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The alarm signals are multiplying in Europe. Russia has concentrated tens of thousands of troops on its borders with Ukraine and the United States and its Western allies fear that Moscow is planning a new invasion. to a country that it already invaded in 2014. Moscow denies it is planning an attack, but says it may take unspecified military action if a list of demands is not met, including NATO’s promise never to admit Kiev as a member.

How did you get here and what can happen from now on? Here are the answers to the main questions of the conflict:

What is happening on the border between Russia and Ukraine?

Russia has not disclosed much information about the scale of its troop deployment to the Ukraine border. But nevertheless, US officials say Putin is assembling a force expected to total 175,000 soldiers, giving it the means to order an invasion in early 2022. Based on new intelligence reports including spy satellite imagery, officials say the Russian military’s deployment is larger than it was last spring. When completed, they say, Russia’s deployment to the area will likely double. Russia has also embarked on a rapid mobilization of reservists and has deployed troops and military personnel to Belarus, an allied country that also shares a border with Ukraine.

The movement of Russian troops in Belarus
The movement of Russian troops in BelarusRussian Defense Ministry Press S

US officials say their intelligence agencies don’t know whether Moscow will go ahead with an invasion, but Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns said in December that the buildup of forces is such that Russia “could act in a way very radical”. President Joe Biden said yesterday that he thinks Russia will invade Ukraine.

Joe Biden, during a press conference, on January 19
Joe Biden, during a press conference, on January 19

The United States has repeatedly informed its allies that such a move is possible., and Blinken warned last month of economic sanctions against Russia in such a case. Meanwhile, the White House continues to review its options for responding to any Russian offensive, ranging from more military support for Ukraine to more diplomatic efforts to de-escalate any potential conflict.

In addition to warning Russia of potentially dire consequences if it invades Ukraine, the United States is seeking diplomatic avenues to defuse tensions. Biden reaffirmed US support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and urged Putin to return to talks to resolve the conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas region, where Kiev is fighting Russian-backed separatists.

Washington and Moscow began security talks on January 10 in Geneva. Russian officials focused on trying to get the United States to accept that NATO must stop its eastward expansion, but they didn’t get very far. A subsequent session between NATO and Russia was also inconclusive, and the United States resisted Russia’s attempts to prevent more countries from joining the alliance.

“We will not slam the door on NATO’s open door policy,” US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told reporters.

NATO has warned that its members will impose significant costs on Russia if it launches a new military incursion into Ukraine, while making clear the limits of the organization’s support for Ukraine, which is not a member of the alliance and is therefore not covered by its mutual defense pact.

NATO foreign ministers have discussed possible financial and political sanctions, with the aim of dissuading Russia from acting, and the secretary general of the alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, has said that any future aggression against Ukraine “would have a high price and serious political and economic consequences for Russia.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke at a press conference in December.

Ukraine was a valuable resource when it was part of the Soviet Union. Its rich farmland produced much of the wheat consumed in the former USSR and it was a major 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 predating the rise of the Russian empire in the 18th century. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Moscow continued to see Ukraine as a fundamental geopolitical space and has watched with concern the growing pro-Western sentiment.

Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin
Vladimir Putin in the KremlinPavel Bednyakov

After popular protests in Kiev and other cities removed a pro-Russian president, Russia annexed Crimea, home to its Black Sea fleet, and has begun supporting pro-Russian militias in eastern Ukraine, though it has denied sending troops and equipment to reinforce the area. rebels

Since then, more than 14,000 people have been killed in the Donbass region and political settlement remains a long way off despite a peace deal brokered by Germany and France. Ceasefire violations have increased this year and Russia’s troop build-up has further unnerved nerves.

Zelensky has said that Russia is sending a “very dangerous” signal with its troop movements and that Ukrainian forces are ready to repel any incursion. His Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said any attack on Ukraine, no matter how minor, must be treated equally by the United States and other Western countries, and that Biden risks underestimating the scope of Russian aggression.

Russia has denied that it is preparing to invade its neighbor and has accused NATO of providing Ukraine with sophisticated weaponry, fueling tension and destabilizing the region.

Russian officials have said that they do not want any conflict and that Moscow wants to ensure a balance of interests in the region. Putin has spoken of what he sees as the need to overhaul the entire post-Cold War order in Europe. The Kremlin also demands guarantees that NATO will not expand further east or deploy weapons near Russian territory. Some security analysts suggest that Moscow’s main goal is to prevent the West from developing a stronger relationship with the Zelensksy administration.

Moscow also wields considerable influence over America’s allies in Europe through its gas supplies.. Russia supplies nearly half of Europe’s gas imports, and an energy crisis has sent prices soaring across the continent. An energy crisis has sent prices skyrocketing across the continent, raising questions about the willingness of some European nations to take a strong stand against Moscow.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned last week that Moscow was running out of patience with the United States and pressed Washington to respond to their demands that the West stop encroaching on what the Kremlin considers its traditional sphere of influence.

“Everyone understands that the situation is not getting better,” Lavrov told a news conference. “The potential for conflict is growing.”

Reuters Agency and The Wall Street Journal

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