Five lessons learned about the Ukraine crisis, after Putin broke the silence

When he spoke about Ukraine on Tuesday for the first time in more than a month, President Vladimir V. Putin signaled that Russia ready for a diplomatic solution the crisis seems to cool down – at least for the moment. But it also shows the wide gap between Moscow’s demands and what Western nations are even willing to discuss.

As NATO continues to provide military support to Ukraine’s Eastern European neighbors, and with Russia planning larger-scale exercises this week ahead of the European Union in Belarus, this moment’s danger has not passed yet. President Biden has also approved the deployment of about 3,000 more U.S. troops to Eastern Europe, administration officials said Wednesday.

But so far this week, much of the focus has shifted to diplomacy, starting with an explosive clash between US and Russian diplomats at the United Nations Security Council. Those diplomatic efforts continued with a series of meetings on Tuesday in both Moscow and Kyiv: Putin spoke with Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain visited President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

It is unclear whether these individual efforts bring hope of peace or hold them back.

Here are some points to note:

When Western intelligence agencies tracked wagons loaded with Russian tanks and artillery to the border with Ukraine in December, Putin issued a warning that the US and NATO were aggressors.

“If our Western partners continue on a clear line of aggression, we will take commensurate military-technical countermeasures and will resolutely respond to unfriendly steps.” Putin said in a televised address on December 21.

Two days later, Putin remained silent on the matter in public — a well-researched silence that left the West guessing his intentions. Russia has issued a list of security demands, including the withdrawal of NATO forces from countries that were once part of the former Soviet sphere of influence – something unwise for the West. However, the Biden administration responded in writing to Russia’s requests as part of a diplomatic effort to avert war.

So it’s worth noting that when he finally broke his silence on Tuesday, Mr Putin did not repeat his threatening language, saying “the dialogue will continue”. But he made it clear that the gap between what Russia wants and what the US and NATO will discuss remains huge.

And he went on to accuse the West of trying to push Russia into a conflict, saying the Ukraine crisis was an attempt to “stretch Russia’s development” and a pretext to impose sanctions. economy.

For weeks, American officials assumed Putin was on the cusp of ordering an attack on Ukraine, which culminated in President Biden’s Predictions on January 19: “I guess he’s moving in.”

While other US officials have not gone as far, last week, Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby said that Russia has still adding to its army building and that an invasion of Ukraine “could be imminent.” Those warnings escalated the next day when Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that Moscow had accumulated a force large enough to take over all of Ukraine.

But amid an explosion of diplomatic meetings – and following criticism from President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine that the US’ It is useless to talk about war — the Biden administration appears to have softened its tone.

Asked on Tuesday if he still believes an invasion is imminent, US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, tell NPR: “I wouldn’t say we’re arguing that it’s imminent, because we’re still pursuing a diplomatic solution that gives the Russians a shortcut.”

While the United States has presented itself as leader of a unified Western response When it came to Russia, European nations approached the Kremlin directly in an effort to bring the temperature down. These leaks, like anything the US does, can help determine whether the crisis can be resolved peacefully.

President Emmanuel Macron of France and Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy have spoken by phone with Mr Putin in recent days, and Mr Johnson, the British prime minister, is expected to do so on Wednesday.

Mr. Macron has urged a more conciliatory approach to Moscow, arguing that Europe must take more responsibility for its own security because the United States is not a reliable ally as it once was. Draghi issued a statement following a phone call with Putin on Tuesday, stressing the need to rebuild an “atmosphere of mutual trust” to resolve the crisis.

European nations are keen on easing tensions, in part because if a Russian invasion causes harsh sanctions on Moscow, their economies, are closely linked. Russia rather than the United States, will be affected.

The outreach program is also geared towards a domestic audience. Mr. Macron is trying to elevate himself as a statesman ahead of his re-election campaign in April. And Mr Johnson – who is tougher than other European leaders, accusing Mr. Putin on Tuesday of “holding a gun to Ukraine’s head” – is trying to deflect attention from the scandal. parties are held in Downing Street despite the UK’s Covid lockdown.

Putin spoke about Ukraine on Tuesday standing side by side with the leader of Hungary, a European Union member state and NATO ally. It’s a bit of a diplomatic ploy meant to show division in the West, as well as the fact that Mr. Putin is not isolated.

For the most part, the United States and its European allies are of the same opinion, and Mr. Orban is an exception. However, Mr. Putin has sought to show he has other allies. The Kremlin said that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was preparing to visit Moscow. And perhaps most importantly for Mr. Putin, he will travel to China to meet President Xi Jinping on Friday, hours before the start of the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, where President Biden and Mr. others have organized. swear to boycott.

According to Chinese officials, this will be the 38th time the two have met and the first time Xi has met another world leader since the coronavirus pandemic began. It follows a video summit in December There Mr. Xi told Mr. Putin that they “resolutely support each other in matters related to each other’s core interests and uphold the dignity of each country”, according to Chinese state media.

Washington was worried that the two nations were more linked than ever, especially economically. Last month, China announced that annual trade with Russia had reached nearly $147 billion, up from $68 billion in 2015, a year after Russia annexed Crimea and supported separatists in eastern Ukraine.

In Ukraine, where about 14,000 people have been killed in the years-long conflict in two eastern breakaway provinces, people have responded to stark US warnings and Russia’s threats to mix between stoicism, apprehension and determination.

Following Mr. Zelensky on Tuesday is a case study of the contradictions and concerns that surround Ukraine in the face of threats from its giant neighbour. He opened a new session of Congress by calling for unity throughout the country, offering assurances that its economy was stable and praising the immense display of diplomatic and military support. from Ukraine’s allies. He avoids any direct mention of Russia’s massive military buildup.

But after meeting with the leaders of Poland and Britain – the latest in a long line of leaders to make a pilgrimage to Kyiv to offer their support – Mr. Zelensky made his own stark assessment. about this moment. Just days after criticizing the United States for drumming the battle, he warned that if diplomatic efforts fail, “This will not be a war between Ukraine and Russia. This will be a European war, an all-out war.” Five lessons learned about the Ukraine crisis, after Putin broke the silence

Fry Electronics Team

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