An extensive Russian invasion of Ukraine remains unlikely, with efforts to find diplomatic solutions to be retained, foreign policy expert Kadri Liik said on ERR's "Välisilm" foreign affairs program.
Liik said that Russia's meetings with U.S., NATO and OSCE representatives last week went pretty much as anticipated.
"Russia tabled its desires and demands and the West rejected them. I think little else was expected," Liik said.
"It seems that this week will be quiet. Everyone is waiting to see what will come next. I think we have not seen the final chapter of diplomacy. Moscow is awaiting U.S. proposals, and something might be coming from Washington. We have to wait and see their response," she added.
The expert said that because Russian President Vladimir Putin has the final word, everyone seems to be waiting on him.
Liik does not believe Russia's ultimatums were aimed at invading Ukraine should the West refuse.
"Personally, I do not believe Russia would stage a major land invasion of Ukraine. Using the forces currently stationed on the border. I find it would be insane and also fail to benefit Putin domestically," she said.
"I believe this ultimatum-like proposal was a test to see what the West is wiling to discuss. And indeed, a very broad range of topics was opened. To gauge what could be realistically achieved. I also believe that the Russian diplomats who wrote and tabled the proposals do not know the Kremlin's endgame and the options being discussed there."
Liik also said she believes testing the West's unity was not Russia's goal. "I don't think the West's unity is the fundamental issue here. Of course it remained united. What else could it do when faced with a Russian ultimatum? The main question is of realistic levers the West has to dictate terms to Russia. Unity alone will not cause Russia to waver," she said.
The expert suggested that while the West may be open to discussing arms control measures, NATO will not officially give up its eastward expansion.
"I don't see the West ever declaring the Bucharest Declaration null and void or announcing that NATO will not expand further. While I do believe an unformal agreement of that nature to be feasible. And that the U.S. is willing to offer Russia something of the sort. Whether that will satisfy Putin I cannot say," Liik offered.
She said that the Russian society is not prepared for a major war and that, rather, the Ukraine issue matters to Putin personally, adding that a localized conflict could be more likely.
"Personally, I think that instead of a large-scale war – which I believe would be completely insane – we could imagine a more confined venture, giving Russia a bridgehead into Ukraine, facts on the ground to serve as new levers. I cannot offer a more specific description as I'm sure Russian defense planners have come up with several scenarios that are beyond my imagination. Something of this nature might be possible today, while such a possibility will also remain in the future.
Editor: Marcus Turovski