Introduction

Will 2021 be remembered as the year when President Vladimir Putin gave up on talking to Ukraine’s leadership and made his decisive move to return it by force to Russia’s orbit? He triggered a serious war scare in March and April of this year, but for some unknown reason decided not to move ahead with re-invading a vulnerable, much smaller neighbor. Now, Putin is once again moving troops near the border with Ukraine. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has suggested that Russia may be laying a trap for Ukraine that intentionally provokes Russia into invading. Seasoned observers of the Russian military are warning that the possibility of war may be higher now than in the spring.

Putin has also stepped up his rhetoric about Ukraine in multiple public appearances during 2021. He has hinted broadly that his patience with Kyiv is running out. A careful review of the Russian leader’s record with respect to Ukraine…

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