The U.S. and the U.K sent a stern warning to Russia and President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday over any new military aggression that Moscow directs against Ukraine. This comes as NATO’s 30 members met to discuss Moscow’s intentions for massing 90,000 troops on the border with Ukraine, a former Soviet republic.
Meanwhile, Putin issued a warning of his own. He said that NATO and the U.S. deploying troops to Ukraine is a red line for Russia and would trigger a strong response. Both sides claim that they are worried about troops being massed on the border.
Amid this morass of rising tensions and tough talk comes news that Russia and Belarus are going to conduct more joint military drills to “cover our southern borders” according to Belarus government officials.
Ukrainian officials are worried about the Russian troops on their border. The troops had taken part in military drills earlier this year and remained with much of their equipment.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has claimed that Ukraine’s intelligence service uncovered a Russian coup d’état plot last week. Russia not only denied the allegation and rejected any plans to invade Ukraine, but claimed that the West and NATO are trying to use Ukraine to stockpile weapons to use against Russia.
Speaking to an online forum on Tuesday, Putin said that NATO is expanding eastward and this threatens Russian security. He claimed that NATO could eventually use the Ukrainian territory to deploy missiles capable of reaching Moscow in just five minutes.
“The emergence of such threats represents a ‘red line’ for us,” Putin said. “I hope that it will not get to that and common sense and responsibility for their own countries and the global community will eventually prevail.”
While Ukraine is not a member of NATO, its security has become a cause of concern for the alliance. American Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was set to brief the other NATO nations on the current U.S. intelligence on Ukraine.
Prior to the commencement of the meeting, Blinken expressed Washington’s concern over the Russians massing troops on the border as well Moscow’s “increasingly belligerent rhetoric.”
“We are very concerned about the movements we’ve seen along Ukraine’s border. We know that Russia often combines those efforts with internal efforts to destabilize a country. That’s part of the playbook, and we’re looking at it very closely,”
“Any escalatory actions by Russia would be a great concern to the United States… and any renewed aggression would trigger serious consequences,” he added.
“We will be consulting closely with NATO allies and partners in the days ahead… about whether there are other steps that we should take as an alliance to strengthen our defenses, strengthen our resilience, strengthen our capacity,” Blinken said.
Washington’s concerns were repeated by both Germany and Britain. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said that they’d stand with fellow democracies against Russian “malign activity.”
“Any action by Russia to undermine the freedom and democracy that our partners enjoy would be a strategic mistake,” she added.
The sticking point between Russian and the West is Ukraine’s desire to move from being a former Russian satellite to becoming closer with the West. Russia insists that Ukraine should remain a buffer nation.
In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea after Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted following public protests. Russia then supported a separatist movement in Ukraine’s Donbass region. The fighting has claimed 14,000 lives according to Kyiv. Thousands of Russian “volunteers” joined the fighting in Donbass.
Adding to the rhetoric is Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, who faced internal protests over election irregularities. He has made it quite clear that Belarus will support Russia in any Ukrainian conflict.
President Biden faces a dilemma: It is unknown how far Congress would go to support troops being deployed to Ukraine if fighting breaks out. While President Biden has vowed our “unwavering support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” it is unknown how far will he go and if Congress would support any move.
Several Republican lawmakers sent a letter to the president urging him to support Ukraine against Russian aggression.
It is entirely possible that Putin doubts Biden and the United States’ resolve. Despite Blinken’s comments about “serious consequences,” nothing else was added as to not escalate the situation further. If Putin believes that the U.S. will stand by, the situation in Ukraine could get very ugly.
The Pentagon said that the chairman of the joint chiefs, General Mark Milley spoke on the phone with his Russian counterpart, General Valery Gerasimov. The Pentagon released a statement that the call was meant to “ensure risk reduction and operational de-confliction.”
The chances of the U.S. sending troops to Ukraine are very slim. However, Washington is sharing intelligence with Ukrainian officials and will send a security assistance package of $400 million.