Ukraine Update: 19 December, 2021

Predictably, Russia’s draft security proposal has not elicited a positive response from NATO governments. The terms embedded in the document include denying NATO membership to Ukraine and other former Soviet states, as well as reducing the amount of NATO troops and weapons presently deployed in Eastern Europe. The security proposal was crafted as a counterweight to NATO’s eastern expansion and the problems it has created for Russia’s own security dilemma. While NATO member-states discuss the proposal and consider the response, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said his country’s relations with the US and NATO have approached a “dangerous point,” and that the deployment of large numbers of NATO forces so near to the border raises “unacceptable risks” to Russian security. There has also been no formal response to Russia’s call for discussions with the United States and other NATO nations on its proposal. But NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said that any talks “would also need to address NATO’s concerns about Russia’s actions, be based on core principles and documents of European security, and take place in consultation with NATO’s European partners, such as Ukraine.”

Sources in the Biden administration are now speaking of a ‘four-week window’ to prevent Russia from launching large scale military action against Ukraine. Admittedly, some of these sources are privately admitting that efforts by the White House to deter Russia’s designs have not been successful. The flurry of diplomatic activity and threats of large-scale economic sanctions placed on Moscow were it to invade Ukraine, have been undermined by public admissions by the White House that no US troops will be deployed to Ukraine. Earlier this weekend, a similar public statement about British forces was made by British Secretary of State for Defense Ben Wallace. If anything, Vladimir Putin now has solid assurances that without the possibility of US and British forces being deployed to Ukraine, no other NATO member will dare intervene militarily should Russian forces cross the border in the coming days or weeks.

Ukraine Update 13 April, 2021: Discussions And Threats

13 April has been a day of dialogue, discussion and warnings between the United States and Russia over the situation in eastern Ukraine, as well as the deployment of US warships to the Black Sea.

President Biden spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone today and Ukraine was one of the topics discussed. Arms control and security issues dominated the call, predicably enough. Biden called on Putin to deescalate the tensions relating to the Russian troop buildup along its border with Ukraine. The US president also proposed a US-Russia summit meeting be held in a third country “in the coming months to discuss the full range of issues facing the United States and Russia,” according to the White House press release. In short, Biden did not take the opportunity to discuss the Ukraine crisis at length or warn Putin against moving on Ukraine. A missed opportunity on the part of Biden and the White House.

Meanwhile, around the same time, a Russian official was labeling the United States as an adversary of Russia. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also warned the US to keep its warships away from the Crimea ‘for their own good.’ He called the deployment of US Navy ships into the Black Sea a provocation intended to test Russian nerves. “We warn the United States that it will be better for them to stay far away from Crimea and our Black Sea coast. It will be for their own good,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying.

He was not the only member of the Russian government to speak today. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stated the Russian military buildup is a response to threats from NATO. The military exercise now currently underway near the Ukrainian border is part of a series of readiness drills and will continue for two weeks. Shoigu made the comments during a visit to a naval base at Gadzhiyevo, on the Kola Peninsula.