There’s rightly been a lot of concern about and attention paid to the Russian military build-up around Ukraine, and a lot of takes — some good, some not so good, some provocative — including ~that~ Politico op-ed that says the US should shove Minsk down Kyiv’s throat...
I don’t like that for many reasons, not least b/c it denies Ukraine agency over its future, reinforces Russia’s false theory that US controls Kyiv, and, well, just wouldn’t be accepted by Ukrainians. It’s unrealistic. But the piece (…) did something good…
It triggered an important discussion about the controversial Minsk accords and the ~8-year war in Ukraine more broadly. Today I’ve been catching up on some excellent and thought provoking threads by very smart people on this matter. What follows is sort of a thread of threads.
It’s always a good idea to read @APHClarkson on Ukraine. He understands the Ukrainian perspective well but I think he makes some solid points here on Putin’s calculus, too.
Then there’s @DrRadchenko, who’s got a sharp Russia-focused eye and encyclopedic Cold War knowledge. Here he considers a couple of Putin’s options and is skeptical of a fresh invasion.
You must always read analysis by @OlyaOliker. She’s got a knack for parsing the intricacies of East-West relations. Tl;dr she recommends to West, ‘stock-taking and some decisions about who’s willing to do what under various circumstances…then communicating results to Moscow.’
.@scrawnya also raises good points about how the West views Russia and vice versa, and how the former’s tired approach to Russian cyclical troop build-ups is “triggering” and has actually fueled Moscow’s actions. Time for something new.
She also points out how forcing Minsk down Ukraine’s throat will just not work. It was and remains a bad deal; it only works if Russia takes the first major steps.
In fact, everyone at least seems to agree Minsk accords are a bad deal and were signed by Ukraine with a gun to its head. I’d argue they at least worked in the short term in that they stopped serious bloodshed and more or less froze the contact line, turning the war static.
The problem of course has been that all sides have different takes on the steps in which Minsk should be implemented, so no progress. Without Russia going first in withdrawing troops, returning control of the Ukrainian border to Kyiv, or at least int’l peacekeepers, Minsk fails.
Now I’m getting into some of my own takes. Could Ukraine do some of the political provisions of Minsk as @scharap suggests in Politico? In theory, sure. In reality, not without serious internal backlash, not before the aforementioned Minsk steps by Russia. Otherwise non-starter.
I don’t know what the solution is. I think Putin will do what Putin wants to do — and I realize that’s a bit lame in terms of analysis but it’s true. This war could end if he decides it will end. Can anyone nudge him in that direction? …
Well, there are much harsher sanctions that could be applied by the West, moves against oligarchs, Russian govt, banking system… There are other things in the West’s and NATO’s tool chests that could but tried re: integration, membership. But West is apprehensive about all that.
As @andrewsweiss and @eugene_rumer wrote in this must-read piece, Ukraine is Putin’s unfinished business. There might be nothing that completely deters him there.…
And yet, I’m not certain Putin’s about to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine & that he’s prepared to accept the consequences of doing so — which will include sanctions (even if they aren’t as strong as many would like, they’ll sting some) & massive $ & loss of Russian lives.
Ukraine Brig. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov painted a grim picture of what a large-scale Russian attack could look like in this interview. (Small scoop inside too: He tells @haltman Ukraine has used US Javelins in combat. We haven’t seen footage, tho.)…
The map included in @MilitaryTimes piece shows what Ukraine’s preparing for should Russia invade by land, sea, air. Other scenarios exist outside this worst-case one. In any case destruction, loss of life would be huge. Kyiv, Dnipro, Kharkiv, & Odesa cities have millions of ppl. Image
Here, @RALee85 gives some detail on the Russian units that'd be involved:
Budanov said if a Russian assault coming it’s likely to be in Jan/Feb after months of laying groundwork. Winter war for UA/RU isn’t an issue; recall Debaltseve battle in Jan/Feb ‘15.
Ukraine’s military is much bigger and stronger than it was in 2014. And the Ukrainian population broadly is ready to resist in whatever ways they can. The country has lived prepared for war for the last 7.5 years, after all. This would be an incredibly bloody and deadly fight.
So where to end this thread? Here I guess, without an immediate solution. Sorry. But it’s great there’s a dialogue happening and potentially new ideas to consider.
One last note for the folks who always love to bring up the ‘If Ukraine had kept its nukes…’ argument. @steven_pifer is right:
Almost forgot one for the ‘But the Budapest memo said US & UK have to defend Ukraine’ crowd: the memo itself never provided security guarantees or obligations to protect Ukraine’s territorial integrity. It vowed to seek immediate UN Security Council action…
Add this piece to the reading list.

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More from @ChristopherJM

May 27
New @Maxar sat imagery from past 48 hrs shows Russian artillery and armored units moving from the north and east toward Lyman, which is now captured, and troops deployed in the town of Kolodyazi. Convoy also seen crossing Zherebets River. 📸: @Maxar ImageImageImage
Russian firepower has turned the Donbas landscape into something almost lunar looking. This is the aftermath of widespread artillery shelling. 📸: @Maxar from May 25 Image
Maxar: “Overview of artillery craters in fields and closer view of destroyed buildings from recent artillery shelling (Location: 48.985, 37.823). Damaged buildings in Lyman and tank on road (Location: 48.997, 37.795)”📸: @Maxar ImageImage
Read 4 tweets
May 26
A Ukrainian family told me about their terrifying time in a basement during Russia's siege of Mariupol and perilous journey thru Putin's filtration camps before being deported to Russia.

Some of it was captured in sketches.

I hope you read.… via @politico Image
But their ordeal didn’t end there; while Daria was able to escape Russia within days with the help of local connections, Oksana and her children were taken deeper in Russia for another month, where her captors said they should be “de-nazified.”…
Their ordeal is a microcosm of what is happening to more than 1 million Ukrainians in the Russian-controlled eastern regions.
The Kremlin’s soldiers are rounding them up, forcing them into camps, where they are separated from their families, stripped of their personal documents…
Read 7 tweets
May 20
Gutted to return to Bakhmut and the first street I lived on in Ukraine 12 years ago to see the home next door destroyed by a Russian airstrike. Several more buildings less than 100 meters away also destroyed by an airstrike. Jets roared overhead all day and shelling was constant.
I found Vitaliy sitting in the courtyard with things he pulled from the rubble. His flat was on the 4th floor. Luckily he wasn’t there at the time. He said if the missile had hit earlier in the morning and not ~10am when people were out there would have been many deaths. Image
At a nearby building also hit in an airstrike I found 38 residents, including kids, living in its basement. They were furious at the Russian army but also frustrated with Ukrainian officials who they said hadn’t provided any assistance. Some need insulin and other meds. Image
Read 4 tweets
May 18
NEW: @USEmbassyKyiv is now officially back. 🇺🇸 is flying over the embassy. It will operate in a limited capacity with no consular services and Chargé Kristina Kvien is on leave and wasn’t present for reopening today, source familiar with embassy operations told @politico.
US embassy Kyiv will increase the number of diplomats and services over time, as the security situation allows, source familiar with embassy operations told @politico. Underscoring the persisting Russian threat, the embassy opening ceremony was delayed because of air raid siren.
Read 5 tweets
May 9
Mass graves are still being found over a month after Russia's retreat from Kyiv region, underscoring the scale of atrocities committed by Vladimir Putin’s forces here in Ukraine.

For @politico, I interviewed family, friends of 5 men killed in 3 instances.…
Russian soldiers detained & tortured Dmytro for no reason. He was riding his bike with his Serhiy. The Russians shot Dmytro in the legs & arms & then in the head 4 times. They didn’t shoot Serhiy; they broke his spine in many places then snapped his neck.…
Vira Tyshchenko spent weeks poring over 1000s of images of mutilated corpses, bloody clothing and personal items. She thought that among the remains and detritus she might recognize her younger brother or at least something that belonged to him.
Read 7 tweets
May 8
Happening now: Svyatoslav Palamar, second in command of the Azov Regiment in Mariupol, and Illia Samoilenko, an Azov Regiment lieutenant, are speaking to journalists from inside the Azovstal plant via Zoom. They paint a dire picture of the situation there.
Azov Lt. Samoilenko lays into Ukrainian authorities saying “the government failed the defense of Mariupol.” He says officials “have been sabotaging the defense of Ukraine for the last eight years.” He refers to all authorities since 2014.
Samoilenko in English: “A lot of people felt we are heroes. We should not be showing up about this yet because we are just doing our job. … A lot of people think we are living heroes. And it’s true.” He says he is in the presence of heroes in Azovstal.
Read 8 tweets

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