War, peace, stalemate? Ukraine’s fate may be decided in the coming weeks


WASHINGTON
Even if the Russian invasion of Ukraine does not occur in the next few day, the crisis has reached a crucial inflection point where European stability and future East-West relations are at stake.

The next week will determine whether the impasse is resolved peacefully or if Europe is at war. The post-Cold War security structure of Europe and the long-agreed limits to nuclear and conventional military forces deployment there are at stake.

“The next 10 or so days will be critical,” Ian Kelly, a retired career diplomat who was also the U.S. ambassador for Georgia and now teaches international relations at Northwestern University.

According to intelligence gathered by the United States, the Biden administration said that an invasion could occur at any time. The target date for Wednesday is possible. Washington was also evacuating nearly all its embassy staff in Kyiv (the capital of Ukraine).

Tensions did not ease after President Joe Biden called Vladimir Putin, Russian leader, on Saturday. Biden and Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine, spoke Sunday.

Analysts believed that this week was crucial for Ukraine’s future even before the U.S. diplomat moves and warnings.

“Russia and the United States are nearing a peak of their conflict of interests regarding a futuristic shape of Europe,” Timofei Borachev, head of the Center for European Research in Moscow’s Higher School of Economics. He said that the parties could take actions against one another that go beyond what was admissible just a few years ago in a recent analysis.

Washington and NATO will be waiting for Moscow’s formal reply in the coming week. This is after Moscow rejected its main security demands. Also, major Russian military drills conducted near Ukraine as part of a deployment, will end. To judge the Kremlin’s intentions, it will be crucial to determine the fate of the Russian troops currently in Belarus.

The Winter Olympics in China will also conclude on February 20. This is often cited by the U.S. as a possible deterrent for immediate Russian action. Officials from the United States have indicated that they believe an invasion could occur before then but this date is still important.

A crucial international security conference will be held in Munich next weekend. Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary to State Antony Blinken, and other top European officials are expected to attend.

Putin has made it clear to the West that his demand for Ukraine to be excluded from NATO will not be ignored. Although Ukraine long desired to join NATO, the alliance isn’t about to give an invitation.

He maintains that Ukraine could become a NATO member and use force to reclaim Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014. This would lead to conflict with Russia and NATO.

Sergey Lavrov has asked Western countries to explain how they view the “indivisibilityof security” principle, which is enshrined by international agreements. On Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated that it will not accept a joint response from NATO and the European Union. It insists on a specific response from each country.

Moscow claims that NATO violated the principle of free choice and that it jeopardized Russia’s security by expanding to the east, in order to counter NATO’s argument that any nation is allowed to choose which alliances to join.

Bordachev stated that “Russia’s bold demands, and equally blunt U.S. refusal of them, have pushed international agenda towards the confrontation more than any time since the heights of the Cold War.”

He claimed that Moscow has been bolstered by closer relations with China. Bordachev stated, “Regardless of what goals Russia may pursue now it can plan its destiny in the event of a total rupture of all ties with Western countries.”

Russian officials insist that any negotiations over Ukraine are dependent on the United States, and that Western allies simply follow Washington’s orders.

Russia tried to establish close relationships with France, Germany and Germany in the past. This was in the hopes that the U.S. would be relieved by friendly ties with Europe’s largest economies. The 2020 poisoning of Alexei Navalny the Russian opposition leader, strained those ties. He spent five years in Germany recovering from the nerve agent attack. Russia denied any involvement.

Russian officials criticize France and Germany’s position in the impassed peace talks on eastern Ukraine. They hold them responsible for not allowing the Ukrainian authorities to give broad autonomy to the Russia-backed separatist area, as required by an agreement from 2015.

Last fall, the Russian Foreign Ministry published confidential letters Lavrov had exchanged with his French- and German counterparts to show their inability to make progress in negotiations.

Dmitry Kozak from the Kremlin, speaking after the last round of talks that failed, bemoaned the failure of French and German envoys in convincing Ukraine to engage in dialogue with the separatists.

Despite tensions between Paris and Berlin, Putin spent over five hours with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday. He will be hosting Olaf Scholz, the German Chancellor, on Tuesday. Putin expressed gratitude to Macron for helping to negotiate a way to reduce tensions, and promised to talk again.

Moscow just opened a new window for diplomatic contact with Britain. The foreign and defence secretaries will be meeting in Moscow for the first round talks since the 2018 poisoning of Sergei Skripal (a former spy) and his daughter.

Lavrov’s meeting was frosty with Liz Truss, but British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace’s talks to Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu appeared more businesslike. Both parties stressed the importance of maintaining regular contact in order to reduce the risk of military incidents.