RELEASE: The First Time Putin Tried to Invade a Foreign Country

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Contact: Anne Shoup
Phone: 202.481.7146

Washington, D.C. — Today, as the world community tries to interpret the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin in regards to the political crisis in Ukraine, the Center for American Progress released an analysis looking at the roots of Putin’s regional adventurism, tracing back to his involvement in a dangerous plan to push Russian soldiers in Kosovo ahead of NATO peacekeepers.

The following is an excerpt from the piece by John Norris, Executive Director of the Sustainable Security and Peacebuilding Initiative at the Center for American Progress:

“Vladimir Putin would become Russia’s president just months later, and the effort to push troops into Kosovo ahead of NATO became something of a template for his future actions in the Near Abroad. Instead of concluding that the operation had been a dangerous fiasco, he saw a plan that would have worked if it had not been thwarted by the need for overflight clearance from what had once been reliable satellite states such as Romania, Hungary, and Ukraine. He seemed to conclude that even though Russia was weak at the negotiating table compared to the United States and the European Union, it could still achieve its strategic aims by being willing to embrace the adventurism that had always been the hallmark of the KGB and its successor, the FSB.”

The analysis offers the following lessons that the U.S. can learn from Putin’s first major foray into the world stage:

“Russia’s botched Kosovo invasion should offer insight to the United States and its NATO allies on how to deal with Putin. General Jackson had the right approach, not General Clark. Washington should not try to outgun Russia in Ukraine or Georgia. A hot war is in no one’s best interest. But Russia can be isolated—and the best way for the West to isolate Putin is to use modern tools. Washington should aggressively pursue the oligarchs that ring-fence Putin’s leadership with sanctions and investigations into their taxes, transactions, and financial safe havens. We should more carefully circumscribe the opulent world they inhabit. Russia’s robber barons should think twice before getting on a plane and heading for a weekend at the foreign casino, and they should understand that Putin’s choices cost them both money and opportunities.

Washington should deny Russia the prestige of belonging to the G-8 or hosting major international gatherings. This would be a symbolic step, but we know that Putin cares about symbolism and how Russia is seen on the world stage. Pretending to casually retrieve ancient artifacts from the Black Sea and posing bare-chested in hunting gear for photographers are hardly the actions of a man who does not care what others think about him and his country.

Finally, the United States and the European Union need to embrace the modernity, democracy, and temperance of response that made them a beacon for Eastern Europe in the first place. Putin may eventually seize Crimea, but he has likely lost much more in the process. And for the record, the last Russian troops left Kosovo in 2003, five years before that country’s independence.”

Read the full analysis: The First Time Putin Tried to Invade a Foreign Country by John Norris

To speak to an expert, contact Anne Shoup at or at 202.481.7146.


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