NATO announced on Monday that it was putting soldiers on alert and bolstering eastern Europe with extra ships and fighter jets in response to Russia’s troop build-up on the Ukraine border, which Russia called “hysteria.”
The news: According to the U.S. Department of Defense in Washington, some 8,500 American troops have been placed on high alert and are waiting for orders to move to the region if Russia invades Ukraine.
- Tensions are high as Russia massed an estimated 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s border, encircling the country from the north, east, and south.
- Russia denies plotting an invasion and points to the Western response as proof that Russia is the victim of aggression rather than the perpetrator.
- On Monday, President Joe Biden convened an 80-minute secure video chat with a number of European leaders from the White House Situation Room to address the Ukraine crisis, as part of his campaign for transatlantic solidarity.
What they said: Biden told reporters “I had a very, very, very good meeting” with the Europeans, which included the leaders of Germany, France, Italy, Britain and Poland. He said there was “total unanimity.”
- A White House statement said the leaders “discussed their joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine, including preparations to impose massive consequences and severe economic costs on Russia for such actions as well as to reinforce security on NATO’s eastern flank.”
- Welcoming a series of deployments announced by alliance members in recent days, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg earlier said NATO would take “all necessary measures.”
- “We will always respond to any deterioration of our security environment, including through strengthening our collective defence,” Stoltenberg said in a statement.
- He said at a press briefing that the increased presence on NATO’s eastern flank might include battlegroup deployments in the alliance’s southeast.
NATO currently maintains some 4,000 troops in multinational battalions in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland, backed up by tanks, air defences, and intelligence and surveillance.
- Officials from the Pentagon said the Pentagon was nearing completion of its work to identify particular units that may be deployed to NATO’s eastern flank.
- Up to 5,000 troops might be deployed, according to one official, while a NATO diplomat said Washington was considering shifting some troops stationed in western Europe to eastern Europe in the coming weeks.
- According to NATO, Denmark, Spain, France, and the Netherlands were all considering sending troops, planes, or ships to eastern Europe. Ukraine has four NATO countries on its borders: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania.
- Warsaw would not send troops to Ukraine.
As tensions rise, Britain announced the withdrawal of certain personnel and dependents from its embassy in Ukraine, a day after the US announced the expulsion of diplomats’ families. Diplomats from the United States are being allowed to go on their own time.
- Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused the West of “hysteria” and putting out information “laced with lies”.
- “As for specific actions, we see statements by the North Atlantic Alliance about reinforcement, pulling forces and resources to the eastern flank. All this leads to the fact that tensions are growing,” he said.
- “This is not happening because of what we, Russia, are doing. This is all happening because of what NATO and the U.S. are doing and due to the information they are spreading.”
What’s going on: The fear of a Russian invasion sank global stock markets, reducing demand for riskier assets like bitcoin and strengthening the currency and oil. Russian stocks and bonds fell as the rouble fell to a 14-month low versus the dollar.
- After presenting proposals to rewrite Europe’s security map, Russia has exploited its troop build-up to drag the West into dialogue. It wants NATO to never admit Ukraine and to withdraw soldiers and weaponry from former Soviet republics in Eastern Europe that joined during the Cold War.
- These requests, according to Washington, are off the table, but it is willing to hear other proposals on arms control, missile deployments, and confidence-building measures.
- After no breakthrough in negotiations last Friday – the fourth round this month – Russia is expecting a written answer from the US this week.
- Asked whether he thought an invasion was imminent, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told broadcasters that intelligence was “pretty gloomy on this point” but that “sense can still prevail”.
- He repeated Western warnings that invading Ukraine would be “a painful, violent and bloody business” for Russia.
What’s important: The U.S. and the EU, leery of Russia’s intentions since it took Crimea and backed separatists fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine in 2014, have warned Russia that if it assaults again, it will suffer severe repercussions.
- EU foreign ministers met in Brussels to warn Russia that it will face “huge” consequences, but they were split on how tough to be on Moscow and did not specify what those consequences may be.
- President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine informed EU President Charles Michel, who was also on the phone with Biden, that the EU’s unity was crucial for Kyiv.
- The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, suggested a financial aid package worth 1.2 billion euros ($1.36 billion) to help Ukraine cope with the conflict’s consequences.
According to a Russian delegation source, political advisers from Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany will meet in Paris on Wednesday to discuss how to end the crisis in eastern Ukraine, which has claimed the lives of over 15,000 people since 2014. Efforts in the past have failed to provide a breakthrough.