politics

Russia-Ukraine tension: Could what’s happening on the border lead to war?

Russia-Ukraine tension: Could what’s happening on the border lead to war?

Alarm bells have been ringing across Europe over a buildup of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine in recent months. The fear is that Russian President Vladimir Putin is contemplating a rerun of 2014, when Russian forces annexed the Crimean peninsula and provided support for a separatist, pro-Russian insurgency in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. Moscow denies having any plans to invade, but U.S. officials have said such a move is possible. President Biden spoke with Mr. Putin about the rising tensions in a video call on Dec. 7, in which the White House said he warned off the Russian leader from any invasion, saying a military escalation in Ukraine would bring economic and other measures from the U.S. Mr. Biden later began laying the groundwork for further talks with Russia to de-escalate the crisis, and assured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that his country and other eastern-flank nations would be included in the discussions. On Sunday, foreign ministers from the Group of Seven nations warned Russia of severe consequences if it invades Ukraine. So far it is unclear whether Russia wants to reassert control of the former Soviet republic, or to warn off the U.S. and NATO from developing closer ties with Ukraine and maintain it as a buffer between Moscow and the West. What’s happening on the Russia-Ukraine border? Russia hasn’t revealed much information about the scale of its troop deployment on the Ukrainian border. U.S. officials, however, say Mr. Putin is assembling a force that is expected to total 175,000 troops, giving him the means to order an invasion by early 2022. Citing new intelligence reports that include images from spy satellites, the officials say the Russian military buildup differs from an earlier massing of troops in the spring. When complete, they say, Russia’s deployment in the area will likely be twice as large. In addition, Russia has embarked on a rapid mobilization of reservists. “If Russia decides to pursue confrontation, there will be serious consequences, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week before meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Stockholm. What’s at stake for Russia? Ukraine was a valuable resource when it was part of the Soviet Union. Its rich farmland produced much of the wheat consumed in the old U.S.S.R. and it was an important industrial center. Its vast plains acted as a kind of buffer between the European powers and the Russian hinterland. There are also close historical, cultural and linguistic connections pre-dating the rise of the Russian empire in the 18 century. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Moscow continued to view Ukraine as a pivotal geopolitical space and has watched the growing pro-Western sentiment there with concern. After popular protests in Kyiv and other cities drove a pro-Russian president from office, Russia annexed Crimea, home to its Black Sea fleet, and began supporting pro-Russia militias in eastern Ukraine, though it has denied sending troops and equipment to reinforce the rebels. Since then, more than 14,000 people have been killed in the Donbas region and political settlement remains far off despite a peace agreement negotiated by Germany and France. Cease-fire violations have increased this year and Russia’s troop buildup has frayed nerves further. How is Ukraine responding? Ukraine’s leader, Mr. Zelensky, has said Russia is sending what he described as a “very dangerous signal with its troop movements, and that Ukrainian forces are standing ready to repel any incursion. Mr. Zelensky also said last month that his government had uncovered a coup plot involving Russian citizens, without providing further details. Moscow has denied the allegation. Will Russia invade Ukraine? U.S. officials say that American intelligence agencies don’t know whether Moscow will press ahead with an invasion but Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns said Monday that the buildup of forces is such that Russia “could act in a very sweeping way. The U.S. has repeatedly briefed its allies that such a move is possible, and Mr. Blinken last week warned of economic sanctions against Russia in such an event. The White House, meanwhile, is conducting a review of options to respond to any Russian offensive, ranging from more military support for Ukraine to further diplomatic efforts to de-escalate any potential conflict. Mr. Biden is expected to emphasize the risks if Russia were to take steps to inflame the situation further. What does Russia want? Russia has denied that it is preparing to invade its smaller neighbor and has accused NATO of providing Ukraine with sophisticated weaponry, fomenting tension and destabilizing the region. Russian officials have said they don’t want any conflicts and Moscow wants to ensure a balance of interests in the region. Mr. Putin has spoken of what he sees as the need to revise the entire post-Cold War order in Europe. The Kremlin is also demanding guarantees that NATO won’t expand any further east or deploy weapons close to Russian territory. Some security analysts suggest that Moscow’s primary objective is to prevent the West from developing a stronger relationship with Mr. Zelensksy’s administration. Moscow also exerts considerable leverage over U.S. allies in Europe through its gas supplies. Russia supplies almost half of the gas imports in Europe, and an energy crunch has sent prices soaring across the continent. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Tuesday, before the talks between Messrs. Putin and Biden, that the Russian president would be “ready to convey his concerns to his American colleague, listen to the concerns of his American colleague and give him an explanation. On Sunday, the Russian Foreign Ministry again denied there was any plan to invade Ukraine and accused the U.S. and Western nations of “Russophobia and “pushing Ukraine towards aggressive steps. Download.

politics 2021-12-13 Livemint