In numerous reports, Liberty Nation has kept the news spotlight on the danger posed by Russian troops on Ukraine’s border. As the U.S., NATO, E.U. nations, and Russia are engaged in a war of words, tensions on all sides are growing to a boiling point. In early spring of this year, the president of Ukraine made a plea for western support and received weak assurances that the U.S. and NATO would stand with the beleaguered ally.
As is becoming more apparent, the 90,000-plus Russian troops maneuvering just to the east of Ukraine are not there because that particular area is an excellent training ground. No. Moscow’s intimidation army is positioned to strike fear into Ukraine and to serve notice that NATO should not attempt to expand its influence. The Associated Press reported Dec. 1 on Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s meetings with NATO allies in Riga, the Latvian capital, focusing on how the allies would respond to the potential Russian invasion force. AP quoted Blinken’s words of caution:
“We don’t know whether President Putin has made the decision to invade. We do know that he is putting in place the capacity to do so in short order should he decide. We must prepare for all contingencies. We’re also urging Ukraine to continue to exercise restraint because, the Russian playbook is to claim provocation for something that they were planning to do all along.”
Consequently, NATO allies should “stand ready to inflict heavy sanctions on Russia’s economy if that happens.”
Putin responded in kind, sending an unmistakable warning to NATO. In not too subtle terms, Military Times reports the Russian president “sternly warned NATO against deploying its troops and weapons to Ukraine, saying it represents a red line for Russia and would trigger a strong response.” Putin made these remarks in an online speech to an investment forum. He made his view on the potential for NATO missiles in Ukraine very clear. He said, “The emergence of such threats represents a ‘red line’ for us. I hope that it will not get to that and common sense and responsibility for their own countries and the global community will prevail.”
As “red lines” go, Putin’s use of the metaphor should be given more attention than former President Obama’s red line warning to Syria on using or moving chemical weapons. Obama’s red line faded like watercolors in the rain. Syria used chemical weapons and killed approximately 1,400 in a nerve gas attack near Damascus.
As more of a throwaway line during his online address, the Russian president mentioned, “Russia has been forced to counter the growing threats by developing new hypersonic weapons.” Just in case anyone was wondering, now you know.
To emphasize where Russia stands on the Ukraine dust-up, Al Jazeera reported on one consequence of the deepening row between Moscow and Washington. Al Jazeera explained, “Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday (December 1) that US embassy staff who have been in Moscow for more than three years were being ordered to fly home by January 31.” According to a Forbes report, the U.S. had previously established a similar term limit for Russian diplomats and their families in America. Though this appears to be a “tit-for-tat” move since Washington imposed the term limit first, a State Department spokesperson told Forbes that Russia “…was informed about the term limit on its diplomats over a year ago.” Regardless, the timing of the Washington-Moscow back and forth is terrible optics during the Ukraine confrontation.
In an attempt to address the tensions that have been building over Kremlin troops threatening Ukraine, Blinken met with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Reuters reported before the Lavrov meeting that “the top US diplomat is expected to relay in person the threat of further sanctions if Moscow fails to end its troop build-up on Ukraine’s border.”
Though the show of resolve on the part of NATO and particularly the U.S. is encouraging, it’s not clear that Blinken’s bravado will reduce Russia’s determination to intimidate Ukraine and the West. America’s lead diplomat for the Biden administration does not have a stellar negotiating track record. Not so long ago, when Blinken and his diplomatic entourage went up against the Chinese, Beijing took the opportunity to hand the Americans their hats and spats and send them on their way. Of course, circumstances are different with the Russians, but the Ukraine situation remains a test for the Biden foreign policy team. Hope is that the outcome will be more positive.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
~ Read more from Dave Patterson.
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