With the arrival of 2022, a year that will be dramatic for several reasons with Covid still raging, the discovery that Saudi Arabia is also building ballistic missiles with Chinese help, another huge asteroid is headed towards Earth (watch Don't Look Up on Netflix, an excellent movie about how the world reacts to such an event), there is the looming war between NATO and Russia over Ukraine.
Putin has nearly 100,000 troops all along the border regions that have been there for weeks. Troops come and go, but with such a massive force filled with hundreds of tanks, many fear Putin will invade the Ukraine again to bite off a larger chunk that could include Kiev. Putin could also take a slice to create a land corridor from Crimea to Odessa. The Crimea is in desperate need of clean water because since the 2014 war, the Ukraine has shut off the pipelines that carry clean water to that region.
Putin has demanded that a legal binding document be entered into between the NATO members and Russia stating that Ukraine will never be part of NATO, never have NATO troops based there, etc. If that happens, it will be a disgrace to all NATO members and a blow to the USA. That is precisely why it will never come to pass. The whole premise is an excuse for Putin to invade. Putin knows that NATO will never enter into such an agreement, thereby, giving Putin the excuse, he needs to tell his population why military action is now needed. He states that Russia is under siege from the border regions from NATO and that this cannot be tolerated any longer. Of Course, it is all Russian propaganda for his fellow Russians in order for his actions to be supported. In Russia, there is a steady diet of this type of rhetoric in the media to convince the population that it is Putin and Russia that is under attack!
Since 2015 ceasefire with Ukraine, nothing really has happened, Ukraine or NATO has not done anything to erode Russia's border. Ukraine or NATO has no need to encroach on Russia's border. This is all in Putin's paranoia and his legacy. He wants to be the man to regain part of Ukraine, once the cherished province of the USSR before 1990. Putin simply sees an opportunity to take some of it back and is preparing the Russians for it.
So, after January 10th, when the USA and Russia talk about what Putin wants, both sides will walk away with nothing more than before. Putin will be able to tell his population that he tried in vain to reach an agreement with NATO and now there is no other choice but to use force.
Many experts feel that such an invasion or incursion will occur sometime in the last two weeks of January. Should it happen, NATO will have to decide how to react because most think that the Ukraine military can only last a week at maximum against the well equipped Russian army. Since NATO will not intervene, would the USA do so unilaterally? Probably not, not after the Afghanistan debacle. Economic sanctions on Russia and Putin, himself, are said to far worse than before, especially with cutting off international banking and related functions. But Putin knows this, so before he makes a move, he is probably doing what he can to minimize the sanctions impact that would hurt Russia and have a backup plan for Russia to follow.
If Putin decides not to invade, he will lose face with Russian people after such a big build up of military force and idle threats of invasion. This would be something Putin could not tolerate. So, it seems an invasion must happen barring the NATO agreement that he wants but knows it will never happen.
Russia could also retaliate by stopping the flow of natural gas from the pipelines to Europe and Germany. While its revenue would be missed, the problems it would cause are enormous for Europeans who rely on it to heat their homes. He could use the cutoff as a bargaining tool to get NATO into that agreement that he wants.
The year 2022 will start off with a bang and the Ukraine issue is just the first of many.