President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is increasingly staking his legacy on reversing Ukraine’s pro-Western shift. Even if he does not order an invasion this winter, he is making clear that he will keep the pressure on, backed by the threat of force, for as long as it takes to get his way.
But Ukraine’s leaders have so far refused to compromise on Mr. Putin’s terms, and the West sees the Kremlin’s demand for a Russian sphere of influence in Eastern Europe as a nonstarter. That leaves the best-case scenario as a long and dangerous diplomatic slog toward a difficult settlement — a process that could consume Western resources and attention for many months.
“It’s safe to say that this is not a force posture that Russia is going to maintain for an extended period of time,” said Michael Kofman, the director of Russia studies at CNA, a research institute based in Arlington, Va. “They are entering a go/no-go posture, and they’re going to make that decision in the coming weeks.”
But even if an attack were to happen, touching off what would most likely be enormous human suffering in Ukraine, the diplomatic scramble would continue — with Russia exercising even more leverage, Mr. Kofman argues.
“Diplomacy continues throughout war,” he said. “Ultimately, there would need to be some sort of agreement.”
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