If the leaders are trying to boost their respective political fortunes, it’s a dangerous game
Russia’s deployment of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems in Crimea, announced on Wednesday, sounds worrying. The move comes days after Russian forces fired on Ukraine’s navy in the Kerch strait, prompting western condemnation and fears of a wider conflagration. At first glance, Vladimir Putin appears to have opted for defiance and escalation.
But first glances can be misleading. All parties to the Crimea-Donbass conflict have an interest in shaping outside perceptions, and not all is what it seems. In fact, Russia has stationed three S-400 missile battalions in Crimea since 2014, when it seized and illegally annexed the peninsula. It is now adding a fourth. It is not welcome news, but it is not necessarily a prelude to all-out war.