Political hot air
At the end of 2021 we could already feel the hot air of politics.
Tensions from the build-up of military forces on the Ukraine-Russia border have made their yearly return at the beginning of 2022, although they have recently been overshadowed by events in Kazakhstan.
Clearly Russia has a leader who does not want to give his position, nor would like to have a strong nation which flirts with NATO, at its doors.
For over a month, Washington has been insisting that reports about the amassing of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border mean that Putin is preparing to invade. Ever since the signing of the Minsk-2 agreement, which signalled the end of the most heated period of the Donbas civil war, threats of re-escalation have resurfaced on an approximately annual basis.
In 2015 the Russian president, at the high-profile annual press conference was asked about the possibility of a “new Cold War” and Russia’s aggressive moves around its Western borders. This year a similar question was asked and a similar answer given, Putin insisting that it was not him and his country being an aggressor, but that it was in fact the West who was being aggressive. This was emphasized by pointing out that there are a lot more American military bases abroad than Russian ones, and certainly a lot more American military personnel deployed close to Russia’s borders than the other way around. Though we from the West have knowledge of several other bases Russia has abroad, and how it uses its troops to build up at certain places to give signs to its neighbours that they have to be careful for whom they choose.
Before the Russian annexation of Crimea, Russia already had a military base on the peninsula, the majority of the population of which is Russian. The population of the rest of Ukraine is more than 15 times that of Crimea. While Russia would be able to invade Ukraine from a military point of view, it would be much more difficult to hold it.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a press conference on the results of Russia’s diplomatic activities in 2021that he expects clear answers from the United States and NATO.
“We expect our colleagues to give responses, written responses, putting their proposals on paper like we did. Meanwhile, we will certainly continue activities to make sure that we are prepared for any kind of developments,”
he pointed out.
“On the whole, we are confident that if there is goodwill and willingness to make compromises, then it’s always possible to find a mutually acceptable solution,”
the Russian top diplomat stressed.
The world needs a diplomatic solution for what is already building up since more than one year, but seems to come close to the top.
Lavrov noted that at the beginning of last year, Moscow and Washington had managed to extend the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) for five years without any conditions, which was what Russia had called for.
The Pentagon’s “Report on the Strategic Nuclear Forces of the Russian Federation Pursuant to Section 1240 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012” found that even if Russia did cheat and achieved a total surprise attack with a breakout force, it would have “little to no effect” on U.S. nuclear retaliatory capabilities.[Kristensen, Hans. “DOD: Strategic Stability Not Threatened Even by Greater Russian Nuclear Forces”. Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved 12 October 2012.]
The Russian foreign minister appreciated the steps by the Biden administration, one of the first taken after the formation of the Democratic administration. According to him, Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Joe Biden of the United States emphasised the need for dialogue on all issues related to strategic stability at their meeting in Geneva last June.
But, the behaviour of the US and NATO during talks on security guarantees with Russia in Geneva and Brussels brought the world closer to the brink of the nuclear war and further consultations can be useful only in case the West changes its approaches, representative of the Schiller Institute in New York Richard Black told TASS.
“What NATO and US have done from Monday through Wednesday [consultations with Russia were held on different floors from January 10 to 12 – TASS] on this going week is to bring the world close to the brink of nuclear war by insisting on the continuance of placing the weapons with nuclear strike capability not near but at Russia’s border,”
“What is needed is a new world security architecture, which guarantees all nations security and it includes Russia and the United States. West needs to give up its violent fantasy of getting win Russia and China,”
the expert noted.
“What is required is a new set of economic relations, which is based on the common development of the productive forces of both the East and West,”
“If there is change over the next hours or days coming from NATO and the US, then talks could be profitable. If not – then the likelihood of confrontation and nuclear war increases greatly.”
“Where we stand now is we are on the very brink of confrontation which can lead us to world war,”
Russia having manoeuvred troops around the Ukrainian border, should know there are many reasons why a full-scale invasion would be strategically disastrous from a Russian point of view. Before the Russian annexation of Crimea, Russia already had a military base on the peninsula, the majority of the population of which is Russian. The population of the rest of Ukraine is more than 15 times that of Crimea. While Russia would be able to invade Ukraine from a military point of view, it would be much more difficult to hold it.
For Putin, sabre-rattling at the border is convenient from the point of view of bolstering popular support at home, but an actual full-scale invasion could quickly backfire. Rather, these manoeuvres represent a Russian leverage tactic in its negotiations with the US – as they have for the last five years. Of the three parties – Washington, Moscow and Kiev – the Kiev government has the least say of the three.
Last weeks talks might have brought some better understandings but it did not give the citizens of Europe a better and safe feeling.
It seems too early to talk about a process. Mr Stoltenberg said the Russians were not yet ready to agree to a schedule of further meetings.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Russian TV
“I do not see reasons to sit down in the coming days, to gather again and start the same discussions.”
The Alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke of “a general willingness and support of the idea of dialogue” from his Russian interlocutors.
For the West, it’s all about preventing a Russian military incursion into Ukraine.
Russia, on the other hand, wants the world to show it is still a strong nation, prepared to secure its borders and giving a sign to ex-Soviet countries what the danger could be in case they intent to join the NATO. Preventing Ukraine from ever joining and, beyond that, rolling back the Alliance’s presence and activities on the territory of the old Soviet empire.
Putin, at last week’s press conference, wanted the journalists to see that it is Nato who is an aggressive presence in Europe, opposite Russia being the continent’s only real peacekeeper.
Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Alexander Grushko said
“If there is deterrence, there will be counter-deterrence.”
Ms Sherman noted that the Russian side had not ruled out holding more talks, but warned that if Russia walked away, it would be
“quite apparent that they were never serious about pursuing diplomacy at all”.
For NATO if Russia attacks Ukraine the Secretary-General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, admits
“In that case there will be consequences.”
Behind the curtains, it may look that certain countries are already preparing themselves for a coming war. Previously the Ukrainian males were called to be ready to defend their country, but now Ukraine required also women between the ages of 18 and 60 to register for the draft, including pregnant women and mothers with young children.
We also may not forget that NATO has already 13,000 troops, 200 tanks, 400 APCs and 3 dozen aircraft and helicopters stationed in Eastern Europe, and there are currently 10,000 NATO “instructors” in Ukraine (including 4,000 from the United States). In early December, the Greek port of Alexandroupolis received the largest shipment of U.S. military equipment in its history, including helicopters, UAVs, tanks, IFVs and artillery for the annual NATO exercise “Atlantic Resolve.”
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- Andy Walton’s Weekly World Watch of October 17 – 23, 2021
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