US and NATO officials have warned in recent weeks of a new surge in Russian military activity on the easternmost side of the Russian-Ukrainian border. According to the most recent estimates, around 90,000 to 100,000 Russian troops are deployed along the border area. While that number is down from the roughly 150,000 Russian personnel who took part in the spring construction of Moscow, military experts and Western intelligence sources have expressed concern over the “unusual” and “out-of-the-way” nature. cycle ”of recent movements. The real intentions of the Kremlin remain unknown, as Russian President Vladimir Putin likes.
Ukrainian defense officials have warned that a Russian attack will come as early as January, adding that an invasion scenario could include not only the Donbass region but also amphibious landings at Ukrainian Black Sea ports. But it seems Washington has not ruled out that these activities may be part of a larger Russian pressure campaign to obtain political or diplomatic concessions from the West. Still others argue that a Russian invasion is neither imminent nor fictitious, but should rather be viewed as a serious military contingency. “Moscow is so well positioned that they can move with very little warning,” John Herbst, former US Ambassador to Ukraine and senior director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council, Recount NBC News. “They are certainly threatening. And they’re in a position that if they want to, they can do it.
In remarks made at a NATO meeting in Latvia on Wednesday. Secretary of State Antony Blinken appeared to lend credence to the latter theory. “We do not know if President Putin made the decision to invade Ukraine”, noted Blink. “We know he’s building the capacity to do it in the short term, if he so chooses. So, despite the uncertainty over intentions and timing, we must prepare for all eventualities while working to get Russia to turn the tide. Blinken met his counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in Stockholm on Thursday. Blinken has repeatedly expressed the Biden administration’s concerns over “Russia’s plans for further aggression against Ukraine,” adding that Washington has “a firm and unwavering commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the United States. ‘Ukraine’. Blinken called on Russia and Ukraine to re-commit to implementing the Minsk Accords, a besieged peace deal that paves the way for the reincorporation of the eastern separatist republics of Donetsk and Lugansk (RPD and RPL) in Ukraine. The Kremlin responded by reiterating its long-standing position that Moscow has no commitments under the Minsk accords and that all negotiations should be conducted only between Kiev and the separatist republics. Lavrov did not appear to directly comment on US concerns about Russia’s military build-up in his public remarks. Blinken dismissed concerns, previously expressed by Kremlin officials, that Ukraine may prepare to launch a major offensive against the separatist republics. “Ukraine is in no way a threat to Russia, nor does it seek a confrontation that would justify Russian military intervention. The only threat is that of a new Russian aggression against Ukraine, ”he said. noted.
The Biden administration says it is ready to impose “high impact” sanctions in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, a claim echoed by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. “We have all made it very clear that there would be a high price to pay and that sanctions are one of the options,” Stoltenberg told Reuters earlier this week. These potential sanctions will likely include measures to cut Russia off from the global SWIFT transaction system, a move that some experts say will lead to a short-term blow to the economy of Russia.
Kremlin officials continue to assert that Russian military movements are not based on aggressive intentions and that Russia has the right, in any case, to mix its troops within its borders as it sees fit. “The movement of our military equipment or our army units through the territory of the Russian Federation is exclusively our business,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “Russia has never threatened anyone, is not threatening and does not represent a danger to anyone.”
Nonetheless, Moscow has continued to sharpen its rhetoric vis-à-vis Ukraine since President Joe Biden took office in January. In a long historical essay published this summer, Putin suggested that post-Soviet Ukraine cannot and must not exist outside of Russia’s sphere of influence. Putin and senior Moscow officials have long argued that Ukraine’s NATO membership is a bright red line for Moscow, but the Kremlin’s wording has changed slightly in recent months. “You asked about Ukraine, where are those red lines? Putin said at a recent investment conference. “They are above all in the creation of threats against us which could come from [Ukraine]. “Putin’s emphasis on threats ‘coming from Ukraine’ rather than Ukraine’s foreign policy course, reflects growing fears among Russian officials that Ukraine may choose to unilaterally host the infrastructure NATO military without officially joining the alliance.
“If some kind of strike system appears on the territory of Ukraine, the flight time to Moscow will be 7-10 minutes, and five minutes in the case of a deployed hypersonic weapon,” Putin said, adding : ” What do we have to do ? do in such a scenario? We will then have to create something similar to those who threaten us in this way. “
The Ukrainian crisis will likely be at the forefront of topics discussed by Biden and Putin in an upcoming phone conversation that is would have been expected behind the scenes by Moscow and Washington. According to Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, the Russian president should pressure Biden on concrete negative guarantees regarding NATO’s eastward expansion and the “deployment of weapons systems that would threaten us. [Russia] in the territories of neighboring countries, including Ukraine.
Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National interest.