N. Peter Kramer’s Weekly Column
Are Russian forces getting ready for war in Ukraine? That is the (faked?) fear among Western leaders and the comedian who is now President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky. Ukraine shares borders with both Russia and the EU, and has deep social and cultural ties with Russia; Russian is widely spoken in the country.
US intelligence services (the same ones that discovered the -non-existing- Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq?) say that Russian forces number up to 100.000 beyond the Ukrainian border. But there is no sense of an imminent threat or that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has decided on invasion. But the Western intelligence services as well as Ukraine’s think an incursion or invasion could happen sometime in early 2022. And, yes there he is, CIA director William Burns suggesting President Putin was ‘putting the Russian military, the Russian security services, in a place where they could act in a pretty sweeping way’. L’histore se repete.
Looking at the map, you see Russia flanked at the western and south side by 9 NATO memberstates: the 3 Baltic countries, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. In the north there is Finland, so-called “neutral” and not (yet) a NATO member but an EU memberstate and a part of the Eurozone. Backed by the US with its strong military presence in western Europe, NATO power on Russia’s border cannot be underestimated, including nuclear missiles pointing to the east.
Russia is also frustrated that the 2015 Minks peace deal aimed at halting the conflict in eastern Ukraine is far from being fulfilled. There are still no arrangements for independently monitored elections in the separatist regions. But ongoing deafening silence on western side about this.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who leads talks with the US has warned of a situation similar to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, when the US and the Soviet Union came close to a nuclear conflict. Hopefully US President Biden keeps a cool head. As his predecessor did before him, with regards to Russia.