On Thursday, Poland’s foreign minister warned that Europe was on the verge of war, as Russia stated that it was not yet ready to abandon diplomacy but that military experts were preparing measures in the event that tensions over Ukraine could not be defused.
The news: The possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine remained high, according to the White House, with 100,000 Russian troops deployed, and the US will make intelligence suggesting Russia may try to fabricate a pretext to justify one public within 24 hours.
What they’re saying: After meetings with Russia in Vienna, Michael Carpenter, the US Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), remarked, “The drumbeat of war is sounding louder, and the rhetoric has gotten pretty strident.”
- White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters, “The potential of military invasion is significant. There are currently no scheduled talks. First, we must consult with allies and partners.”
- Russia said talks were continuing but had reached a stalemate as it tried to persuade the West to prohibit Ukraine from joining NATO and reverse decades of European alliance growth – proposals the US has dismissed as “non-starters.”
- “It’s incredibly upsetting at this point,” Russian Ambassador, Alexander Lukashevich told reporters following an OSCE conference, the third in a series of East-West meetings this week. He warned of “catastrophic repercussions” if the two parties could not agree on what Russia calls “security red lines,” but insisted that Moscow had not given up on diplomacy and that it would be accelerated.
The Russian remarks follow a pattern of Moscow claiming to want to engage diplomacy but refusing requests to halt its troop build-up near Ukraine and threatening vague security consequences if its demands are not met.
- “It appears that the risk of war in the OSCE area is currently bigger than ever before in the last 30 years,” Polish Foreign Minister, Zbigniew Rau told the 57-nation security summit earlier.
While ignoring hostilities in the former Yugoslavia and sections of the former Soviet Union at the time, his remark underscored European concern about Russia’s build-up of 100,000 troops within striking distance of Ukraine’s border.
- Russia denies ambitions to invade Ukraine, but its military build-up has compelled the US and its allies to negotiate.
What’s going on: The Vienna meeting, which came after Russia-US discussions in Geneva on Monday and a Russia-NATO conference in Brussels on Wednesday, yielded no results, according to Rau.
- The earlier sessions had revealed a “dead end or divergence of approaches,” as per Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, and he saw no reason to sit down again in the coming days to re-start the same discussions.
- Russian military experts were offering President Vladimir Putin options in case the situation in Ukraine escalated, but diplomacy must be given a chance.
What’s important: On Ryabkov’s remarks, the Russian rouble plummeted by more than 2 per cent versus the dollar, prompting a sell-off in government bonds. According to a trader at a big Russian bank, the market responded in part to Ryabkov’s response to a question that he would neither confirm nor rule out the prospect of Russia deploying “military infrastructure” in Cuba and Venezuela.
- According to Sullivan, US intelligence agencies believe Russia may be interested in “the option of inventing a pretext for invasion, such as through sabotage and information operations, by accusing Ukraine of preparing an imminent attack on Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine. He added that he will communicate with the media within 24 hours.
- U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin discussed the Russian build-up with his Ukrainian colleague, Oleksii Reznikov. Two-thirds of Russian forces near Ukraine, according to the Pentagon, were “out-of-garrison,” indicating they had deployed from other parts of Russia.
In addition: Since the conclusion of the Cold War, Moscow has claimed that NATO’s expansion towards its borders, which has included 14 new members from former communist eastern Europe, poses a threat to Moscow. It wants to set “red lines” to prevent the alliance from accepting Ukraine as a member or basing weapons in the country.
- Although Washington has rejected these requests, it has stated that it is open to discuss arms control, missile deployments, and confidence-building measures in order to move past one of the most tense periods in East-West relations since the Cold War.
- “We will be forced to make appropriate conclusions and take all necessary actions to ensure strategic balance and eliminate unacceptable risks to our national security,” Ambassador Lukashevich said the OSCE unless Moscow received a constructive answer.
- He went on to say: “Russia is a country that values peace. However, we should not require peace at any costs. The requirement for us to get these legally formalised security guarantees is unquestionable.”
- Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, slammed a bill introduced by Senate Democrats in the United States that would target key Russian government and military leaders, including Putin, as well as banking institutions, if Russia strikes Ukraine.
According to Peskov, placing penalties on Putin would be equivalent to breaking ties.