There are growing fears that Vladimir Putin could attack his democratic neighbor in a matter of weeks as Western nations scramble to talk to him.
Russia has gathered troops and sophisticated supply lines close to the border with Ukraine, which could see an invasion of the European nation as soon as next month.
This is Moscow’s possible game plan as frantic talks are taking place between world leaders to defuse the escalating crisis.
Defense watchers fear construction on Ukraine’s border is starting a propaganda war to justify further encroachment on the territory of its already free and democratic neighbor Moscow.
on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Joe Biden take part in a conference call The aim is to defuse the situation or at least tell Moscow that Washington will not invade Ukraine.
“There was no finger pointing, but the president was clear about where the United States stands on all of these issues,” US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters after the call.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky alleged that not only is military action possible, but a Russian-backed coup aimed at toppling his government.
“The most likely time to reach escalation readiness would be the end of January,” Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksey Reznikov said last week.
Russia warns it won’t be like 2014 again
Russian-backed forces have already occupied parts of Ukraine, including the Crimean peninsula and the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.
Both of these areas were taken in 2014 as the world watched with disbelief that Russia would support an invasion of a former Soviet state.
But Mr Sullivan said any move on Ukraine now would not have the same outcome.
“I’ll look into your eyes and tell you, as President Biden looked into Putin’s eyes and told him today that the things we didn’t do in 2014, we’re ready to do now,” he told the media.
The US has said defense aid to Kiev could lead to “strong economic measures” on Moscow. But it is unlikely that the US or its NATO allies will be directly involved in any armed conflict.
However, there is some doubt about whether Washington’s words will deter Putin.
David Cortwright, an international relations specialist at the University of Notre Dame in the US, told the website Conversation That Washington acting alone would have little effect.
This would require European nations that have far-reaching economic ties with Moscow, but at the same time suffer the most if Moscow cuts off Russian gas supplies that heat many European homes.
“Biden’s threat of new sanctions on Russia is unlikely to have much effect on Putin’s behavior unless European states support and participate in the decision,” Mr. Cortwright said.
“But in recent years, the EU has favored diplomatic strategies, rather than economic sanctions, to decide Ukraine’s future.”
All signs, however, are that EU leaders are becoming more united on Ukraine.
Latvia’s Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkiewicz – which borders Russia and was once part of the USSR but is now in NATO and the European Union – said Russia needed to get more troops out of global banking systems and to the Baltic states. may be required. ,
“Russia needs to know that if you do something bad to Ukraine, the NATO and US presence on the eastern side of the alliance will increase,” he said. Guardian,
Moscow’s plan to invade Ukraine
a report in Washington Post US intelligence officials believe Mr. Putin’s plans to invade Ukraine have been over-explained.
For some time the Kremlin has been moving troops to the Ukraine border area.
A Biden official told the newspaper: “The Russian plan calls for a military offensive against Ukraine in early 2022, with twice the scale of forces we saw last spring during Russia’s snap exercises near Ukraine’s borders. Saw it twice.”
The plan requires 100 battalion tactical groups, with 175,000 men drawn into frontline and rear depots with weapons and equipment.
About 50 battalion groups and 70,000 soldiers are deployed so far.
Medical units and fuel stores have also been prepared which could serve as vital supply lines for any invading Russian army.
Putin’s demand for Ukraine in the West
Mr Putin has denied any attacks. In fact Moscow has said that it is Ukraine that is building up massive forces and about 125,000 people are facing Russia.
The Russian president has demanded that neither Ukraine nor any other former Soviet states not already in NATO join the Western military alliance.
The three Baltic states, Estonia and Lithuania, as well as Latvia are already in NATO and Western powers stand on the Russian border.
But NATO leaders pushed back against Moscow’s terms, saying it was not up to Russia who applies for membership.
This angered Moscow.
The Kremlin said in its statement on the call between the two leaders, “Vladimir Putin insists that the responsibility should not be placed on Russia’s shoulders, as it is NATO that is making a dangerous effort to conquer Ukrainian territory and its military.” is building up capacity at our borders.”
The purpose of a conflict could potentially be to force a greater number of Ukrainian troops to fight on multiple fronts, which eventually led to NATO’s acceptance of Moscow’s demands.
Putin’s problem: how to justify the attack?
But how Mr Putin will justify an attack on a free nation is difficult. It certainly ain’t easy to spin like in 2014.
Again, the annexation of Crimea and the support of rebel forces in eastern Ukraine was justified on the grounds that those areas were predominantly Russian-speaking and therefore Moscow and its representatives were providing these people a form of protection.
This argument becomes far more difficult in the rest of the country of 44 million where Russian speakers are mostly a minority. It is difficult for Russia to play the knightly role of millions of people who speak Ukrainian and have a distinct Ukrainian identity.
Nonetheless, Mr. Putin lets it go. One thing is emerging which suggests that Russians and Ukrainians are essentially one people and if anything Ukraine is aggressor.
President Zelensky, the theory holds, is a puppet of Western leaders who do not have the best interests of Ukrainians at heart.
“Recent information indicates that Russian officials have proposed adjusting Russia’s information operations against Ukraine to emphasize the statement that Ukrainian leaders were set up by the West, as a representation of the ‘Russian world’.” was hated for, and was working against the interests of the Ukrainian people.” A Ukrainian official told Washington Post,
Certainly Ukrainian anti-government stories are showing up in Russian news outlets.
Kremlin mouthpiece on Wednesday rt published a story that said President Zelensky in a speech recounting the history of the Armed Forces of Ukraine “failed to mention soldiers who died while serving in the (USSR’s) Red Army”. “.
Some commentators have suggested that Moscow does not seek to take away Ukraine’s independence, but rather to turn it into a compliant buffer state between it and the West.
Belarus, located in the north of Ukraine, could be a model. Although it is a sovereign nation, the Belarusian dictatorship of Alexander Lukashenko is one of Moscow’s most ardent supporters. A Ukraine in that mold would certainly make Mr. Putin’s life easier.
There could be a game of obstinacy in the next few weeks. For its part, the US wants to make sure Mr Putin knows what the price will be if his troops cross the border.
“Mr Biden reiterated America’s support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Mr Sullivan said.
“He told President Putin directly that if Russia invades Ukraine further, the United States and our European allies will respond.”