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What Putin is looking for in Ukraine and 6 other questions about the crisis with Russia

the russian president Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied that it intends to attack Ukrainebut based on information from his intelligence services, the president of the United States believes that the Russian president is determined to invade his neighbor.

It is estimated that 150,000 Russian soldiers are positioned near the borders of Ukraine.

What happens in the next few days could jeopardize the entire security structure of Europe.

1.- How serious is the invasion threat?

For months, the US claimed that it did not believe that Russia had made a final decision, but on February 18, everything changed and President Joe Biden told a thought conference that now he did believe that Putin had decided to attack “in the next few days.”

Russia insists it has no plans to invade neighboring Ukraine, a country of 44 million people.

But he already did it in the past, in 2014, when seized Crimea.

And also by backing a conflict in the eastern region of Ukraine, Donbas, which includes the breakaway territories of Donetsk and Luhansk.

2.- What forces has Russia gathered on the border?

According to the US, Russia has moved more than 150,000 soldiers near Ukraine’s borders with both Russia and Belarus.

An American defense official said that between the “40% and 50% are in an attack position”.

Russia justifies the presence of troops by stating that they are there carrying out military exercises.

And he says that he has withdrawn some units as the maneuvers have been completed.

Thousands of Russian soldiers have been participating in joint military exercises in Belarusa traditional Russian ally bordering Ukraine.

Thousands of Russian soldiers have been taking part in joint military exercises in Belarus, which borders Ukraine.  (EPA/RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY).

But NATO sees no signs of a Russian de-escalation, but rather a “massive invasion force” ready to attack from Crimea to Belarus.

President Putin has insisted that Russia does not want war and is ready to trade.

But he has also threatened “appropriate retaliatory military-technical measures” if his demands for “safety guarantees”.

While Russia has stepped up its rhetoric, the West believes it is creating a pretext for attack.

Troop advance towards Ukraine.

3.- Why is Russia threatening Ukraine?

Russia has long resisted Ukraine’s rapprochement with European institutions, and NATO in particular.

Their main demand now is that The West guarantees that Ukraine will not join NATOa defensive alliance of 30 countries.

Ukraine shares borders with both the European Union and Russia, but as a former Soviet republic it has deep social and cultural ties with Russiaand a lot of Russian is spoken there.

When the Ukrainians deposed their pro-Russian president in early 2014, Russia annexed southern Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and backed separatists who captured large swaths of eastern Ukraine.

Since then, pro-Russian rebels have fought against the Ukrainian army in a conflict that has claimed more than 14,000 lives.

A Ukrainian military man on the front lines near the city of Donetsk last month.  Some 14,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since 2014. (EPA).

Russia has complained that the Minsk Peace Agreements, signed in 2015, are far from being fulfilled.

This was a package of agreements negotiated in 2014 and 2015 in the Belarusian capital Minsk that was designed to end the war in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed rebels.

Obviously it failed because the fight continues.

But at least it opened a path to a ceasefire.

Western politicians have suggested that reviving the Minsk agreements now could be a solution to this crisis.

4.- How could Russia attack?

Much of the focus is on eastern Ukraine, but President Biden warned, “We think they will attack the capital of Ukraine, Kiev, a city of 2.8 million inhabitants“.

This is the possible route from the north.

Moscow has insisted that “there will be no Russian invasion,” but if there were, Russia can mobilize the troops it has in Crimea, Belarus and around Ukraine’s eastern borders.

It is in the rebel-controlled east that an information war is already underway, with the West highlighting a series of Russian actions that could be used as a pretext for war.

The separatist leaders ordered this weekend the evacuation of some 700,000 civilians in an area in southern Russia and ordered a full military mobilization.

The men of fighting age in the self-proclaimed people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk they are on alert.

Russia has delivered some 700,000 passports in rebel controlled areas.

So you could argue that any action is aimed at protect their own citizens.

Moscow has made baseless accusations that Ukraine has committed “genocide” in the east and is planning an offensive there.

There has been an increase in ceasefire violations on both sides, but the head of Ukraine’s armed forces, Valeriy Zaluzhny, says his troops only respond when civilian lives are threatened.

This is the possible route from the east

There are signs of so-called covert operations, including unsubstantiated claims of planned Ukrainian attacks.

Ukraine also warned that Russian special forces have planted explosives on key targets in separatist areas and believes the intention is to destabilize the situation.

Russia also has other options, including cyber attacks.

As many as 70 Ukrainian government websites went down in January and then two of Ukraine’s largest banks were attacked in mid-February.

Russia has so far only threatened “military-technical” measures if its demands are not met.

But it’s not clear what that means.

It could involve imposing restrictions on Ukraine, such as an exclusion zone, the blockade of its ports, or the transfer of nuclear weapons to neighboring Belarus.


5.- What does Putin want?

Russia has said that it is the “moment of truth” for reformulate its relationship with NATO and has highlighted three demands.

First, you want a legally binding promise of that NATO does not expand further.

“It is absolutely mandatory for us to ensure that Ukraine never, ever becomes a member of NATO,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.

Putin has complained that Russia “has nowhere else to retreat to. Do you think we will sit idly by?”

Map of geopolitical changes

Last year, President Putin wrote a lengthy article in which he described the Russians and Ukrainians as “one nation”.

He has described the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991 as the “disintegration of historical Russia” and considers Ukraine’s current leaders to be carrying out an “anti-Russian project”.

President Putin has also argued that if Ukraine joins NATO, the alliance could try to take back Crimea.

“Let’s imagine that Ukraine is a member of NATO and starts these military operations. Are we supposed to go to war with the NATO bloc? Has anyone thought of that? Apparently not,” Putin said.

Putin spoke about the situation in Ukraine after a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Moscow.  (REUTERS).

Their other main demands are that NATO does not deploy “weapons of attack near Russia’s borders” and to eliminate the forces and military infrastructure of the member states that joined the alliance since 1997.

That means Central Europe, Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries.

In reality, Russia wants NATO to return to its pre-1997 borders.

6.- What NATO says

NATO is a defensive alliance with an open door policy to new members, and its 30 member states are convinced that they will not budge.

Even if Ukraine wanted to join NATO, there is no prospect of this happening in the short term, as the German chancellor has made clear.

However, in the eyes of President Putin, The West promised in 1990 that NATO would not expand “not an inch to the east”, but he did it anyway.

Ukrainian soldier using binoculars on February 16.  (GETTY IMAGES).

However, that It was before the collapse of the Soviet Unionso the promise made to then-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev only referred to East Germany in the context of a reunified Germany.

Gorbachev later said that “the issue of NATO expansion was never discussed” at the time.

The United States and other NATO allies have made it clear that they have no plans to send combat troops Ukraine itself, but offer support in the form of advisers, weapons and field hospitals.

The Pentagon has placed 8,500 combat-ready troops on alert and is deploying an additional 3,000 troops to Germany, Romania and Poland.

Other NATO allies have strengthened their support on the eastern flank of the alliance.

Official photos released to the press showing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the front lines on December 6.  (EPA).

The other tool in the West’s arsenal is the sanctions, which the US, the EU and the UK have prepared in case of invasion, although the details are not known.

A key threat is preventing opening of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline going from Russia to Germany.

It is complete but has not yet been approved by the German regulator.

President Biden has threatened personal sanctions on Vladimir Putin and the UK has warned that “those in and around the Kremlin will have nowhere to hide.”

The ultimate economic blow would be to disconnect the banking system from Russia of the Swift international payment system.

But that could also have a negative impact on the US and European economies.

Putin and Biden have spoken multiple times via video link and by phone.  (Reuters).

7.- Is there a diplomatic solution?

Any agreement would have to include both the war in eastern Ukraine and the issue of security in general.

Talks have been going on on the conflict involving Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany on the reactivation of the 2014 and 2015 Minsk peace agreements.

But so far no great progress has been made.

Ukraine believes that the agreements were very favorable to Russia and the separatists.

Russia and the United States have spoken several times via video and on the phone.

Russia wants a treaty with the United States that prohibits the deployment of nuclear weapons beyond their national territories.

The United States has offered to start talks on the limitation of short and medium range missilesas well as on a new treaty on intercontinental missiles.

Although Russia was not impressed with the Western response to its main demands, it has been positive towards a “transparency mechanism” of mutual checks on missile bases: two in Russia and two in Romania and Poland.


Source: Elcomercio

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