Russia’s three-month-long buildup of military forces along Ukraine’s borders culminated in a flurry of activity over the weekend that revealed the full scope of Vladimir Putin’s intentions. For all the preamble, though, the way Russia went about securing its illegitimate territorial ambitions was more terrible than many observers allowed themselves to imagine.

In an unexpected move, Moscow’s assault on the post-Cold War geopolitical order began with the reintegration of Belarus into the Russian mandate. The so-called military exercises Russia was conducting inside Belarus would continue indefinitely, Moscow announced, and Russia would maintain a permanent troop presence inside the country. Thus, lacking an independent foreign policy or domestic policy and being beholden to Russia to ensure the stability of Alexander Lukashenko’s regime in Minsk, Belarus has become a satrap. One down; one to go.

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