Although its defence of Ukraine cannot be ruled out, it seems the West is not willing to put his money where its mouth is…
Written by Johanna Ross, journalist based in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The conflict in Eastern Ukraine which began with a western-backed nationalist coup back in 2014 has been raging for 7 years now. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions of Ukrainians displaced, with Russia rehoming over 400,000 refugees in recent years. There are signs the conflict is coming to a head now however with Ukraine refusing to adhere to its commitments under the Minsk agreements and ramping up its military activity in the region, supported by the US and UK, who have as many as 10,000 training staff in Ukraine, according to Russia.
Russia on the other hand has chosen this moment to demand that the West provide it with security guarantees, having presented a set of demands to the US and its allies on 17th December, which it made public. It’s been debated exactly why Putin decided on this moment to act in this way with some analysts pointing out that the timing is significant. Not only is Russia in a strong position militarily with the development of Zircon and other high-tech weapons (some of which have not been disclosed) but it has the key advantage of being Europe’s key gas supplier, which gives it considerable political leverage.
Having said that, it is highly unlikely, as political scientist Fyodor Lukyanov has pointed out, that Russia in fact expects the US to adhere to any of its demands. Nonetheless, it is a last-ditch attempt at peace by the Russian administration, before Putin puts his plan of action in place, which may involve countering the mounting Ukrainian aggression against ethnic Russian-speakers in the Donbas region early next year. The President is obviously at the end of his tether with the West; all trust has been lost after years of hypocritical and duplicitous conduct from his western ‘partners’.
It’s also time for some home truths and for both Russia and Ukraine to accept some realities. Ukraine’s adopted mother, the US, is now very much in control, and is likely to remain so for some time. And she has done a very effective job at fomenting anti-Russian sentiment in the country by educating a whole generation of youngsters to hate Russia.
Equally, it is time for Ukraine to accept that it has lost a part of its territory, and maybe for good. The Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic are very much in Russia’s sphere of influence and there’s no going back to Kiev control. And Kiev has to accept that Crimea is also firmly Russian territory and any ideas of returning it to Ukraine are a pipe dream, despite what the ‘international community’ may have to say about it.
It’s therefore likely that if Putin’s security demands are not met, there are a range of measures Russia could take, which analyst Patrick Armstrong has laid out here. Obviously the main move would be to secure the LNR and DNR and absorb them into Russia but Putin may also take further defensive measures against Nato such as stationing nuclear weapons in Belarus, which has already been hinted at by President Lukashenko. These actions of course are likely to attract counter measures from the West, although it’s worth noting that western politicians have been sending mixed messages about the extent to which they are prepared to go to war with Russia. Most analysts have interpreted US President Joe Biden’s warning of sanctions on Russia in his last face-to-face with Putin as meaning war is off the table, but it should be noted that Biden was of course only speaking for US actions, not
Nato. Earlier this month US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that Nato had an ‘unwavering commitment…to Ukraine’s territorial integrity, its independence.’ Whether this is purely rhetoric or a genuine expression of support for Ukraine remains to be seen.
UK Defence Minister Ben Wallace’s comments that Britain would be ‘highly unlikely’ to send troops to Ukraine should also be treated with caution. Firstly, the comment doesn’t rule out other military support to Ukraine, which the British army is currently providing at this very moment, and it contradicts what Mr Wallace has said previously about using defence capabilities against Russia if it were to invade Ukraine.
Russia is indeed in a strong position at the moment, and economic sanctions not military intervention are more likely to be implemented in the case of a Russian invasion (as happened after Russia reabsorbed Crimea after a referendum in 2014). But we cannot rule out the possibility that the West would increase its support to Ukraine if required; if not overtly, then covertly. For despite the rhetoric dissuading us that they would get involved, reports from the ground tell otherwise. Russia’s Defence Minister Shoigu said a few days ago that Moscow believes there are more than 120 employees of American PMCs operating in the region, where they are working with Ukrainian special forces. It was reported that containers with “unidentified chemical components” were delivered to the cities of Avdeevka and Krasny Liman recently in Donbass in order to stage provocations. With such ‘assistance’ being given to Ukrainian forces it seems irrelevant whether the country is in Nato or not.
If indeed the West has no intention of fighting Russia on Ukraine’s behalf, then it must ask itself why it has been bolstering the country for the last few years, only to let it down at the last minute. Zelensky’s bolshy rhetoric and increased military provocations on the front line have presented an opponent whose confidence does not match its capability. It is widely accepted that were Russia to launch an operation into Donbas then Ukraine could do little to stop it. It seems Zelensky must learn the hard way when it comes to trusting western ‘promises’; a lesson Putin by now is well-versed in.
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MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- US, NATO Military Provocations Near Russia’s Borders In 2021
- Military Situation In Ukraine On December 27, 2021 (Map Update)