The tension surrounding the crisis in Ukraine remains high. Russia insists that it is not planning an invasion and has withdrawn part of its troops, but Washington maintains that an attack could be imminent. Several countries, including Spain, have recommended that their citizens leave the country. Airlines are beginning to avoid the airspace of Ukraine and the Black Sea.
Meanwhile, diplomacy continues, and this Tuesday the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, met with Vladimir Putin.
These are some keys to the conflict at this time.
Why have fears of an invasion increased?
The Biden administration leaked in December that Russia was planning an invasion of Ukraine with the post by Washington Post of an intelligence report pointing to a troop surge near the border. The report showed satellite images which supposedly confirmed the movement of troops and material, but which could not be verified by independent sources.
Despite continuous denials from Moscow, last week the US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinkenassured that the invasion could happen “at any moment”. President Biden recommended his citizens to leave Ukraine, setting off a chain reaction.
washington plus has accused Moscow of preparing an excuse for the attackwith false operations or video montages, all accusations branded as “absurd” by Russia.
However, there are some signs that seem rule out a full-scale invasion. First of all, the Russian military moves have been obvious, even publicly announced, so loses the key element of surprise in any military operation. What’s more, the ground must be completely frozen for mechanized units to maneuver, and a mild winter in the region has meant that this is only possible for a short time.
By last, Russia had not yet mobilized field hospitals either.. However, this could have happened in recent days, satellite images allegedly show, fueling suspicions that some kind of military operation may be underway. The images have been provided by a private US company and have not been able to be verified by independent sources.
In case of invasion, the Ukrainian Armed Forces could not contain the Russians but they could cause numerous casualties. Any attempted occupation would be very costly to Russia in lives, budget and internal stability. This is why a limited intervention is more likely, if at all, with which Russia could try to territorially unite the pro-Russian secessionist territories of Donbas with the Crimean peninsulaoccupying the entire Ukrainian coast of the Sea of Azov.
What is Russia asking for?
Russia made its security demands, the so-called “red lines”, public in December. Moscow called for the Alliance to stop expanding towards its borders, limit military exercises and withdraw to its pre-1997 positions (that is, prior to the incorporation of the countries that were part of the Soviet bloc). In addition, it demanded that the Alliance exclude Ukraine and Georgia from any possible enlargement.
Russia proposed agreements of armament reduction and limitation and measure of mutual trust.
Moscow also accuses Kiev of preparing an offensive, with weapons provided by the West, to regain control over the secessionist republics of Donetsk and Lugansk (which together form the Donbas region). Russia demands compliance the Minsk II Agreements, agreed in 2015 for a ceasefire, and which provide for a constitutional reform to recognize the autonomy of these regions.
How are the negotiations?
Despite the growing noise Moscow and Washington continue to negotiate. After two rounds of contacts, Washington rejected the main Russian claims in writing, but offered dialogue on arms control. The Russian President, Vladimir Putinhas assured that there are elements that are worth discussing and that Russia “does not want a war in Europe”.
At the same time, France and Germany try to mediate through the so-called Normandy Quartet, in which they sit with Russia and Ukraine. Although there has been no progress in that forum either, it has served to resume the Minsk agreements as a possible base for the solution of the current conflict.
How has Russia deployed troops on the Ukraine border?
Russia, according to Washington, has concentrated up to 100,000 soldiers near the border with Ukraine. Moscow has not denied this, although it has not revealed the exact number, but insists that it is legitimized because it is produced within its borders.
The troops are located in military bases and polygons in Kursk, Klimovo or Pogonovo. Moscow has also deployed, always according to Western sources, medium range ballistic missiles and platforms for electronic warfare.
Russia announced on Tuesday that some of its units deployed in military exercises along the border The Ukrainian army had finished the maneuvers and began to return to their barracks, which has been received by NATO with “cautious optimism”.
Russia also conducts joint exercises in Belarus and maritime exercises in the Black Sea. In Belarus there are some 30,000 soldiers Russians deployed around the town of Gomelin addition to SU-35 fighters and S-400 anti-aircraft missiles.
In the Black Sea, according to the Russian Defense Ministry, at least 30 ships of its fleet participate in the exercises between Sevastopol, in Crimea, and Novorossiysk, across the Kerch Strait that closes the Sea of Azov. Russia unilaterally annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014 and has also concentrated troops there.
The Russian army is far superior to the Ukrainian: it has 280,000 active troops and a total, including reservists, of 900,000. In addition, we must add some 15,000 pro-Russian militiamen of the breakaway republics of Luhansk and Donetsk.
What is NATO deployment?
The NATO increased its presence in Eastern European countries after 2014. It maintains four multinational battalions (about 4,000 soldiers) in the Baltic republics (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and in Poland. Since 2004, alliance planes, including Spanish ones, have been carrying out air “police” tasks in the Baltic that often place them in front of Russian planes.
Further south, the Alliance has some 4,000 troops in Bulgaria and Romania. Here NATO also carries out air and maritime “patrol” tasks. Sometimes ships from allied countries depart from the Romanian port of Constance400 kilometers from Sevastopol, and are approaching the Crimean coast, claiming that they are Ukrainian waters, which has caused incidents with Russian ships.
Two Spanish ships (the minesweeper Meteoro and the frigate Blas de Lezo) and four Spanish fighters are there as part of Spain’s contribution to this mission.
The US has decided to temporarily reinforce this Eastern flank of NATO with 2,900 soldiers: 1,700 are already in Polandwhere there are also 4,500 US soldiers who are not under Allied command; another 1,000 have arrived in Romania and the rest to Germany.
Germany has also sent 380 soldiers and armored cars to Lithuania.
What is Ukraine’s position?
The Ukrainian authorities began by warning of Russia’s aggression, but in recent days, as international nervousness increased, They have called for calm. President Volodymyr Zelensky ensures that they have no new information to lead them to believe that the invasion is imminent.
The Ukrainian Army has about 200,000 soldiers, which Zelensky intends to expand by another 100,000 in the coming years. It also has armed militiamen and with a population with some military training, which he is training for resistance.
Kiev has been receiving military and financial aid from various countries in recent months. The US has spent $2.5 billion on military aid to Ukraine since 2014, including the delivery of Javalin anti-tank missiles, patrol boats, vehicles, reconnaissance drones and a radar system, Reuters reports.
Turkey has sold the Ukrainians several Bayraktar TB2 dronescapable of flying 150 kilometers away and previously tested in Libya, Syria and Azerbaijan.
UK has supplied 2,000 short-range anti-tank missiles and has sent monitors to teach its use, in addition to armored vehicles. Other countries such as Estonia, Lithuania and the Czech Republic have donated ammunition.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.