Why Putin is in the driving seat when it comes to Ukraine

Fiona Hill, a former White House advisor specialising in Russian affairs, gives an insight into Putin's mind

Words by ITV News US producer Alex Chandler

In Washington, officials are watching developments on the Russia-Ukraine border with continued concern.

Trying to read President Putin's military strategy is the number one priority for the White House, State Department and Pentagon. Their message has been clear and consistent - Russia must de-escalate or face devastating consequences. But are the US playing their cards right? Fiona Hill's knowledge of Ukraine and insights into Russia's power play tactics were on full view during Donald Trump's first impeachment hearings. Now, with Russia apparently pursuing a high risk strategy in defiance of the West, the former White House advisor believes there is a danger of underestimating President Putin's real agenda.

She said it is the Russian president who is in control of the crisis's timeline, and that after 22 years in power his intentions for Ukraine are clear. "His intention is to get a grip on Ukraine and make sure it stays in Russia's orbit, doesn't join NATO and has no independence in terms of foreign or security policy," Ms Hill told ITV News. She added that the world is witnessing classic Putin strategy - looking for divisions in Europe and NATO - and requires a united response. "It's a difficult problem we could be dealing with for a very long time. We need flexibility, strategic patience...we need to be very careful not to paint ourselves into a corner," she said.

Ukrainian soldiers train amid the threat of a potential invasion.

Ultimately, Ms Hill believes Putin wants a deal and feels he can get one from President Biden, someone the Russians have been aware of throughout his decades-long political career.

However, Putin may decide that the risk of sanctions and the resulting economic and diplomatic pain are worth the prize of extending Russian influence over Eastern Europe. Finding a peaceful solution could depend on accepting or rejecting Russia's central aim - to re-establish control over territory that was once a key part of the old Soviet Union.