In recent weeks, NATO members, particularly the United States, have also steadily deployed more of their own forces to bolster the alliance’s force posture along its eastern flank. The stated purpose of these deployments, which have included a multitude of air, ground and naval assets, including the arrival of eight additional US Air Force F-15 Eagle fighter jets in Poland today, is to demonstrate the strength and unity of NATO. , as well as deterring possible Russian aggression. US officials have refused to rule out the possibility that any new major conflict in Ukraine could spill over to neighboring NATO countries.
The Kremlin has made it clear that it views preventing Ukraine from becoming a NATO member as a “red line” issue. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a televised meeting today that the Kremlin continues to receive “unsatisfactory” responses from members of this military alliance regarding this request and other proposals he has made to defuse the situation regarding Ukraine. .
Putin and other Russian officials have asked the alliance for concessions that it finds virtually impossible to meet, politically and practically, even if it wanted to, including a call for a formal suspension of membership of any new member. The Russian government also wants the alliance to return to its position of strength as it existed in 1997, to include a ban on the deployment of any new long-range missiles in Europe and the withdrawal of troops deployed in countries that joined after. this date. NATO officials flatly rejected these Russian demands for a “red line”, but offered other arms control and confidence-building measures in return.
Yet Lavrov seemed to leave open the possibility, at least publicly, that the Kremlin might find some sort of non-military solution to the brewing crisis.
“It seems to me that our [diplomatic] the possibilities are far from exhausted,” he told Putin. “At this point, I would suggest going ahead and developing them.
“We have already warned more than once that we will not allow endless negotiations on issues that require a solution today,” he added. “I have to say there are always chances.”
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who had his own televised meeting with Putin today, further insisted that the Kremlin had no intention of invading Ukraine and that its forces deployed in the western regions of the country and in Belarus would return to their original stations after the conclusion of the currently planned exercises. “Some exercises are ending and others will be finished in the near future,” he said.
This is of course not the first time that Shoigu has insisted that Russia has no intention of launching military action against Ukraine, despite clear evidence that Russia is already engaged in such operations. . Moreover, after Russian officials announced a similar withdrawal following a build-up of forces near the country’s borders with Ukraine for “exercises” last year, it became clear that some units, as well that large stocks of equipment, had in fact remained in place.
Beyond that, Russia appears to have dismissed recent efforts to use other confidence-building mechanisms to try to defuse concerns about its intentions. Ukrainian officials say the Kremlin has not responded to official requests by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for additional information to prove that its “exercises” in western Russia and in Belarus are what they are supposed to be. Russian state media RIA Novosti reported that a senior Russian diplomat, Konstantin Gavrilov, said the country had no plans to attend an OSCE meeting today to discuss its moves. military in Europe and around Europe.
Ukrainian officials have officially accused Russia of already carrying out various covert and clandestine operations to destabilize the country, including cyberattacks, economic warfare and hundreds of false bomb threats. The US and UK governments had previously issued intelligence statements indicating that Russia had established networks inside Ukraine for the express purpose of also taking over the government in the event of another invasion. It has been reported that the Kremlin, or its proxies, may also attempt to stage some sort of false flag attack as a pretext for Russian intervention.
All in all, new reports and other developments regarding Ukraine are now emerging at an extremely rapid pace, and the overall situation continues to be extremely fluid. At the same time, if Russia is indeed preparing to launch a new large-scale military operation against its neighbour, the whole world will soon become aware of it.
Update at 6:55 p.m. EST:
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated the Russian government’s public position that it is open to further negotiations on the crisis. At the same time, he also stressed that any resolution to the current situation must address Russia’s broader security concerns, such as those related to NATO.
“First of all, President Putin always demanded negotiations and diplomacy. And in fact, he initiated the issue of security guarantees for the Russian Federation,” Peskov said. “And Ukraine is only part of the problem, it’s part of the bigger problem of security guarantees for Russia and, of course, President Putin is ready to negotiate.”
Separately, Politics reported that National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan described a number of key facts about Ukraine during a call with members of the House of Representatives. This includes the Pentagon exploring ways to continue sending military aid to the Ukrainian Armed Forces by land in the event that it is no longer possible to make such deliveries by air.
Update at 10:20 p.m. EST:
The US State Department has issued updated travel advisories for the countries of Belarus and Moldova. US citizens are now advised not to travel to Belarus, as well as the breakaway region of Transnistria in Moldova, in part because of concerns over the crisis surrounding Ukraine. US citizens already in Belarus or Transnistria are urged to leave as soon as possible.
The notice for Belarus now includes the following:
On January 31, 2022, the Department of State ordered the departure of family members of U.S. government employees from the Minsk Embassy.
Due to an increase in unusual and concerning Russian military activity near the border with Ukraine, U.S. citizens located or planning to visit Belarus should be aware that the situation is unpredictable and that there is heightened tension in the region. On February 12, 2022, the Department of State ordered the departure of most U.S. direct-hire employees from the Embassy in Kyiv due to the continued threat of Russian military action. Possible harassment specifically targeting foreigners is also possible. Given the heightened volatility of the situation, US citizens are strongly advised not to travel to Belarus.
The U.S. government’s ability to provide routine or emergency services to U.S. citizens in Belarus is already severely limited due to Belarusian government limitations on U.S. Embassy personnel.
The notice for Moldova now includes the following:
Do not travel to Transnistria due to an unusual and concerning increase in military activity around Ukraine. Transnistria is a separatist region which is not under the control of the Moldovan government in Chisinau. US citizens must leave immediately by commercial or private means. Visitors may encounter difficulties at checkpoints along the roads into and out of Transnistria. Taking photos of military installations and security forces is prohibited and may cause problems with the authorities.
The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens traveling to Transnistria, as U.S. government employees have restrictions on travel to the region.
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