Putin Cards on the Table for Invading Ukraine
TLDRUpFront: Over the course of a single day President Putin of Russia officiated a “discussion” of Russian national security advisors all advising him to do what he already wanted: recognize separatist republics of Donatesk and Luhansk as independent sovereign states under threat of genocide from Ukraine. By the end of the day he had set the path to war by ordering Russian troops into Donbas as peacekeepers though the precise date of the start of conflict remains unknown.
Beginning Monday Morning staged a televised national security council meeting to make a case very similar to the below for war. As carefully choreographed ‘debate’ unfoled it seemed design to bolster the narrative of the cards Putin was holding in his hand to justify invasion. Namely that:
“A Russian criminal investigation into a mass grave will find proof of genocide by Ukrainian military against Donetsk separatist men, women, and children. Putin will take this investigation result and use it as justification to recognize the independence of two breakaway Russian-speaking Republics in the Donbas region of Ukraine. Meanwhile, he will point out that even as Russia was withdrawing its military forces – Ukraine was stepping up attacks against rebels. These attacks are just the prelude to a massive Ukrainian military strike the aims of which will be nothing less than the genocidal decimation of Russian-speaking separatists. Putin will claim Russian military forces must protect the now independent Russian-speakers of the Republics, Under that pretext, a Russian invasion occurs.”
Putin’s regime officials took him on a Ptomekin village tour of every element of this narrative necessary to provide the pretext he was looking for. Observers noted that despite being proclaimed as “live” the footage was obviously taped as watches on participants didn’t match local time. The debate also had all the ambiguity of how it would end as the Oedipus play. You got the sense everyone knew where it was going. Surrounded by his own superdelegates Putin heard only what he wanted to hear and chastised those who didn’t immediately and enthusiastically toe the party line. The best coverage of the blow-by-blow debate, including profiles of the key personalities in Putin’s regime comes from the Moscow Times 
What does this mean for China and Taiwan?
The question has been circling for a week now – if President Putin moves on Ukraine will President Xi of China move on Taiwan? I feel very different circumstances in play. Although the comparison is obvious – the logistics of executing a similar move are a lot different. Seaborne invasions into a 100% hostile territory are a lot different than building land based groups on three sides in friendly nations and being able to move forward from there into more-or-less friendly areas in the Donbas and Crimea before having to engage in conventional actions. I don’t see it as a question of nerves. When China wants to move it will move. But I just don’t think the PLA has the capabilities for those kinds of scenarios yet, though they’re working on it.