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Opinion
Leonid Bershidsky

Putin’s Priority Is Selling Gas, Not Waging War

Russia knows that a military invasion of Ukraine could scupper its Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which still awaits German regulatory approval.

Putin’s top priority. 

Putin’s top priority. 

Photographer: Carsten Koall/Getty Images Europe

A Russian military build-up on the border with Ukraine and the continuing refugee crisis on the Belarus-Polish border, in which the Kremlin has sided with Belarus, once again raise a perennial question: What is President Vladimir Putin up to? Could some kind of kinetic Russian power play be in the cards?

Given the Kremlin’s long-standing opacity and the concentration of power in Putin’s hands, answering that question often feels like a mind-reading exercise. This time around, however, putting the Kremlin’s foreign policy goals in order of priority might help lighten observers’ hearts, at least temporarily.