Great NY Times article on the opening of the war

” It was early November 2021. The United States believed Mr. Putin was considering a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Mr. Burns explained. If he proceeded down this path, Mr. Burns warned, the West would respond — decisively, in unison — and the consequences for Russia would be severe.

Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Mr. Putin’s security council, stiffened and looked Mr. Burns in the eye, officials in the room said. He abandoned his notes and extolled the prowess of Russia’s armed forces. They had been so thoroughly modernized under Mr. Putin that they now rivaled the United States militarily, he said.

“Patrushev didn’t qualify it,” said John Sullivan, the American ambassador to Russia at the time, who was there. “He was just looking at Burns and saying: ‘We can do this. We’re back.’ The way I would describe it was that this was already decided, and they were supremely confident. His message was, ‘It’s not going to be a problem for us to do what we want to do.’”

Mr. Burns briefed Mr. Biden upon his return to Washington, officials said. Mr. Putin had all but made up his mind to take over Ukraine, Mr. Burns told him, and the Russians had absolute confidence victory would come swiftly.

. . . .

Another magnate recalled realizing — too late — that Mr. Putin was parading them in front of the television cameras, for all the world to see, for a carefully planned purpose. The point was “specifically to tar everyone there,” he said, “to get everyone sanctioned.”

There was no going back. They, like the rest of Russia, were in this with Mr. Putin now. ”