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In recent news, Russia has been deploying its military near Ukraine in an effort to deter Ukraine from joining NATO. Russia has sent its requests to NATO and Russian president Putin has met American president Biden to discuss the build-up.

So the US clearly speaks for NATO (not surprising), and Russia acknowledges this by requesting dialogue with the US.

Given that, why is Russia deploying its military near Ukraine? If they want to pressure the US, they ought to deploy their military in the Russian far east, where the US (Alaska) is just across the Bering strait.

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  • I mean...they really gonna roll on Alaska? Canada might even have something to say about that. Ukraine is a much more credible target.
    – acpilot
    Jan 5 at 2:27
  • @acpilot Canada is part of NATO too, and I wonder how Alaskans would react if the US government decided their state was disposable.
    – Allure
    Jan 5 at 2:43
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This was already answered in a SE.History question, Why was the Cold War carried out over the whole world instead of between Siberia and Alaska?.

Short version of the answers:

  • Neither side was interested in direct confrontation and in fact wanted to avoid it.

  • Alaska/Siberia are extremely remote and are lousy places to invade or to stage invasions from.

Both reasons still hold in 2022 and, additionally, Russia is not trying to attack the US, merely bully Ukraine, keep it from joining NATO and distract from Putin's failures.

The answers in SE.History also go on about how nuclear weapons did not benefit from being sited in, or attacking, either Alaska or Siberia, which is less relevant in this context.

Additionally, Russia has nowhere near the amphibious and naval capability to project power across the Bering Sea (and probably would also lack the logistics to stage many troops in Siberia, something the US would also struggle to do in Alaska) so this would in no way be a credible threat.

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Russia wants to pressure NATO into respecting Russian security interests (red lines), which includes a privileged sphere of influence in their near abroad. Russia wants to dictate which alliances Ukraine may or may not join, and in general what kind of government the Ukraine may have.

As the Russian government sees it, the series of colour revolutions are an example of Western-forced regime change, and Western reactions to the 2011 election protests made them believe that Russia itself is another target. The West, meanwhile, believes that they are supporting Ukrainian (and Russian) civil society in accordance with the Helsinki process when that civil society democratically expresses their will.

Russia sees itself as the successor of the Soviet Union and Czarist Russia. The Czarist Empire never had a breakup like other multi-ethnic empires (Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire) because it became the Soviet Union first and then broke up along Soviet admimistrative boundaries, so there is a mismatch between Russian feelings of how much Empire they are due, and the feelings of the former subject peoples.

During a moment of weakness, Russia and others guaranteed the territorial integrity of Ukraine in exchange for Ukraine giving up to the ex-Soviet nuclear weapons. This was despite the Soviet Union having given Crimea to the Ukraine at a time when both were fellow Socialist Republics in the Union. Russia wanted Crimea back and took it, and it wanted to destabilize the pro-Western government of Ukraine and invaded.

You might read Chapter 7 of this RAND study. An American defense think-tank, but surprisingly understanding of the Russian viewpoint.

So to your question:

  • Both sides agree that violating the territorial integrity of a nuclear power would be a rather bad idea. They disagree if the Crimea is Russian territory. They agree that Alaska is American.
  • They disagree if Russia still has a privileged sphere of influence like the Soviet Union did during the Cold War. The flashpoints regarding this sphere of influence are mostly in the western part.
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  • How does this answer the question? I know why they are deploying; the question asks about where.
    – Allure
    Jan 4 at 6:34
  • @Allure, the last two bullet points should make this clear. I wanted to put parts like 'like the Soviet Union' or 'disagree if the Crimea is Russian' into context.
    – o.m.
    Jan 4 at 7:03

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