1 The Russian economy. Putin and his entourage “are beginning to understand that the economic problems” Russia faces now are fundamentally different and much worse than those of 2008. They are “serious and long-term,” and consequently, the Kremlin wants to divert Russian attention from those to a foreign enemy lest protests against itself start up.
2 The European Union. It is now clear that “no one intends to lift the sanctions against the Russian Federation” anytime soon. As a result, Vorobyev says, “Putin decided to launch an asymmetrical military strike not only against Ukraine but also to ‘show his teeth’ to the entire West,” lest the West disconnect Russia from the SWIFT banking system or do something else.
3 The Minsk Agreements. Neither Moscow nor its clients in the Donetsk or Luhansk is going to observe the September 5 accords. “Putin needs a new Minsk and new accords that will be even more unfavorable for Ukraine. Therefore, his ‘force them to peace’ effort began earlier than planned.
4 The Donetsk airport. The airport had become “a symbol of the steadfast nature of Ukrainian forces” and at the same time a very public indication of the weakness of the Russian side. That was too much for Putin and those around him and consequently, Vorobyev says, Moscow decided to intervene more massively and publicly than before.
5 The United States. Not only is military assistance beginning to reach Ukraine, but the prospects are that there will be more of it now that the Republicans control Congress and Senator John McCain heads the defense committee. As a result, the situation for Russia in Ukraine is likely to worsen, and “the Kremlin decided to attack now.”
6 Financial Assistance to Ukraine. The IMF, the World Bank and the US are beginning to provide the level of assistance to Kyiv that may allow Ukraine to avoid a default. Given that “the main goal of the Kremlin today is to weaken the economy as much as possible” before that aid arrives, Putin decided to move.