While it is impossible to credibly interpret the intentions behind Moscow’s diplomatic offensive, it is evident that the Russian-Western security relationship is approaching the moment of truth. In the event of a military escalation in Ukraine, the logic of confrontation can lead to the inclusion of Ukraine in the Western security perimeter.
There are two possible interpretations of what may be behind the buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine’s border, and Moscow’s ultimatum to Washington to provide Russia with legally-binding guarantees that there will be no further NATO enlargement. According to one interpretation, Russia is bluffing in the hope of receiving concessions from the West by indicating that it may escalate the situation in Ukraine, while planning only minimal use of its military or no invasion at all. The other interpretation is that the Kremlin knows perfectly well that the West cannot agree to its demands, and is only seeking a pretext for the escalation.