Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (Reuters)
The deepening of the political and military movements of the last four weeks in Eastern Europe have triggered several alarms in the international community. The crisis around Moscow and Kiev, which manifests itself through warmongering speeches with an epicenter in the Russian capital, has escalated dangerously and was exacerbated like never before by massive movements of troops and military supplies around the Ukrainian border.
The sudden movement of the Russian armed forces in recent days has sharply aggravated tensions on the eastern border with Ukraine. The international community has well-founded reasons to believe that this scenario is the most serious of the seven years that the Russo-Ukrainian controversy has been going on. The current moment presents more complex and dangerous edges than the incident in April 2021, when a series of military skirmishes left two Ukrainian soldiers dead.
British diplomacy told its American counterparts that there are elements to believe that Vladimir Putin is willing to go further than any strategy shown in the past with Kiev. However, the suspicions of Washington and London in the face of a probable military offensive that Moscow may launch to penetrate eastern Ukraine in order to annex that area to Russian territory is not entirely clear, nor is there any certainty that it may occur, and many believe that Putin is showing his muscle but he knows exactly how far to tighten the rope. However, Vladimir Putin’s intelligence should never be underestimated, much less his strategy in defending Russia’s political and economic interests.
In this framework, the White House was convinced that Russia will deepen what it called aggressive behavior and at odds with international law. Thus, last Tuesday Secretary Antony Blinken was in charge of distributing to the press a statement where the position of the Biden administration is clearly stated in his thinking: For President Biden, the military aid sent to Ukraine is justified by virtue of the conduct Moscow’s aggressive approach, given that Russia is executing a specific threat that could lead to a military escalation between the two countries with serious implications for third states.
At the same time, both capitals allied with Kiev – Washington and London – promised to respond to the Russian threat by providing all the support at their disposal to protect and defend the legality and sovereignty of Ukraine and called on Russia to immediately stop the aggressiveness of their actions, which they describe as illegal. However, Vladimir Putin is clear about his policies and knows what the strategy is to achieve them successfully; which should not be taken by US or British security advisers to mean that Putin will go to war.
There is no doubt about the strategic interest that Moscow assigns to Ukraine, but the pressure it is currently exerting must be interpreted as a desperate search by Russia for the international community to recognize a role in it, something that was never granted to it after the fall of the former USSR. It is within this framework and not in another game of interests that the West must focus on resolving and neutralizing the current crisis to avoid an unnecessary military escalation. This point seems to have been understood by former President Trump’s administration in its time, much as did former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who allowed some flexibility in Russian policies and business in the Middle East and Central Asia without stifling Putin’s economic needs. Hence, the current controversy and the central problem of the ongoing crisis is related to the little or no understanding of the European leadership and the Biden administration on the above.
The relevant starting point in understanding the current Russian-Ukrainian escalation that the West must work on is the end of what is known as hybrid warfare, according to which Moscow intervenes and acts in Ukraine through a double energy . In a first scenario, it does so through unconventional armed groups (networks of its intelligence service); and in a second aspect, through its military forces. Thus, in the current geopolitical equation, a logical question arises, and that is if international law qualifies the Russian actions as aggression and the evidence shows that Russia is waging a hybrid war in Ukraine, then why does the international community not recognize clearly the existence of a war between the two states and holds Moscow responsible as the primary aggressor?
The answer to such a question lacks clarity in European capitals as well as in Washington. However, it can be found in the dynamics and mutation of that war, which is related in everyday life to technological, economic, social, and political realities and, above all, to the clear power imbalances that characterize the management of the international community. Thus, neither Russia nor the West seems interested in acknowledging an inter-state war, even though it exists in what can be called a shell state.
Thus, at this time, it is undeniable that some factors on the ground lead us to consider a possible Russian invasion in the near future. Russia is not going through its best economic moment, however a military offensive on Ukraine would surely revitalize the image and popularity of Vladimir Putin within his country, and if the Russian military forces cross the border, intervening in Ukraine, the international community will be witness of the beginning of a new phase of the conflict, something that the German newspaper Die Welt editorialized on Thursday as the worst crisis since the start of World War II, given the very serious implications it would generate for international security.
In this sense, the European position must be clear in pointing out Russia’s responsibility in a new movement to intimidate the Ukrainian government and people through a position of strength to dissuade the Kiev authorities and break their will based on the interests Moscow political and economic But more importantly, at the same time, Putin is seeking to test the reaction and positioning of the US administration of President Joe Biden.
NATO and Washington must also consider Russia’s never-resigned plans to resume its decision-making relevance in the territories of its former area of influence, particularly the power exercised by Moscow over the republics that made up the mosaic of the former USSR until 1991. In this sense, a leaked document from the NATO external security office of May 2021 appears to be very relevant, pointing out the inconvenience of some decisions of the European Union (EU) in imposing sanctions on a dozen very high-ranking Russian officials. close to Putin, those sanctions limited financial operations and business with Russian banks and energy companies. This was followed by the threat to block the Norte Stream 2 gas pipeline, which was just repeated 48 hours ago and which inexorably generated an unfriendly reaction from the Putin government. With these measures, which pose strong threats to Moscow, both the EU and NATO placed Russia in a situation of confinement that made a more aggressive reaction foreseeable and far from the conciliatory perspective that would lead to the resolution of the old regional conflicts.
To these situations – irritating in Putin’s opinion – must be added the request of the President of Ukraine, Volodimir Zelenski, in the presence of Russian troops on the border of his country officially requesting the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO) the integration of Ukraine to the organization as a dissuasive measure towards Moscow, and to put an end to what it considers an illegitimate aggression by Russia. The Ukrainian president’s request for his country to be incorporated into NATO manifested the search for a protective umbrella that would block any future Russian attack or invasion attempt. But Zelensky’s request for Ukraine to become a full member of the Northern Alliance never materialized, and all NATO offered Ukraine was moral support, logistics, and now military supplies. However, the truth is that it was the United States that rejected Ukraine’s integration into NATO at the time, and it did so precisely because it had no interest in stopping the ongoing hybrid war, which is tacitly accepted by the West but also by the Washington’s lack of interest in getting involved in that region of Eastern Europe.
Thus, the history of Eastern Europe since the fall of the former USSR shows that neither NATO nor the EU would include Russia’s neighboring countries in their cooperation programs until the ongoing conflicts of their territories (as is currently the case in Ossetia and Abkhazia).
Consequently, the West’s response – with some neutral exceptions by a few EU countries – for now does not go beyond diplomatic support for Ukraine in the face of the Russian advance, and at the same time, made it clear that it will not intervene directly in a potential conflict. In this way, those who oppose the Russian action are facilitating an open scenario for future confrontations in the framework of the ongoing regional hybrid war where the two countries do not seem to have the key to resolving the crisis in which Russia is not willing to back down. in its advance.
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