December 9, 2021
Sputnik/Evgeny Paulin/Kremlin via REUTERS

Willing to take risks in Ukraine and Belarus, Putin increases military tension with the West – International

VILNA – a bad omen from A Russian military mobilization near Ukraine. that Migrant crisis in Belarus What Western leaders describe as a “hybrid war” by a Kremlin client state. The growing fear of natural gas could leave Europe facing a frigid winter.

President Russian President Vladimir Putin, from Russia, is increasingly putting his cards on the table: he is willing to take greater risks to force the West to listen to Russian demands. The United States and its allies are feeling a moment of extraordinary volatility, with Putin playing a role in multiple destabilizing crises at the same time.

In the region of Europe stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, which has been the subject of dispute between Moscow and the West for decades, the danger of new military conflicts is growing.

This month, Russian long-range nuclear bombers have repeatedly patrolled near the Russian border. European Union With Poland, and a covert and unprovoked military deployment in southwestern Russia alerting US and European intelligence officials to the possibility that the Kremlin is moving forward with preparations for a new invasion of Ukraine.

During Thursday’s address to Russian diplomats, Putin indicated more frankly than before that he seeks to use military force to compel the West to respect Russian interests in the region. He said Western countries have finally realized that Russia is serious about defending its “red lines” against the presence of NATO forces near its borders.

Putin said: “Our last warnings have already been heeded, and they have had an effect: tension at the site, after all. It is important that things remain that way as long as possible so that they do not think of creating some kind of conflict on our western borders that is unnecessary for us ” .

Migration crisis in Belarus

Tensions have been exacerbated by a migration crisis orchestrated by Belarus, a close ally of Russia across the European Union, and a lack of energy supplies that Russia, a supplier of natural gas used in much of Western Europe, has used to pressure the country. Approval of a new pipeline that would increase the Kremlin’s influence in the region.

“It is a regional security situation that is really worrying at the moment,” said Asta Skisgeret, foreign policy adviser to the president of Lithuania, a member of the European Union and NATO, which has faced a wave of immigration from neighboring Belarus in recent months.

In Belarus on Friday, tensions that sparked violent clashes earlier this week at the main crossing point on the Polish border continued to subside. Belarusian security forces armed with Kalashnikovs guarded a huge warehouse housing some 2,000 migrants.

Many migrants said they were worried and frustrated about having to return instead of heading to Poland, suggesting that Belarusian President Alexander J. Lukashenko may struggle to contain anger if migrants lose hope of reaching Europe.

Putin’s confidence

In Moscow, Putin appears to be feeling increasingly confident. He has refused to challenge his authority this year by detained opposition leader Alexei Navalny, while other opposition names are being arrested or forced to seek exile. Its approval rating remains above 60% in independent polls, even though Russia faces one of the world’s highest Covid-19 deaths. His United Russia party scored a respectable victory in parliamentary elections in September, sparking little outcry despite evidence of fraud.

Putin also commands an army that is developing increasingly modern weapons, such as advanced hypersonic missiles and nuclear-capable torpedoes. Russia is working to forge a stronger partnership with China, which was underlined on Friday when the two countries conducted a joint strategic bomber patrol over the Pacific.

The advance of the West into the East

Meanwhile, Russian analysts say the Kremlin is increasingly concerned that the West might expand its military presence in post-Soviet Eastern Europe. Lithuania and two other Baltic states that were once part of the Soviet Union, Latvia and Estonia, are part of NATO and home to Western forces. In Belarus, Russia’s closest ally, the West openly supported the exiled opposition to Lukashenko.

But Ukraine is primarily responsible for the “red lines” of present-day Russia. The Kremlin said in September that “the expansion of NATO infrastructure on Ukrainian territory” — where the West already provides training and weapons to Ukrainian forces — would violate those lines. Russian government officials have been outraged in recent weeks by the military activity of the United States and its allies in the Black Sea region near Ukraine, where President Volodymyr Zelensky is taking an increasingly anti-Russian stance.

For Russia, the present moment may seem like a reversal of the 1962 missile crisis, when President John F. Kennedy was willing to take the risks of nuclear war, said Dmitri Trinin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center for Strategic Studies. To prevent the Soviet Union from installing missiles off the coast of Florida. Experts at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington wrote this month that “the Kremlin increasingly views Ukraine as a Western aircraft carrier” on Russia’s southwestern border.

“He believes that it is time to change the pace of our foreign policy,” Trenin said of Putin’s new approach, and according to him, in the Russian president’s view of the West, “the only understandable language is the language of power.”

Or return to the Soviet Union?

Lithuanian foreign policy adviser Asta Skaisjerit said the United States should be careful in dealing with Russia even as Putin claims his country is a “peace lover” as it did on Thursday.

“We can’t be naive,” Asta said. “We have to be very attentive to what he’s doing, without falling into the trap of Putin’s rhetoric.”

What does Putin want? For Asta, the answer is simple: “Restore the Soviet Union.”

For Dmitri Trinin, a Carnegie analyst, Putin cares little about large-scale invasions and occupations in other countries, arguing that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s helped precipitate the collapse of the Soviet Union. But he said securing an international commitment to Ukraine as a neutral country, by granting some autonomy to the country’s more pro-Russian east, would be one of the Kremlin’s priorities.

“President Putin has come to the conclusion that normal diplomatic channels, means, forms and methods are not working. It is possible that we will have a very bad situation,” Trenin said. /Translation by AUGUSTO CALIL