While the U.S. and the Western media blame Russia for building tensions with Ukraine because they have allegedly massed troops on its border, last week the Kremlin blamed Kyiv for increasing tension in the disputed Donbass region of Ukraine.
They claim Ukraine has deployed some 125,000 troops and heavy artillery to the region. Yet, the Western intelligence continues to claim, and the media continues to report that Russia is planning for an invasion.
Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman from the Kremlin, said the number of troops would represent half of the entire Ukrainian armed forces. Russia also accused Kyiv of using Turkish-made drones in the conflict zone to carry out “provocative activity.”
The U.S. and European allies have blamed Russia for stoking the tensions. The Washington Post obtained a U.S. intelligence document that said Moscow is preparing for a multi-front offensive as soon as early 2022, which could involve 175,000 troops.
“The plans involve extensive movement of 100 battalion tactical groups with an estimated 175,000 personnel, along with armor, artillery, and equipment,” an administration official told the paper.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters in Latvia, a former Soviet republic, that it was not certain that an invasion was imminent, but insisted that the U.S. “made clear that we will respond resolutely, including a range of high-impact economic measures that we have refrained from pursuing in the past.” (See “U.S. VOWS UKRAINE SUPPORT,” “BIDEN PLEDGES “UNWAVERING SUPPORT” FOR UKRAINE” and “BLINKEN BELLOWS: U.S. COMMITTED TO UKRAINE’S SOVEREIGNTY IS ‘IRONCLAD’.”)
He said the world has seen this Russian playbook in 2014, when Russia invaded, which precipitated years of conflict in Ukraine’s Donbass region between Russia-backed separatists and government troops that Kyiv said resulted in at least 14,000 deaths.
“Then as now they significantly increased combat forces along the border,” Blinken said. “Then as now they intensified disinformation to paint Ukraine as the aggressor to justify pre-planned military action.”
Blinken met with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, on Thursday and—once again—warned of “serious consequences” if Russia decides to confront Kyiv.
Lavrov maintained Russia’s position that it has no interest in war with Ukraine and warned Western countries about perceived aggression in the region.
“If NATO numbers continue to withdraw from the conversation on this topic or on the topic of agreements, the ideas of which were put forward by President Putin, of course we will take measures so that our security, our sovereignty, and territorial integrity do not depend on anyone,” he said, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Putin last week raised concerns about weapons systems being placed near Russia’s borders and called the move “red lines,” the paper said. He warned against putting similar missile systems that are already in place in Romania and Poland. He said Tomahawk missiles could hit Moscow in minutes, according to The Guardian. Putin is reportedly concerned about NATO’s move east, which included Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia being named member states.
Putin said Russia was able to harness hypersonic missile capabilities, which could counter the growing threat from Ukraine and its Western supporters. Putin called for legal assurances that NATO troops would never expand eastward, The New York Times reported.
“The threat on our western borders is, indeed, rising, as we have said multiple times,” Putin said, according to the paper. “In our dialogue with the United States and its allies, we will insist on developing concrete agreements prohibiting any further eastward expansion of NATO and the placement of weapons systems in the immediate vicinity of Russian territory.”
President Biden on Friday said that Russia’s objectives in the region are not a surprise.
“What I am doing is putting together what I believe will be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do,” Biden said.
Lavrov called the Biden administration’s sanction threat an example that “our Western colleagues have absolutely lost the culture of dialogue, the culture of diplomatic negotiations, reaching consensus, and the ability to creatively seek a balance of interests.”
TREND FORECAST: The U.S. will not go to war with Russia over Ukraine. The military in Ukraine is no match against the Russians, and its only hope for security in the future is to become a member of NATO, which Blinken did not indicate is any closer today than it was before Russians amassed at the border.
Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of NATO, has indicated that European defenses may not like it—but they certainly will not go to war to save Ukraine. He, too, vowed sanctions.
Ukraine’s fate may have been sealed when Stoltenberg said Tuesday that it is important to “distinguish between NATO allies” and a partner, like Kyiv.
“NATO allies, there we provide [Article 5] guarantees, collective defense guarantees, and we will defend and protect all allies. Ukraine is a partner, a highly valued partner,” he said.
Stoltenberg, who was in Riga when he made the comments, went further.
“There’s a difference between a partner Ukraine and an ally like, for instance, Latvia,” he said.
The New York Times reported that NATO countries are wary about accepting Ukraine as a full member because of the concern about a possible confrontation with Russia.
NATO’s top principle is if any member state is invaded by another country, they all take up arms. The U.S. is—by far—the most important member state. Moreover, the U.S. spends more on its military than double the rest of NATO combined.