Allies of the European Union are voicing concern that Russia might be considering an invasion in Ukraine, as tensions between Moscow and Brussels over energy and migrants continue to flare.
Multiple people with knowledge of the matter say that Washington is closely watching the Russian military buildup near Ukraine’s border. According to several sources, U.S. officials briefed EU counterparts about their worries over possible military operations.
The assessments are believed to be based on information the U.S. hasn’t yet shared with European governments, which would have to happen before any decision is made on a collective response, the people said. They’re backed up by publicly-available evidence, according to officials familiar with the administration’s thinking.
Officials from the White House said that Thursday night, the U.S. had been consulting allies about the building up and considered Ukraine as a partner. They also denounced all Russian aggression.
Russia insists that any military operations on its territory is an internal matter. The country denies any aggression intentions and accuses the U.S. this week of provocation by sailing warships into the Black Sea, close to the territory.
According to news reports, the ruble lost 0.5% against dollar and fell to a six day low.
Similar tensions flared in spring, when North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the U.S. accused Russia of deploying up to 100,000 soldiers, tanks, and planes close to the Ukrainian border. U.S. President Joe Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the crisis and offered him a summit. This took place June.
Russia’s latest movement of troops and tanks toward Ukraine spurred CIA Director Bill Burns to visit Moscow this month, where he spoke by phone with Putin. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also asked Putin in a call Wednesday to use his influence with Russia’s ally Belarus to defuse a crisis over thousands of Middle East migrants seeking to cross the border with Poland into the EU. Putin declined.
On Thursday, Merkel and Putin spoke about Ukraine and Belarus again. The Kremlin issued a statement. The Russian leader criticized Ukraine’s alleged use of combat drones in violation of a previous agreement and American military activity in the Black Sea, according to the statement.
This warning by the U.S. over Ukraine follows the standoff that occurred between Poland and Belarus (a Russian close ally). And it is playing out amid uncertainty over increased Russian gas supplies to Europe despite Putin’s pledge to ramp up deliveries from this week to ease an energy crunch. He’s pushing for European regulators to give swift approval to operate the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, a project the U.S. and Ukraine opposed as a security risk.
Russia doesn’t intend to start a war with Ukraine now, though Moscow should show it’s ready to use force if necessary, one person close to the Kremlin said. Unable to launch an offensive, Russian troops will face opposition in Kyiv, and other cities. But, another official stated that there was a strategy to deal with any provocations from Ukraine.
The West is preparing new sanctions for Belarus in response to what it considers a fake migration crisis. President Alexander Lukasenko warned Thursday that he would shut down the key pipeline transporting Russian gas to Europe if Poland does not close their border. “I would recommend the leadership of Poland, Lithuanians and other empty-headed people to think before speaking,” he said.
After being requested by France, Estonia, and Ireland on Thursday evening, the United Nations Security Council discussed the Belarus-Polish Border crisis. The three European member countries criticized Belarusian authorities after the meeting. They made a joint statement along with Security Council members Norway and the U.K., U.S.A, and the incoming Albanian member.
A U.S. official stated that Kamala Harris, the U.S. vice president, and Emmanuel Macron, France’s President, discussed Ukraine in Paris on Wednesday. According to the official, Belarus falls under the same security context.
Russia has orchestrated the migrant crisis between Belarus and Poland and the Baltic states — Lithuania and Latvia share a border with Belarus — to try to destabilize the region, two U.S. administration officials said.
U.S. concerns about Russian intentions are based on accumulated evidence and trends that carry echoes of the run-up to Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, another administration official said.
Russian officials denied the allegations.
“Russia has nothing to do with what is happening at the border of Belarus and Poland,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call Thursday.
While U.S. and Russian general staffs are in constant contact, the presence of American navy vessels in the Black Sea close to Russia is “absolutely” a matter of concern for Putin, Peskov added.
One person familiar with the matter said that the information U.S. officials gave on Russia during the meeting in Brussels was disturbing. Another person emphasized that there’s no way of knowing Moscow’s true intentions, and what its next move might be or when.
Dmytro Kuleba (Ukraine Foreign Minister) met with Antony Blinken, Secretary of State, on Wednesday in Washington. It seemed that the U.S. might have shared some information with him.
“What we heard and saw today in Washington, D.C. corresponds to our own findings and analysis, adds some new elements which allows us to get a better, more comprehensive picture,” Kuleba said at a joint news conference with Blinken. The situation in Belarus is a “potential frontline” and shouldn’t be underestimated, he said.
The U.S. doesn’t “have clarity over Moscow’s intentions” toward Ukraine, Blinken told reporters. “Our concern is that Russia may make the serious mistake of attempting to rehash what it undertook in 2014.”
Russia and Ukraine are at odds since Putin’s 2014 response to the Ukrainian revolution which ousted the pro–Moscow President by seizing Crimea. Russia also supported the separatists of eastern Ukraine during a war which has claimed more than 13,000 lives.
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which oversees the situation in Europe under an agreement of 2015, stated Wednesday that it witnessed the largest cease-fire violations in October since July 2020.
Some analysts argue that Putin may believe now is the time to halt Ukraine’s closer embrace with the West before it progresses any further.
“What seems to have changed is Russia’s assessment of where things are going,” said Samuel Charap, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. “They seem to have concluded that unless they do something, the trend lines are heading to Russia losing Ukraine.”
Janes defense intelligence firm claims that the Russian recent deployment was covert and took place often at night, carried out by elite ground units. This is in stark contrast to what happened in spring.
Ursula von der Leyen (President of the European Commission), was also present in Washington Wednesday. saidBiden and she discussed Ukraine’s territorial integrity and full support.
Ukraine has declared its ambition to join the EU and NATO, to Moscow’s fury. Even though Kremlin officials may boast of Russian troops reaching Kyiv quickly, it will be difficult for a country with 44 million inhabitants to retain control in the face international condemnation.
Putin warned rival nations in April that “they will regret it more than they’ve regretted anything in a long time” if they cross Russia’s “red line” on security. The deputy speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, Pyotr Tolstoy, declared that “all of Ukraine will be part of Russia and there won’t be any Ukraine” in a debate broadcast on Russia’s NTV last month.
“I hope now the whole world clearly sees who really wants peace and who is concentrating almost 100,000 troops on our border,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in an address to the nation late Wednesday. “Psychological pressure from Russia doesn’t have an impact on us, our intelligence has all the information, our army is ready to repel anytime and anywhere.”
–With assistance from Daryna Krasnolutska, Ilya Arkhipov, Henry Meyer, Kitty Donaldson and David Wainer.