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Wary & Worried West

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recently announced that his country was ready to retaliate, if Russia declared war. President Zelensky issued the statement in the wake of tensions surrounding the deployment of Russian troops near the border areas. He asked his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to openly disclose whether he had any plan to attack Ukraine. The Western countries, too, expressed serious concern over Russia’s growing military patrolling along its border with Ukraine. US President Joe Biden has hinted that he could talk to the presidents of Russia and Ukraine in order to avoid tensions.

According to President Zelensky, the current situation may lead to an armed conflict between the two former Soviet Republics. At the same time, he made it clear that Ukraine had the strength to take on the Russian forces. “Ukraine is ready to take on Russia, if Moscow decides to move troops across the border. Russia is sending very dangerous signals with troop movements on the border, but the Ukrainian Forces are ready to push back any offensive,” he stressed.

President Zelensky

Earlier, Ukraine’s Chief of Defence Intelligence Kyrylo Budanov claimed that Russia sent around 92,000 troops to the Russia-Ukraine border, with an offensive expected in January-February 2022. He further claimed that such an attack could involve Air and Artillery strikes, followed by Airborne and Amphibious assaults.

Although Ukraine has claimed that Russia has already amassed around 92,000 troops at the border, the US Intelligence report has stated that Russian invasion of Ukraine is possible as early as January 2022. Meanwhile, Russia has denied threatening Ukraine, saying that it can deploy troops on its own territory as it pleases.

International organisations, too, are worried about the Ukraine-Russia tension. NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg has advised the Kremlin to show restraint, saying: “If Russia uses force against Ukraine, that will have costs, that will have consequences.” He is of the opinion that the NATO foreign ministers would try to find a way out soon during their meeting in the Latvian capital of Riga.

Apart from President Biden, US Secretary of State for Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried has also expressed concern about Russia’s move. Talking to the local media in Washington DC, she stressed: “It is not acceptable for Russia to continue to potentially use military action against Ukraine. All options are on the table. What we’re doing now is monitoring the region closely, consulting with our allies and partners on how do we deter Russian action.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin has dismissed all these accusations, blaming Washington DC for triggering tensions in the region. Moscow has also accused Kiev of provocations in its years-long conflict with pro-Russian separatists in two breakaway eastern regions. Defence experts are of the opinion that Russia has developed a habit of creating troubles for other former Soviet Republics in an attempt to put the West under tremendous diplomatic pressure, and to destabilise Europe.

The Kremlin is not happy with efforts by the US and the European Union (EU) to induct Ukraine into the US-led military alliance of NATO and keep it out of Russian control. For the US and the EU, Ukraine acts as a crucial buffer between Russia and the EU. As part of a Defence Deal with Britain, Ukraine is building a naval base in Ochakiv and the other in Berdyansk. Russia considers the development as a provocation.

Russia has 900,000 armed personnel compared with Ukraine’s 209,000. In other words, there are four Russian soldiers for one Ukrainian soldier. Also, if it were to invade, Russia has an ally in Belarus in the north and Criema in the south, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014. It was the first time when an European country annexed territory from another country since World War II. Earlier in 2021, Russia pulled back more than 100,000 troops gathered near Ukraine’s border.

If Russia attacks Ukraine, the US and the EU have threatened to impose hard-hitting sanctions on the former, adding to the sanctions imposed after the seizure of Criema. They may also prevent Russia from pumping gas through its newly-built Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany.

Boris Johnson (R) with Mateusz Morawiecki

In such a scenario, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki, who recently visited London, expressed “unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity“, saying in a joint statement that Britain and Poland would help Ukraine overcome the Russian threat.

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