A quote from a Reuters article on Feb 21, 2022:

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the deployment of troops to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine after recognizing them as independent on Monday, accelerating a crisis the West fears could unleash a major war.

It seems implied that Russia sending troops into Ukraine is not considered an invasion. Why is this? The article seems to continue to hope for peace.

  • 13
    Not explicitly naming something an invasion doesn't imply it is not an invasion. At most, it is circumnavigating the decision how to qualify it. So you could have asked "why is reuters avoiding to call the Russian troop deployment to Ukrainian territory an invasion?" Commented Feb 24, 2022 at 12:04
  • 9
    Reuters headline at this moment is "Russia Invades Ukraine" so this question may now be moot. Commented Feb 24, 2022 at 20:26
  • 2
    If I piss on your leg and tell you that it's raining, do you have to believe me?
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 24, 2022 at 23:38
  • @MarkBeadles : the difference is that now Russia has troops in the rest of Ukraine, not only in the breakaway regions. When the article in the question was written, that was not yet the case.
    – vsz
    Commented Feb 25, 2022 at 7:13
  • This terminology is only a smoke screen for obvious fact that the invasion was started. I can understand why it's used by russian propaganda, but western media agency should named it properly, it's war. Tactic used in the past by Russia many times, not to name invasion of Poland in 1939, under the pretext of protection of civilians. Hoping that the situation won't escalate like to then, to world war. Commented Feb 25, 2022 at 14:22

2 Answers 2


If the breakaway 'republics' are sovereign, which Russia now accepts but which the international community does not accept, Russia would be defending two allies at the invitation of those allies. Not an invasion.

If the independence declarations are invalid, which most of the international community believes, Russia is invading a sovereign nation.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – CDJB
    Commented Feb 22, 2022 at 22:23
  • 1
    If Belarus is recognised internationally as sovereign, can it retain that status if used as the springboard for a Russian invasion of its sovereign neighbour Ukraine? Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 13:54
  • 12
    @MarkMorganLloyd I don't see a problem here. It is common for two nations to cooperate in a military attack against a third party. It is up to Belarus if it want to be part of such an attack, which will expose it to counter measures, from Ukraine and other countries. Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 14:16
  • 3
    @MarkMorganLloyd, of course it does. It does make Belarus complicit (ally/co-belligerent) in the attack.
    – o.m.
    Commented Feb 24, 2022 at 5:12
  • 3
    Saudi Arabia and other middle-eastern countries were used as staging posts in the US wars against Iraq. The US used the UK during World War Two as a location for many of its armed forces. It has no legal effect on sovereignty, although there may be other complications (e.g. retaliation, loss of status).
    – Stuart F
    Commented Feb 24, 2022 at 11:54

Part of what makes this question a bit thorny is the Western position that Russia already had troops in the breakaway regions. So arguably Russia sending in troops could be considered them bolstering that force rather than a proper invasion. The Biden White House itself at first avoided, in the words of Politico, "the 'i' word," and The Washington Post reported that the White House was "wrestling" over whether to call it an invasion and even suggesting to reporters that it might not be.

Still, the administration official repeatedly refused to say whether Putin’s decision to send “peacekeeping” troops into the two Russian-backed separatist areas constituted a red-line invasion in the eyes of the Biden administration. If anything, the official tried to portray Monday’s developments as far short of a dramatic change in the status quo.

“Russia has occupied these regions since 2014,” said the official, a point he emphasized several times throughout the call. “It has been Russia’s position that there are not Russian forces present in this part of the Donbas. The reality, as we pointed out on a number of occasions over these past years, has been quite different. There have been Russian forces present in these areas throughout.”

After the call, a different administration official defined a Russian invasion that would prompt a clear U.S. response as crossing into Ukrainian territory that Russia has “not occupied since 2014.”

This would make sense on its face. When the United States sent a surge of troops to Iraq in 2007, was that an "invasion"? Common usage of the word would suggest, no, the term is reserved for the initial deployment of forces in 2003.

But as of this morning (February 22, 2022), the Biden White House has begun to use the term "invasion." An official told the AP that "The White House decided to begin referring to Russia’s actions as an 'invasion' because of the situation on the ground... The administration resisted initially calling the deployment of troops because the White House wanted to see what Russia was actually going to do. After assessing Russian troop movements, it became clear it was a new invasion, the official added." But mostly this was done for practical reasons: the West set "invasion" as a red line that would trigger certain sanctions, and the Russian aggression is bad enough that they would like to put those sanctions in place. The Biden White House is not terribly invested in whether Russia's actions fit the dictionary definition of "invasion."

It's worth noting that the Western internal debate is not actually that deferential to the Russian position, since if these actions aren't an "invasion", that's only because the "invasion" was in 2014. Either way, a whole bunch of Ukrainian territory is transferring to Russian control, and the Russian Army is doing it.

  • 2
    This is the critical point, not the points in the accepted answer. If the independence declarations are invalid, then this still isn't an invasion. The invasion happened in 2014.
    – Nick S
    Commented Feb 22, 2022 at 16:49
  • So the invasion happened in 2014 and the occupation lasted at least until now and recently got strongly intensified. However, invasions of further areas might follow. Commented Feb 22, 2022 at 17:07
  • 2
    What about Kosovo, instead of Iraq?
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Feb 22, 2022 at 20:39
  • 3
    @EarlGrey The old one was in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea. The use of the term 'annex' here is misleading. The majority of the international community does not believe that the annexation of Crimea is valid, so instead it is more like occupied territory. So the invasion in 2014 turned to occupation. Using the word annex may imply a sense of legitimacy or finality to the issue.
    – David S
    Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 21:23
  • 1
    I think everyone is calling it an invasion now as they have expanded the area.
    – Joe W
    Commented Feb 24, 2022 at 20:48

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .