There is a growing minority of intelligence analysts in DC who think Vladimir Putin will not invade Ukraine and never intended to. They think this is a Munich 1938 scenario, i.e.- Putin sees weak Western leaders and Euros compromised by his pipeline and wants to scare them to death into giving him what he wants. He wants NATO to pull out of Eastern Europe and Ukraine under his suzerainity.
I’ve known some of these individuals for decades and they are amongst the top echelon of defense and intelligence analysts in uniform. They point to several points to make their argument.
1. Putin should have invaded already- Why give the Ukrainians all this time, as surprise is the greatest of force multipliers? Why give the West time to arm the Ukrainians? Why give the Ukrainians time to train militia forces and psychologically prepare for battle? Why give them time to prepare forward defense positions? Why? Because it doesn’t matter. We and the Ukrainians are just running around, sound and fury signifying nothing. He’s not coming.
2. The political factor- Putin’s Russia is a paper tiger. But Putin himself plays his 2 fives like a pair of kings. He bluffs quite successfully. The Biden administration might know this already, but wants to take credit for supposedly backing him down and looking tough doing so before the midterms. They and their compliant media will compare it to Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis, hoping to erase the stigma of the Afghanistan withdrawal.
3. Splitting NATO- The French and Germans have not accepted American leadership on Ukraine and have somewhat gone their own ways. This is not surprising from the French. It’s their typical method. But the Germans are now effectively under the Russian thumb due to the Nord Stream 2 deal. The Hun thought it was looking down the pipes of a vast energy supplier. Nope. It is looking down the barrel of a tank.
4. Where will this lead? – If the Russians invade they and their top kleptocrats get personal sanctions and world condemnation. It may become more difficult for oligarchs to buy all that real estate in England. Then, where would they stash their cash and mistresses? It could also make Putin less able to work his game on the global stage, as the mask would be off the bear, his teeth glaring. At least for a while.
But, if he doesn’t invade then he’s a peacemaker. The idiots in Stockholm could give him the Nobel. He’s already intimidated the Ukrainians out of their skins. So invasion or not they should be easier to control. The Germans would breathe a sigh of relief and post haste fully embrace Russian energy as any junkie does their pusher. Thus, the upside of not invading way overcomes the downside of crossing the Ukrainian border. Putin is staying home.