukraine, escalating a conflict that Western officials warn could explode into one of the biggest armed clashes in Europe since World War II.
In an emotional and aggrieved address to the Russian people on Monday, Mr. Putin hinted at the possibility of a wider military campaign and laid claim to all of Ukraine as a country “created by Russia.” Russian state television then showed Mr. Putin signing decrees recognizing the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics and directing the Russian Defense Ministry to deploy troops in those regions to carry out “peacekeeping functions.”
It was not immediately certain whether the Russian troops would remain only on the territory controlled by the separatist republics, or whether they would seek to capture the rest of the two Ukrainian regions whose territory they claim.
And so it was unclear if a long-feared Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine had begun. The separatists might have invited Russian forces in, but neither Ukraine nor the rest of the world views the so-called republics as anything but Ukrainian territory.
While Mr. Putin’s ultimate plans remain a mystery, a full invasion would constitute the largest military action in Europe since World War II.
By seeking to redraw the post-Cold War boundaries of Europe and force Ukraine back into Moscow’s orbit, Mr. Putin is attempting nothing less than to upend the security structure that has helped maintain an uneasy peace on the continent for the past three decades.
Now edging toward the twilight of his political career, Mr. Putin, 69, is determined to burnish his legacy and to correct what he has long viewed as one of the greatest catastrophes of the 20th century: the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
Asserting Moscow’s power over Ukraine, a country of 44 million people that was previously part of the bloc and shares a 1,200-mile border with Russia, is part of his aim of restoring what he views as Russia’s rightful place among the world’s great powers, the United States and China.
Mr. Putin has increasingly portrayed NATO’s eastward expansion as an existential threat to his country, and insists that Moscow’s military buildup is a reaction to Ukraine’s deepening partnership with the alliance.
Essentially, he appears intent on winding back the clock 30 years, to just before the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Dan Bilefsky contributed reporting.
WASHINGTON — White House officials said on Monday that President Biden would impose economic sanctions on the two separatist regions of Ukraine that President Vladimir V. Putin recognized as independent, but stopped short of imposing any penalties directly on Russia.
A senior administration official, who spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said President Biden is still assessing Russian actions in the wake of Mr. Putin’s decree ordering troops into the separatist regions.
The official did not rule out imposing severe sanctions on Russia, but said the United States will “assess what Russia does and not focus on what Russia says.”
The official condemned Mr. Putin’s hourlong speech on Monday, calling it “an attack on the very idea of a sovereign and independent Ukraine.” In his speech, Mr. Putin claimed that Ukraine owes its statehood to the Soviet Union.
The limited nature of the initial sanctions appeared intended to allow the United States and its European allies to hold in reserve the more aggressive sanctions they have threatened to impose on Moscow if Mr. Putin sends Russian armed forces into Ukraine, and to allow for the increasingly slim possibility of a diplomatic solution.
The European allies condemned the Russian action as a violation of international law and said they supported enacting sanctions. But the relative restraint of the American steps could also reflect debates among the allies over what actions by Russia should trigger the fuller sanctions and the difficulty of developing a unified and proportional response to incremental steps by Mr. Putin.
In a statement, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, called Mr. Putin’s move a “blatant violation of Russia’s international commitments” and said that Mr. Biden would soon issue an executive order prohibiting investment, trade and financing with people in the two regions of Ukraine.
“To be clear: These measures are separate from and 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,” Ms. Psaki said in the statement.
But there was pressure on Mr. Biden from members of both parties to act swiftly and aggressively with a fuller range of sanctions.
Representative John Garamendi, a Democrat from California who is in Brussels for talks with allies, said on CNN that “it’s time to ramp up the sanctions” and that Europe would support stronger measures.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, wrote on Twitter that “Putin’s decision to declare eastern Donetsk and Luhansk as independent regions within Ukraine is both a violation of the Minsk Agreements and a declaration of war against the people of Ukraine.”
He added: “His decision should immediately be met with forceful sanctions to destroy the ruble and crush the Russian oil and gas sector.”
The reaction from the Biden administration echoed responses from European allies to the hourlong performance by Mr. Putin, who angrily aired decades of Russian grievances about Ukraine, NATO and the United States.
The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, lashed out at Mr. Putin, saying on Twitter that Russia’s recognition of the two territories “is a blatant violation of international law, the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the #Minsk agreements.”
In a joint statement with the European Council president, Charles Michel, the pair of leaders wrote that the European Union will “react with sanctions against those involved in this illegal act,” and that it “reiterates its unwavering support to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.”
White House officials said that Mr. Biden spoke with Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, for about 35 minutes following the conclusion of Mr. Putin’s speech. Ms. Psaki did not provide any details about the call, but said that the United States is “continuing to closely consult with allies and partners, including Ukraine.”
MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin on Monday delivered an emotional and aggrieved address laying claim to all of Ukraine as a country “created by Russia,” recognizing the independence of two Russia-backed territories in eastern Ukraine and threatening the government of Ukraine that the bloodshed could continue.
The White House responded by saying that President Biden would begin imposing limited economic sanctions on the two separatist regions, stopping short of imposing any penalties directly on Russia for now but vowing that more would come. Leaders of the European Union also condemned Putin’s move and said they would impose sanctions on those involved.
Immediately after the speech, state television showed Mr. Putin at the Kremlin signing decrees recognizing the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, which were created after Russia fomented a separatist war in eastern Ukraine in 2014. Mr. Putin also signed “friendship and mutual assistance” treaties, raising the possibility that Russia could move some of the forces it has built up around Ukraine’s borders into those territories.
Mr. Putin’s speech laid out such a broad case against Ukraine — describing its pro-Western government as a dire threat to Russia and to Russians — that he appeared to be laying the groundwork to take action beyond simply recognizing two small breakaway republics.
“As for those who captured and are holding on to power in Kyiv: We demand that they immediately cease military action,” Mr. Putin said at the end of his nearly hourlong speech, referring to the Ukrainian capital. “If not, the complete responsibility for the possibility of a continuation of bloodshed will be fully and wholly on the conscience of the regime ruling the territory of Ukraine.”
It was a thinly veiled threat against the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky, which denies responsibility for the escalating shelling on the front linebetween Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists in recent days. Russian state television has broadcast extensive reports claiming that Ukraine is preparing an offensive against the separatist territories — claims that Kyiv denies.
By seeking to redraw the post-Cold War boundaries of Europe and force Ukraine back into Moscow’s orbit, Mr. Putin is attempting nothing less than to upend the security structure that has helped maintain an uneasy peace on the continent for the past three decades.
Mr. Putin’s speech began with an extensive recitation of his historical grievances, starting with claims that Ukraine owes its statehood to the Soviet Union.
“Modern-day Ukraine was in full and in whole created by Russia, Bolshevik, Communist Russia to be precise,” he said.
Not only was Ukraine rejecting its shared past with Russia, he said, but it was enabling American ambitions of weakening Russia by aspiring to membership in the NATO alliance.
“Why was it necessary to make an enemy out of us?” Mr. Putin said, repeating his long-held grievances about NATO’s eastward expansion. “They didn’t want such a large, independent country as Russia. In this lies the answer to all questions.”
Beyond his intensive history lesson — which would be disputed by many Ukrainians, who see themselves as a separate country with their own identity — the Russian president said little about his next steps. And he did not address the fact that the separatist “people’s republics” claim about three times as much territory as they currently control.
Some analysts have speculated that Mr. Putin could use Russian troops to capture more Ukrainian territory on behalf of those republics. But his veiled threat against Kyiv appeared to signal that he was prepared to threaten Mr. Zelensky’s government directly — a scenario that American officials have said is a possibility given the size of Mr. Putin’s troop buildup to Ukraine’s north, east and south.
President Vladimir V. Putin’s speech to Russians late Monday came after a carefully choreographed day of building drama over the fate of Ukraine.
Russian state television offered extensive reports of Ukrainian shelling against civilian targets in the separatist regions. Ukraine denied it.
The Russian military claimed it had killed five Ukrainian “saboteurs” who had ventured on to Russian territory. Ukraine also denied this.
And Russian television broadcast videotaped appeals from the two leaders of separatist republics in eastern Ukraine pleading with Mr. Putin to recognize their independence. The Kremlin then released footage of senior officials at the Security Council meeting explaining why Mr. Putin should recognize the two regions.
In his speech, he did just that.
But at the Security Council meeting earlier, Viktor V. Zolotov, Mr. Putin’s former body guard and the head of Russia’s National Guard, hinted that the Kremlin needed to do still more. Control of just Ukraine’s eastern regions might not be enough to eliminate the threat posed by Ukraine’s pro-Western shift.
“We don’t have a border with Ukraine — we have a border with America, because they are the masters in that country,” Mr. Zolotov said. “Of course we must recognize the republics, but I want to say that we must go farther in order to defend our country.”
European leaders were quick to condemn President Vladimir V. Putin over his intention to recognize the independence of two Russia-backed territories in eastern Ukraine, the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic.
President Emmanuel Macron of France
“The president of the Republic condemns the decision taken by the president of the Russian Federation to recognize the separatist regions of eastern Ukraine. This is clearly a unilateral violation of Russia’s international commitments and an attack on the sovereignty of Ukraine. He calls for an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council as well as the adoption of targeted European sanctions.”
From the European Union: Charles Michel, president of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission
“President Michel and President von der Leyen condemn in the strongest possible terms the decision by the Russian president to proceed with the recognition of the nongovernment controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine as independent entities. This step is a blatant violation of international law as well as of the Minsk agreements. The Union will react with sanctions against those involved in this illegal act. The Union reiterates its unwavering support to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.”
António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations through his spokesperson
“The secretary general is greatly concerned by the decision by the Russian Federation related to the status of certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine. He calls for the peaceful settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, in accordance with the Minsk Agreements, as endorsed by the Security Council in resolution 2202 (2015). The secretary general considers the decision of the Russian Federation to be a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and inconsistent with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.The United Nations, in line with the relevant General Assembly resolutions, remains fully supportive of the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, within its internationally recognized borders. The secretary general urges all relevant actors to focus their efforts on ensuring an immediate cessation of hostilities, protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, preventing any actions and statements that may further escalate the dangerous situation in and around Ukraine and prioritizing diplomacy to address all issues peacefully.”
Liz Truss, Britain’s foreign secretary
“President Putin’s recognition of the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ and ‘Luhansk People’s Republic’ as independent states show’s flagrant disregard for Russia’s commitments under the Minsk Agreements. This step represents a further attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, signals an end to the Minsk process and is a violation of the U.N. charter. It demonstrates Russia’s decision to choose a path of confrontation over dialogue.
We will coordinate our response with the allies. We will not allow Russia’s violation of its international committments to go unpunished.”
Jens Stoltenberg, director general NATO
“I condemn Russia’s decision to extend recognition to the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ and ‘Luhansk People’s Republic.’ This further undermines Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, erodes efforts toward a resolution of the conflict, and violates the Minsk Agreements, to which Russia is a party.”
Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė of Lithuania
“Putin just put Kafka and Orwell to shame: no limits to dictator’s imagination, no lows too low, no lies too blatant, no red lines too red to cross. What we witnessed tonight might seem surreal for democratic world. But the way we respond will define us for the generations to come.”
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has recognized the independence of two separatist regions in Ukraine, a move many fear may be the spark for a Russian military intervention against Ukraine.
The act of recognition is fraught with meaning because the borders claimed by the Russia-backed leaders of the two breakaway regions, Donetsk and Luhansk, extend beyond territory they now control, and spill over into space controlled by the Ukrainian army.
Russia’s recognition of the two regions, the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, could allow separatist leaders to request military help from Russia, further easing a path for a military offensive, Ukrainian officials say. Ukraine would likely interpret that as Russian troops entering Ukrainian territory.
The conflict in the separatist regions began in 2014, when rebels loyal to Russia seized government buildings in Donetsk and Luhansk, beginning a long trench war with Ukrainian forces. More than 13,000 people have died in fighting in the region since.
Andrés R. Martínez contributed reporting.
It was a seminal, hourlong speech that threatened to clear the way for war. On Monday night President Vladimir V. Putin said he would recognize the independence of two Russia-backed territories in eastern Ukraine, setting the stage for the possibility of Russian military action against Ukraine.
Here are excerpts from his address, which he said was also directed to his “compatriots” in Ukraine.
“Why was it necessary to make an enemy out of us?” Mr. Putin asked, repeating his long-held grievances about NATO’s eastward expansion. “They didn’t want such a large, independent country as Russia. In this lies the answer to all questions.”
“We clearly understand that in such a scenario, the degree of military threat to Russia will rise cardinally, by multiple times,” Mr. Putin said of the potential of Ukraine joining NATO. “If our ancestors heard about this, they would probably not believe it. And we don’t want to believe it. But that’s how it is.”
“Let me emphasize once again that Ukraine for us is not just a neighboring country. It is an integral part of our own history, culture, spiritual space,” Mr. Putin said, referring to Ukraine’s importance to Russia. “These are our comrades, relatives, among whom are not only colleagues, friends, former colleagues, but also relatives, people connected with us by blood, family ties.”
“We are being blackmailed, they are threatening us with sanctions. But I think they will impose those sanctions,” he said referring to possible repercussions of Russian action. “A new pretext will always be found or fabricated. Irrespective of the situation in Ukraine,” he added. “The purpose is single: to keep Russia behind, to prevent it from developing. And they will do it before even without any formal pretext. Just because we exist. We will never give up our sovereignty, national interest, and our values.”
“The so-called civilized world, the representatives of the self-proclaimed western colleagues, they act as if they do not notice anything. As if nothing is happening, as if this nightmare did not exist.”
Oil prices rose and stock markets around the world sank on Monday amid rising concerns of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The price of oil rose more than 3 percent, with the American oil benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, up to about $94 a barrel on Monday afternoon and the global Brent benchmark at about $96. Prices were essentially flat last week, but grew volatile over the weekend as tensions between Russia and Western nations escalated.
The Stoxx 600 Europe index fell 1.3 percent. Japan’s Nikkei and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng indexes were also both down. Russia’s benchmark index, the MOEX, fell 10.5 percent. Markets were closed in the United States on Monday for Presidents’ Day, but S&P 500 futures were also lower.
In an impassioned speech on Monday, President Vladimir V. Putin said he would recognize the independence of two Russia-backed territories in eastern Ukraine, while also making the case that Ukraine itself is historically an integral part of Russia. Many fear that the speech and the decision to formally recognize the independence of the separatist regions may lay the groundwork for a Russian military intervention against Ukraine.
The prospect of an invasion has already taken an economic toll, weighing on stock prices and driving up oil prices in recent weeks. But all-out military action could send energy and food prices soaring, fuel inflation fears and spook investors, threatening investment and economic growth globally.
As Western fears of a Russian invasion intensified, Ukraine said Monday it had requested an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss ways to guarantee its security and de-escalate the crisis with Russia.
The request, which was announced by Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, came as the Kremlin said President Vladimir V. Putin had decided to recognize two breakaway regions in Eastern Ukraine, which could help lay the groundwork for Russian military forces to pour into Ukrainian territory. If Mr. Putin decides to invade Ukraine, it could set off one of the biggest conflicts in Europe since World War II.
“I officially requested UNSC member states to immediately hold consultations under article 6 of the Budapest memorandum to discuss urgent actions aimed at de-escalation, as well as practical steps to guarantee the security of Ukraine,” Mr. Kuleba said in a Twitter post.
The Budapest Memorandum refers to a 1994 agreement under which Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, former republics of the collapsed Soviet Union, gave up their stockpiles of Russian nuclear weapons from the Cold War era and joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty in exchange or security guarantees. The efficacy of the agreement has long been called into question, however. Ukraine and Western nations have said Russia grossly violated the agreement in 2014 by seizing Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.
It was not immediately clear when or even whether Ukraine’s request would be taken up by the 15-member Security Council. Russia, one of the council’s five veto-wielding permanent members, is president of the council for February under a rotating schedule. But the council’s official agenda for Tuesday appeared to allow for the possibility of private consultations on Ukraine under the heading of “Other Matters.”
Secretary-General António Guterres of the United Nations, who has said that he believed the crisis would be resolved without military force, expressed new alarm Monday about the recent spike in tensions, saying through his spokesman that “all issues must be addressed through diplomacy.”
The spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, also said the United Nations was allowing for the “temporary relocation” of some nonessential staff and dependents in Ukraine, where the organization has about 1,500 employees, mostly of Ukrainian nationality, and nearly 1,200 dependents. Of the employees, he said, roughly 100 are in the two Eastern breakaway regions, Donetsk and Luhansk.
A day after Belarus and Russia extended their large-scale military drills near Ukraine’s border, the Belarus Defense Ministry signaled on Monday that Russian troops could remain in the country indefinitely.
The message was delivered in a statement by the ministry that said that the withdrawal of Russian troops could depend in large measure on NATO forces first pulling back from countries near Russia and Belarus.
The Defense Ministry, echoing arguments from its Russian allies, describedNATO’s presence in Eastern Europe as “aggressive and unfounded,” and said it “increases the likelihood of armed conflict.” Belarus borders NATO members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
The statement offered a clear indication of the close military cooperation Belarus has offered to Russia as Moscow amasses troops on three sides of Ukraine. NATO estimates that Russia has deployed 30,000 troops to Belarus for major combat exercises, including near Ukraine’s northern border, close to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
The Belarus Defense Ministry announced on Sunday that joint military exercisesthat began this month would continue because of what it described as increased military activity on Belarus’ borders and insecurity in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas.
The announcement was not a surprise to many Western officials, who have warned that the Kremlin could be using military exercises as a cover for preparing an attack against Ukraine, as it did before Russian troops seized the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.
NATO says the exercises in Belarus constitute Moscow’s largest deployment in the country’s territory since the end of the Cold War. The United States believes Russia has as many as 190,000 troops in or near Ukraine.
The statement on Monday said the removal of NATO forces from Eastern Europe and Belarus’ borders was just one factor that would determine when or if Russian troops withdraw.
“Belarus has the right to demand the withdrawal of the created groupings of U.S. troops and individual NATO member countries from the borders of the Republic of Belarus and the Union State,” the statement said, referring to a putative state of Russia and Belarus.
“The Russian Armed Forces’ units will return to their permanent bases only when an objective need for that arises and when we decide,” said the statement, quoting Viktor Gulevich, Belarus’ first deputy minister of defense.
The U.S. announced on Friday it planned to sell more tanks to Poland in a sign of NATO solidarity. Mr. Putin says NATO’s expansion east since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 into countries bordering Russia is a provocative act that must be reversed.
MUNICH — The Munich Security Conference convened this weekend under the banner of “Unlearning Helplessness.” The phrase had ominous echoes, with Russia threatening Ukraine, and Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, drove them home by accusing the West of appeasement.
“It was here 15 years ago that Russia announced its intention to challenge global security,” Mr. Zelensky said on Saturday at the annual gathering of international policymakers. “What did the world say? Appeasement. Result? At least the annexation of Crimea and aggression against my state.”
Mr. Zelensky’s comments were an allusion to a menacing speech in Munich in 2007 by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, which revealed the extent of his revanchist ire against the United States. Of NATO expansion eastward Mr. Putin said then: “It represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: Against whom is this expansion intended?”
Since then, Mr. Putin has taken enough military action in Georgia and Ukraine to freeze the countries in strategic limbo, as he awaited his moment to avenge the perceived humiliation of Russia by the West after the Cold War’s end.
Appeasement is a word with a particular resonance in Munich, where in 1938 Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister, agreed to allow Hitler to annex part of what was then Czechoslovakia to “protect” ethnic Germans there, in exchange for a promise of peace. Mr. Chamberlain declared “peace in our time” on his return to London.
But nobody mentioned that at a conference whose mission has been to ensure that the lessons of the 20th century, and its two world wars, are learned.
WASHINGTON — The United States government has sent a letter to the United Nations human rights chief in Geneva saying it has “credible information” that Russian forces have compiled a list of Ukrainian citizens to be killed or sent to detention camps in the aftermath of a Russian invasion and occupation of the country, according to a copy of the letter obtained Sunday by The New York Times.
The letter, which was addressed to Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, also said Russian forces planned to carry out widespread human rights violations, which in the past have included torturing and kidnapping civilians.
The likely targets would be people opposed to Russian actions, including dissidents from Russia and Belarus living in Ukraine, journalists, anti-corruption activists and members of ethnic and religious minorities and the L.G.B.T.Q. community.
“We also have credible information that Russian forces will likely use lethal measures to disperse peaceful protests or otherwise counter peaceful exercises of perceived resistance from civilian populations,” said the letter, which was signed by Bathsheba Nell Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations office in Geneva.
Three U.S. officials confirmed the authenticity of the letter and its contents. On Monday, Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, denied the existence of such a list. “This is absolutely made up,” he told reporters. “There is no such list. This is a fake.”
The letter noted that U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken had raised the human rights concerns to the United Nations Security Council when he addressed that body on Thursday. “In particular, he stated that the United States has information that indicates Russia will target specific groups of Ukrainians,” the letter said.
In that session, Mr. Blinken told Russian officials they could prove their peaceful intentions to the world by not invading Ukraine and addressing their grievances through diplomacy instead. Mr. Blinken plans to meet Sergey V. Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia, in Europe this Thursday, unless Russia invades Ukraine first.
President Biden and Mr. Blinken have said U.S. intelligence indicates Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has already decided to invade. In recent weeks, Mr. Putin has amassed as many as 190,000 troops around Ukraine. Russia-backed insurgents in the east have increased their artillery shelling of Ukrainian military forces in recent days.
Mr. Putin invaded parts of Ukraine in 2014 and annexed the country’s Crimean Peninsula. Mr. Biden has promised to impose harsh economic sanctions on Russia if Mr. Putin carries out another invasion.
President Vladimir V. Putin’s strategic choices on Ukraine over the next few weeks may make a huge difference in how the world reacts.
An invasion could take many forms: one enormous nationwide attack; a series of bites that dismantle the country, piece by piece; or a python-like squeeze. That last option is made all the easier with the news Sunday morning that Belarus is allowing Russian troops to remain indefinitely, where they can menace Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital. Mr. Putin might be betting that he can shatter Ukraine’s economy and oust its government without having to immediately roll in tanks.
If he strikes to take the whole country in a single blow — the approach that senior American military and intelligence officials and many outside analysts now think is the most likely — it could provoke the largest, most violent battle for European territory since the Nazi surrender in 1945.
There is little question that the full package of sanctions and technology export cutoffs would be invoked almost immediately. International condemnation would follow, though Mr. Putin may be betting that it would not last long, and that the world would gradually get accustomed to a new, larger Russia reconstituting the sphere of influence that was once the hallmark of the old Soviet Union.