PARIS.- After a virtual conference with European leaders, President Joe Biden assured today that there is “total unanimity” with them in the conflict from Ukraine. A few hours before, however, the European Union (EU) called U.S to avoid alarmist statements and “nervous breakdowns” during the current crisis.
“We know very well what the degree of the threats is and how to react. It is necessary to avoid playing on our nerves and alarmist reactions that even have financial consequences,” he warned. Josep Borrell, responsible for European diplomacy, at the end of a virtual meeting with the US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken.
The statement, of unusual severity, revealed the discontent of the Europeans with the “dramatization” by the United States of the situation in Ukraine, its insistence on a possible invasion “at any time” and the decision to make the families of diplomats based in Kiev. At the same time, it contrasted with the affirmation of the North American president, who described the hour and a half of video call with several European leaders as “very, very, very good”.
Diplomacy works. “The United States will respond in writing to Russia’s demands and we were consulted about that response,” Borrell added. European sources confirmed tonight that Blinken and his Russian counterpart, Serguei Lavrovthey will meet again. And that, within the framework of a European dialogue initiative, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, will speak with Vladimir Putin in the coming days.
As days ago, Moscow once again denounced a “hysteria”, accusing Washington of “exacerbating tensions with concrete announcements and actions”.
In any case, faced with the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, the West began to react in the military field in the last few hours. The Pentagon announced today that it had placed 8,500 men on high alert to be deployed to Eastern Europe if necessary., while NATO did the same, announcing the dispatch of ships and combat planes to reinforce the defense of that area.
“Denmark is sending a frigate to the Baltic Sea and is preparing to deploy four F-16 fighter jets to Lithuania, to reinforce the long-standing air policing mission in the region,” the Alliance announced yesterday in a statement.
The Brussels-based organization also reported that Spain it will send ships to join NATO naval forces and is studying the possibility of placing combat aircraft under NATO command in Romania.
“The Netherlands will do the same with two F-35 fighter planes, deployed in Bulgaria from April to support NATO surveillance activities, placing a ship and ground units on alert for the organization’s Reaction Force,” the report added. text, specifying that “France also declared itself ready to send troops to Romania under the command of the Atlantic Organization.”
In the ongoing negotiations between the United States and Russia—to which the Europeans were not invited— Moscow demands a written commitment on the non-enlargement of NATO to Ukraine and Georgia, and a withdrawal of the forces and weapons of the Atlantic Alliance from the countries of Eastern Europe, which joined NATO after 1997. Especially Romania and Bulgaria, both members of the EU.
Anthony Blinken pledged to “put his ideas down in writing,” but those demands are unacceptable to Westerners.
Moscow for its part repeats that has no intention of intervening in Ukraine, but continues to support the demands of pro-Russian separatists in Donbass, in the east of the country, deploying more than 100,000 soldiers on the Russian-Ukrainian border. On January 18, the Kremlin also announced the dispatch of an unprecedented fleet to be concentrated in the Mediterranean. Six landing ships capable of carrying 60 tanks and 1,800 infantry departed from the Baltic.
At the same time, Russia and Belarus announced the organization of military exercises with the aim of preparing to “repel foreign aggression”, which must be carried out in international waters, but 240 kilometers southwest of the Irish coast. In other words, exactly on the western edge of the European Union (EU).
The project provoked the immediate condemnation of the Irish executive: “These maneuvers are neither desired nor welcome at this time,” he warned yesterday Simon Coveney, Foreign Minister of Ireland.
Concerned, military experts say that if these ships reach the Black Sea, they could allow Moscow to attack the Ukrainian coast, and consider the maneuver as “a red line” that will open a new northern front. Political scientists, for their part, believe that this is a new means used by the Kremlin to increase pressure at a time when the negotiations are not advancing.
To weigh down the negotiations, Vladimir Putin maintains a studied ambiguity about the possibilities of escalation, alluding to an eventual “technical-military” response. That is, cyber attacks, limited air strikes, installation of nuclear missiles in Crimea… up to the maximalist scenario of an incursion into eastern Ukraine or a major invasion from the eastern, southern and northern flanks of that neighboring country.
“We hope there will be no attack. But if that is the case, we are ready to respond with massive economic and financial sanctions.”, warned on Thursday the president of the European Commission (EC), Ursula von der Leyen.
In this climate of extreme tension, The United States and London yesterday ordered the evacuation of families of diplomats based in Kiev and advised their citizens to avoid that country.. Australia followed suit, asking its nationals present in Ukraine to depart. washington too asked Americans not to travel to Russia, where they could be victims of “harassment” or “an arbitrary application of local laws”.
“Respecting the right of states to ensure the security of their diplomatic missions, we consider the decision of the White House to be premature and excessive,” reacted the spokesman for Ukrainian diplomacy, Oleg Nikolenko. For its part, the EU does not seem willing to follow the example of the United States.
“I believe that the situation should not be dramatized and that, unless the United States gives us information that justifies it, we should remain in Kiev”, declared Josep Borrell yesterday.
The main interested party, Kiev would like the studied sanctions to be applied from now on, in addition to receiving much more military aid, especially anti-aircraft artillery. Contrary to the demands of the Kremlin, Ukraine has already received a large amount of equipment and military aid from its Western partners since the beginning of the year.
On January 19, Washington announced its intention to transfer military transport helicopters to Ukraine. Since 2014, the United States has delivered the equivalent of €2.4 billion in military aid to Kiev. The State Department has also authorized the Baltic countries to send US-made lethal and non-lethal weapons, including Javelin anti-tank missiles. Having helped Kiev rebuild its navy, Britain in turn handed over anti-tank weapons.