Prelude To War: Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine a direct challenge to the U.S., U.K, and NATO.
The Russo-Ukrainian War is an ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia that began in February of 2014. The war has centered on the status of the Ukrainian regions of Crimea and Donbas. As of lately, the conflict has escalated into an even more concerning situation. The movement of Russian troops near Ukraine has drawn concern from Kyiv and the United States that Russia might be considering attacking its neighbor.
At the same time, the Kremlin denies all claims that Moscow is getting ready to invade Ukraine, despite the troop build-up at the shared border. Kremlin officials have also said they are alarmed by the West’s push to supply Ukraine with high-tech weapons. The Kremlin also claims Kyiv is using said weapons as a way to provoke Moscow.
Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and that same year the Russian-backed separatists seized a swath of eastern Ukraine, in regions bordering Russia. Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russia of sending troops and arms across the border to support the rebel forces in the Donbas. As a response to that, Moscow has denied the claims.
What the Kremlin has to say
As tensions rise between the two countries, with both sides accusing each other of mobilizing military units along the shared border, Dimitry Pescov, a Kremlin spokesperson, commented on the situation.
Putin met up with the Head of the European Council to discuss the migration crisis and the situation with Ukraine. When discussing the situation on the border shared with Ukraine, it was emphasized that there is no alternative to the Minsk agreements as the basis for a settlement. "The President of Russia expressed concern over the continuing provocations of the Ukrainian side aimed at aggravating the situation on the line of contact. It was also indicated that Kiev’s policy of discrimination against the Russian-speaking population should be stopped," a statement on Putin’s website claimed. He went on to claim that, “Kyiv is itself building up its forces, Kyiv is being helped to build up its forces, Kyiv is being supplied with a significant amount of weapons, including modern high-tech weapons,” “The number of provocations is growing and growing significantly. What’s more, these provocations are being carried out with weapons being supplied by NATO countries,” Pescov said, citing the United States-headed transatlantic security alliance. “And we are observing this with great alarm.”
Peskov dismissed the claims made by officials in Washington alleging that Russia is planning to launch an attack on Ukraine. He maintained the claims were “hysteria”, alluding that Moscow is being targeted in a disinformation campaign. “This hysteria is being artificially whipped up,” he commented in a broadcast on state TV, saying it was not “logical or polite”. “We are being accused of some kind of unusual military activity on our territory by those who have brought in their armed forces from across the ocean. That is, the United States of America.”
Peskov also said that “a provocation” in the area could not be ruled out given the US’s rhetoric. He also suggested Kyiv was most likely looking for a way to solve its own problems by force. The Kremlin spokesperson also insisted that Russia wants NATO to stop “concentrating a military fist” near Russia’s borders, and to also stop arming Ukraine with modern weapons. Despite Russia's growing military presence on the Ukrainian border. Putin also warned that NATO would be crossing a Russian red line if its military infrastructure expanded in Ukraine. It is unclear what Russia could do to prevent NATO from expanding further inside Ukraine.
On November 29th the Belarusian Minister of Defense Viktar Khrenin announced joint military exercises with Russia along the shared border. Khrenin did not provide a date for the exercises but implied that they were in response to the alleged new military deployments in Belarus' neighboring countries. "We see troop formations around our state borders... We can only be concerned by the militarization of our neighboring countries, which is why we are forced to plan measures in response," Belarus has been engaging in hybrid warfare against its neighbors, especially Poland. Belarus has been luring thousands of refugees and amassing them on the borders, then forcing them to push into the neighboring countries in an attempt to destabilize and intimidate the EU.
USA and NATO involvement
On the anniversary of the Holodomor (also referred to as the Great Famine) in Ukraine in 1932-1933, US President Joe Biden honored the memory of the victims of the tragic events and confirmed that Washington supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
"The Ukrainian people overcame the horror of the Holodomor, demonstrating their spirit and resilience, and ultimately created a free and democratic society. Recalling the pain and victims of the Holodomor, the United States also reaffirms our commitment to the people of Ukraine and our unwavering support for its sovereignty and territorial integrity," said Biden.
In Washington, discussions about the proposed lethal aid package are happening as Ukraine warns publicly that an invasion could happen as soon as January. According to sources, the package could include new Javelin anti-tank and anti-armor missiles as well as mortars; the USA is considering sending Ukraine air defense systems, such as stinger missiles, and Mi-17 helicopters that would have gone to Afghanistan. Additionally, a ship carrying two refitted former US Coast Guard patrol boats designed to beef up the Ukrainian navy transited the Dardanelles strait on Saturday.
There are concerns from the US that sending stingers and helicopters could be seen by Russia as a major escalation. And while they are prepared to send some military advisers into the region, it is unclear whether any would go into Ukraine itself.
Several NATO member states, including the US and the United Kingdom, have supplied Kyiv with weapons, and NATO as a whole has said it is committed to protecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity in the face of any possible Russian aggression.
US and NATO officials have also been making similar statements for about two weeks, saying that there are unusual Russian troop movements in the border region.
What Ukraine has to say
Kyiv has expressed its fears that Moscow might be preparing an attack. The head of Ukraine’s military intelligence told the Military Times outlet that Russia has more than 92,000 soldiers amassed around Ukrainian borders and is preparing for an attack at the end of January or the beginning of February 2022.
Kiril Budanov, head of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, said such an offensive would likely involve air raids, artillery, and armored attacks followed by airborne assaults in the east, amphibious assaults in Odesa and Mariupol, and an invasion of small forces through Belarus.
According to Budanov, the invasion will be preceded by a series of ongoing psychological operations aimed at destabilizing Ukraine and undermining its ability to fight. "They want to provoke riots through protests and rallies that show that people are against the government," he said.
Budanov believes the attack will be far more devastating than anything previously seen in the conflict that began in 2014 and cost the lives of at least 14,000 Ukrainians.