The Kremlin considers that making 8,500 US soldiers available to be mobilized “exacerbates” tensions in the east
The pulse on who goes further in the eastern conflict wrote a new chapter on Tuesday when the Russian government decided to start new military maneuvers in front of the Ukrainian border and in Crimea. This is his response to the “alert” decreed on Monday by the United States to mobilize 8,500 soldiers to reinforce NATO troops in Eastern Europe. The deployment has not yet taken place but “is worrying” and “exacerbates” tensions, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said on Tuesday.
This movement has involved the deployment of 6,000 soldiers and almost a hundred planes that are already testing the launch of missiles in the annexed peninsula of Crimea. The word missile causes a special alarm. The US, the Kiev government and a good part of the allies believe that if Moscow opts for an incursion into Ukraine – to support the pro-Russian territories of Donbass – it will do so with considerable use of its arsenal of technologically “unbeatable” rockets, in the words of Vladimir Putin.
These exercises represent a considerable reinforcement to the contingent that the Kremlin has already placed in the region -between 100,000 and 200,000 soldiers- and contribute to closing the trap on Ukraine. After the troops stationed on the other side of the southern border of this country weeks ago and the deployments in Belarus and the Black Sea, the maneuvers in Crimea complete a land, sea and air clamp on the former republic whose government reiterated this Tuesday the calls to the calm”. Ukrainians watched as Canada joined the withdrawal of its diplomatic staff in Kiev and other governments, such as Sweden, are considering calling their fellow citizens.
Among the positive messages, that of the Ukrainian Minister of Defense, Oleksiy Reznikov, stood out, who asked the population not to “panic”. According to intelligence services, Russia is dedicated to maneuvers and has not created any specific group that could spearhead an invasion. Reznikov believes that the possibility of a war is slim: “There is no reason to think that an invasion will happen tomorrow from a military point of view.”
President Joe Biden indirectly agreed with this impression last night by stating that “there is no intention” to send US troops to Ukraine. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby declared that the alert decreed on Monday responds to the objectives of “reassuring our NATO allies” and sending “a very clear signal to Putin.” The 8,500 soldiers will only be mobilized as support in the event of an intervention by NATO’s rapid action forces and they would not act within Ukrainian territory.
The danger exists as long as neither side loosens the pressure. And despite the noise of recent days, the crucial knot still persists, since no agreements have been reached on a single one of the demands put on the table by the Russian government for a possible de-escalation. Among them the one that right now leads to a dead end: the withdrawal of the Alliance forces from the former Soviet republics and the promise that it will not install bases in Ukraine (something that, on the other hand, would be literally unrealizable at this time in function of the NATO entry criteria’.
The consequence is that the lengthening of the conflict and the growing leadership of the US in global decision-making are beginning to cause discomfort within the Alliance. Croatian President Zoran Milanovic announced on Tuesday that he will order the withdrawal of “every Croatian soldier” present in NATO forces if tensions between Russia and Ukraine continue to grow. The decision, he added, “has nothing to do with Ukraine or Russia. It has to do with the dynamics of the internal politics of the United States”, which he accused of raising the tone of the conflict.
The crisis has the clock as an enemy and the more it perpetuates, the greater the chances of collapse. White House sources recalled on Tuesday that the letter of the US response to Russian demands remains and that no one considers the diplomatic channel exhausted yet: French President Emmanuel Macron and his counterpart Vladimir Putin will hold a telephone conversation this week . And a summit under the format of the ‘Normandy quartet’ is not ruled out either; that is, between Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine, whose technical delegations meet from this Tuesday in Paris.
At the moment, there is an animated man. Biden is satisfied with the “unity” he found in Monday’s telematic round with the top leaders of the EU, NATO, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and Poland. “I had a very, very, very good meeting: full unanimity with all the European leaders,” he said. If so, it is quite possible that the EU also shares its catalog of sanctions, although it does not say anything at the moment. Apart from possible direct economic punishments on Putin, the US wants to ban any transaction in dollars in Russian banks and block the import of high technology, which would curb Moscow’s expectations in the thriving aircraft, defense and artificial intelligence industries.
THE CONFLICT SCENARIOS:
Southern Ukraine – Some maneuvers on the rise.
Russia’s military deployment in front of southern Ukraine began in November. The Kremlin announced the transfer of some 100,000 soldiers (the final number is not specified) to carry out maneuvers in a scenario located a hundred kilometers from the border with Ukraine. It would be a complete exercise, but with a high predominance of land, for which hundreds of battle tanks and other armored units would have been mobilized. The maneuvers extend along the entire border, with a special presence in the front zone and in front of Donbask and Lugansk, the two pro-Russian separatist enclaves located within the Ukrainian domain, in the Donbass region. A second phase would contemplate mobilizing another 200,000 soldiers in a line further inside Russian territory. Right now it is speculated that between 140,000 and 200,000 Russian troops are on the ground, practically a contingent identical to the entire Ukrainian Army (240,000 men).
Crimea – Missiles at the “greatest possible distance”.
Apart from reinforcing the detachment actually located in line in front of the Ukrainian border, the order issued this Tuesday by the Russian Ministry of Defense to carry out new maneuvers supposes taking around 6,000 men to Crimea. The objective of these exercises is to check the “operational capacity” of the troops, according to the official statement, but above all it seeks to show muscle in the air and ballistic terrain. The Kremlin has included in the operation nearly a hundred modern fighters and bombers, in this case, the Suhkoi-34, a powerful weapon of war intended to replace the Su-24 fighters and the famous Tupolev. It has a long flight autonomy and a high attack capacity with laser and satellite guided missiles. In fact, Moscow has been rehearsing since Tuesday on this peninsula annexed to Russia in 2014 a series of simulated ballistic attacks at the “greatest possible distance.” Its Army exceeds the Ukrainian air fleet by 3,855 aircraft.
Belarus – Joint tactics against armed groups.
Last Monday the first Tuso tanks, trucks and armored vehicles began to arrive in Belarus, which will take part between February 10 and 20 in the joint operation ‘Allied Resolution’, aimed at testing the defense of the border against incursions by “groups armed forces”, the prevention of sabotage and the elimination of “illegal formations” within the country. The objectives seem to go very far from the interests of the authoritarian government of the Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, and the Kremlin, which thus looms over neighboring Ukraine from another angle. Russia is known to have sent at least a dozen Suhkoi-35 fighters and two anti-aircraft batteries. Some experts suggest that, between the two countries, they will add some 300,000 troops on the ground. Poland began construction of a new fence on the border with Belarus on Tuesday after last year’s illegal migrant crisis and in anticipation of a possible armed conflict causing an exodus of the population.
Black Sea – The tension for naval supremacy.
Of the four main scenarios where the crisis in the east is being resolved, the Black Sea has become one of the most interesting. It houses the strategic base of one of the most powerful fleets of the Russian Navy. And that is where the United States and NATO concentrate a good part of their deterrent force within the conflict with Moscow. It is a tense region. In April, Russia deployed a dozen ships there for artillery drills to coincide with the start of its military expansion towards western borders. In November it was NATO and the US that carried out exercises in the area, which were considered a “provocation” by Putin.
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