While wars in Eastern Europe are escalating due to the possibility of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a diplomatic battle between the West and Russia is fiercely unfolding to prevent the worst.
Western military and intelligence authorities observe that Russia’s border troop reinforcement is the highest since World War II. As a result, NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) is also increasing its forces in Eastern Europe, and the confrontation seems to be heading towards a ‘powerful river’.
The BBC reported on the 26th (local time) the views of European foreign and security experts on the Ukraine situation, citing the British defense minister and western officials. Although it is impossible to be optimistic, their analysis is that the ‘diplomatic card’ is still alive.
◇“I am not optimistic, but there is still a ‘diplomatic card’ to stop the war”
British Defense Secretary Ben Willis told the BBC that “there is still a chance to stop a Russian invasion, but we are not optimistic”.
Willis is due to visit Russia soon to meet Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. The Ukraine crisis is set to be on the agenda, but expectations for a diplomatic breakthrough are low, he sees.
Russia’s stubbornness is also a problem, but his concern is that Europe’s unity in preparation for emergencies is seldom formed.
Minister Willis is currently visiting a number of European countries to explore the possibilities, but there are differences of opinion among countries as to how they view the Ukraine crisis and how to prepare for response.
◇Europe and Ukraine differ from country to country… The key key is
Britain sent 2,000 light tanks and units to train local troops to Ukraine last week. Of course, this support is at NATO level, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that Britain has no plans to send combat troops directly to Ukraine.
The Netherlands, Willis’ first visit to the country, is also considering sending body armor and sniper rifles to Ukraine, the minister said.
Germany is passive in supporting ‘lethal weapons’. German defense minister Christine Lambretzt said at a press conference with Willis that “sending weapons to Ukraine could escalate conflict”.
Instead, Germany is providing non-lethal weapons to Ukraine, including field hospitals and 5,000 military helmets. Olaf Scholz Germany’s new government has taken the position that it should not send its lethal weapons to the battlefield because of ‘historical experience’, which is somewhat controversial within Germany.
Germany also holds the key to ‘economic sanctions’, the most powerful card the West can hold against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The gas pipeline project linking Russia and Germany, ‘Nord Stream 2’, has been completed and is about to start, but the recent Ukraine crisis has delayed its approval in Germany.
The US and Europe believe that Nordstream 2 can be a powerful ‘leverage’ in negotiations with Russia and the sanctions package against Russia. It is Germany’s ‘dilemma’.
In Croatia, besides Germany, President Zoran Milanovich announced that he would return his own troops dispatched to NATO in case of emergency. President Milanovich asserts that the current Ukraine crisis is not a conflict between Russia and U.S. but is caused by hawks in the United States.
◇Russian border reinforcements, the highest level since World War II
According to Western military and intelligence sources, Russia is currently building 40% of its available troops at the border with Ukraine and continues to build up its forces.
It is the first time since World War II that Russia has moved troops from the east to the border with western Ukraine.
Western intelligence officials believe Russia has deployed more than 100,000 troops, tanks, artillery and missiles along the border with Ukraine.
In addition, 30,000 Russian troops are stationed in Belarus, which borders northern Ukraine. The plan is to conduct joint military exercises next month, but for Ukraine, it is threatened by invasion from three sides, including the eastern border with the southern Crimea peninsula occupied in 2014.
However, a senior Western intelligence official told the BBC that “Russia may need twice as many troops as it is now for a full-scale invasion and occupation of Ukraine.”
◇ NATO to increase military force to deter
NATO forces are already stationed in Poland, which borders Ukraine’s western and southwestern borders from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the Baltic states above Belarus.
In addition, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said it could send additional warships and fighters to eastern Europe, including Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, and increase its troops.
The United States also announced that it would send 8,500 troops to Eastern Europe, and France and Spain also agreed to contribute to the reinforcement of their troops in Eastern Europe. Although these forces are not directly deployed to Ukraine, NATO’s strategy is to deter Russian invasion of Ukraine by encircling Eastern Europe.
In addition, Secretary-General Stoltenberg said the UK could play a role in encouraging NATO members to deter Russian aggression by increasing its troops, land, sea, and air.
The UK is not ruling out the option of increasing the number of weapons it sends to Ukraine, Willis added.
As such, the “powerful river” development between Russia and the West is unfolding with Ukraine in between, but at the same time, the diplomatic battle to prevent a clash is fierce.
On the same day, in Paris, France, a meeting was held between political advisors from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France, which are parties to the Minsk Agreement signed to resolve disputes in eastern Ukraine after the Crimean incident in 2014. After an eight-hour marathon meeting, a joint statement was eventually issued to maintain the truce in the East, and two weeks later, they agreed to continue the conversation in Berlin, Germany.
In addition, as a result of the US-Russian foreign ministerial level meeting (second round of negotiations) held on the 21st, it said that the US had sent the promised written response to Russia. NATO also delivered a separate proposal to Russia.
Russia is in the position to decide the direction of further dialogue and diplomacy after reviewing the contents of the US side’s written response. Accordingly, the next two weeks are expected to be a watershed in resolving the Ukraine crisis in line with the four-nation summit.
(Seoul = News 1)