Thursday, January 20, 2022
I wrote – Hoda El-Shimy:
Tensions between Ukraine and Russia are at their highest in years, especially after the buildup of Russian forces near the two countries’ borders raised fears of a possible invasion from Moscow.
Ukraine has warned that Russia may try to destabilize it ahead of any planned military invasion, and Western powers and the United States have warned Russia against taking more aggressive action against Ukraine.
For its part, the Kremlin denies planning an attack and says NATO support for Ukraine, including its increased arms supply and military training, poses a growing threat to Russia.
Below we go over the most important information we know about climbing on the Ukrainian-Russian border.
What is the situation at the border?
Both the United States and NATO have described the movements and influx of troops on the Russian-Ukrainian border as extraordinary.
Moscow has massed up to 100,000 Russian troops on the Ukrainian border, despite warnings from US President Joe Biden and European leaders of dire consequences if Moscow tries to invade kyiv.
Russian intelligence expects Russia to launch an invasion of Ukraine as early as 2022.
And US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Wednesday that Russia had stepped up its threats and amassed nearly 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border, and the number of troops could double before long.
In late 2021, satellite images showed Russian equipment, including self-propelled guns, battle tanks and war vehicles, in motion at a training ground about 300 kilometers from the border.
According to the latest intelligence assessment from the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, Russia has so far deployed more than 127,000 troops near Ukraine, including around 21,000 air and naval forces, and moved more missiles to the border. .
US officials expect the Russian invasion of Ukraine to occur anytime over the next two months.
What does Russia say?
The Kremlin has repeatedly stressed that Russia has no plans to invade Ukraine, insisting that Moscow does not constitute any identification and that the country is moving its forces to its territory.
Moscow views NATO support for Ukraine, including weapons and personnel training, as a threat to its security. He also accused kyiv of increasing the number of its forces in view of an attempt to take over the Donbass region, which Ukraine denies.
Putin also said NATO’s deployment in Ukraine of advanced weapons such as missile systems would cross a red line for Ukraine.
Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said last November that the United States and other NATO countries were supplying kyiv with arms and military advice, “all this will only worsen the situation in the border”.
What does Ukraine say?
The Ukrainian government insists that Moscow cannot prevent Kyiv from establishing strong ties with NATO if it wishes.
In a statement to CNN, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said, in response to Russia’s calls for NATO to stop its eastward expansion, that Russia could not prevent Ukraine from moving closer to NATO and had no say in related discussions.
Meanwhile, Kyiv insists Moscow is seeking to destabilize the country, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said a coup plot plotted by Ukrainians and Russians has come to light.
According to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, the coup attempt could be part of Russia’s plan before the military invasion. He said: “External military pressure goes hand in hand with an attempt at internal destabilization.
At the same time, Zelensky’s government faces many challenges on many fronts. The government’s popularity declined amid challenges and a dire economic situation.
Moreover, the Ukrainian people were frustrated that the government had not kept its promises and had been unable to end the conflict in the east of the country.
What does NATO say?
“Russia will pay a heavy price” if it invades Ukraine again, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.
“We have a wide range of options, economic sanctions, financial sanctions and political restrictions,” Stoltenberg said in an interview with CNN last December.
After Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, NATO reinforced its defenses with “combat-ready battlegroups in the eastern part of the alliance, the Baltic states, Latvia and the Black Sea”.
Ukraine is not a member of NATO and therefore does not enjoy the same security benefits as its members.
But Stoltenberg gave Ukraine the option of becoming a member of NATO.
What did the United States say?
President Joe Biden assured his Ukrainian counterpart earlier this month that the United States and its allies would respond decisively to Russia should it attempt to invade Ukraine, and reiterated his warning today.
But it appears – according to CNN – that Biden has backtracked on his position, especially after indicating at a White House press conference that if Moscow makes a slight inroad, Washington’s response will not be strong.
And while Biden has pledged to impose tough economic sanctions on Russia if Putin sends his troops across the border, including limiting his U.S. dollar money transfers, he noted that Western countries have yet to s agree on an appropriate response in the event of a minor violation. .
Biden pointed to the differences between NATO countries in their response to the Russian invasion and said, “It depends on what happens.”
“President Biden has been clear with the Russian President that if Russian military forces cross the Ukrainian border, it is an invasion, and it will be met with a swift, clear and united response from the United States. and their allies,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
The Obama administration was surprised when Ukraine invaded Crimea in 2014, supporting rebels in the Donbass region in the east of the country.
US officials have said they are determined that Russia will not surprise them with another military operation.
Biden added that the economic response in question “was made very clear to President Putin.”
The US president stressed that Russia would pay a “heavy price” if Putin decided to invade.
On Thursday, the US Treasury announced the imposition of sanctions on four Ukrainians it said were involved in Russian Federal Intelligence Service operations aimed at undermining the Ukrainian government and economy, AFP reported.
Two of the four current parliamentarians and the other two are former officials who “acted on the instructions of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB)” and are “engaged in Russian government influence activities to destabilize Ukraine” .
What are the other factors?
Tensions in Kazakhstan, the former Soviet state, were bad news for Putin at the start of 2022.
In early January, Kazakhstan witnessed violent protests calling on the Kazakh government to step down, prompting authorities to declare a state of emergency and deploy forces from a Russian-led military coalition to help contain the unrest.
Experts warned that Russian interference was not the end of the story: “Once the Russians are in your house, it’s hard to persuade them to leave,” Blinken said.
Energy supply cannot be overlooked, as Ukraine sees the Stream 2 gas pipeline directly linking gas supplies from Russia to Germany as a threat to its security.
Nord Stream 2 is one of two undersea pipelines from Russia in the Baltic Sea to the network of traditional onshore pipelines that cross Eastern Europe, including Ukraine.
Kyiv sees the pipelines as a defense against Russian gas, especially since any military action risks disrupting the vital flow of gas into Europe.
US analysts and projects have raised concerns that Nord Stream 2 will increase Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and could allow Moscow to automatically target countries like Ukraine and threaten to cut energy.
In May 2021, the Biden administration lifted sanctions on the company behind Nord Stream 2, giving it the green light to do anything, and US officials say the move is in the interest of national security. of the United States as it seeks to rebuild strained relations with Germany.
Last November, the United States imposed new sanctions on a Russian-linked entity and a ship linked to Nord Stream 2. At the same time, some senators called for more sanctions to prevent Russia from using the pipeline as a weapon, and Ukraine also called for tougher measures.