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Russia vs NATO – who will back down first? Two scenarios that could prompt either to yield

Russia: Putin is ‘exacerbating problem’ says retired general

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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is fast approaching its third month, and during that time Moscow and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) have been involved in a series of sabre rattling exercises against one another. The latest development has seen Finland and Sweden apply for NATO membership, antagonising officials at the Kremlin, who issued a fresh warning.

The decision by the respective Governments in Finland and Sweden to join the military alliance was prompted by Russia invading Ukraine last February.

US President Joe Biden has said the Nordic nations have his “full, total and complete backing”, despite Russia previously warning against the move.

On Friday, Moscow announced its response and said that “12 military units and divisions will be established” in the North West of the country.

The back and forth retaliations are just the latest in the two powers jostling for position on the international stage.

So, what would it take for either Russia or NATO to concede ground to each other?

The looming threat of nuclear weapons and their use in combat provides a stern enough deterrent for both sides not to engage in an all-out conflict.

Russia has in part escaped direct involvement from NATO in the Ukraine war thanks to Kyiv not being a member of the alliance or the European Union (EU).

According to NATO’s official charter, member countries are only required to come to the defence of a fellow ally when they face military aggression.

Because of this Russia may elect not to launch similar incursions into nearby countries, such as the Baltic nations.

But if President Putin was to invade another non-NATO country the alliance would once again be left with a decision to make regarding its level of involvement.

For example, in the past month several mysterious explosions in the breakaway Moldovan territory, Transnistria, have prompted fears that Moscow was setting the foundations for a new invasion.

The region is predominantly Russian speaking and already has a garrison of 1,500 troops from Moscow stationed there.

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Internationally, it’s recognised as part of Moldova but since 1992 it’s been under the control of separatists in a de-facto Government.

Even though Russia does not officially recognise Transnistria as an independent country, it retains its autonomy today thanks largely to the military support provided by the Russian army.

In an effort to prevent war breaking out on a global scale members of NATO might adopt a similar stance to what’s currently being seen in Ukraine.

But doing so could set a dangerous precedent and offer encouragement to any long-term ambitions President Putin might harbour.

If the war in Ukraine continues to drag on, Russia may also offer concessions with regards to its military objectives.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence has claimed more than 25,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the war to date.

Moscow denies the figures but its progress in the country has been confined to the East.

Indeed, the Kremlin could decide to halt its advance at this point and seek a breakaway agreement with Kyiv.

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