It's still Putin's move

There is very little outside actors can do at this point to shape Moscow's decision-making

Vladimir Putin.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock)

It has begun. The invasion that the Biden administration has been warning daily is imminent has commenced, with Russian troops entering the Donbas region of Ukraine to support its separatists — whose claims to independence President Vladimir Putin recognized minutes before.

So far, nothing that has happened is particularly unprecedented — which is why the Western reaction has also been appropriately measured so far. The world is dotted with breakaway regions that are recognized by some governments but not by others. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, for example, carved out by a Turkish invasion aimed at preventing the island from unifying with Greece, has never been recognized by anyone but Turkey in the nearly 50 years that it has existed. The Republic of China on Taiwan is officially recognized only by a handful of small countries — even the United States, which is increasingly committed to its defense, does not recognize it as an independent country.

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