15 February 2022   Leave a comment

The situation in Ukraine remains tense, but I still think that Russia will not invade the country. Having said that, I also remain somewhat flummoxed by what Russian President Putin intends to accomplish by encircling Ukraine. In a speech today, US President Biden indicated that Russian forces now total around 150,000, and many of those troops are in what are regarded as forward positions indicating an intention to invade. Russian forces now ring Ukraine from the North, the East, and the South, and there are also Russian troops in the Transnistria region of Moldova to the West. The Russian Duma ([Parliament] voted to recommend that Putin recognize the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as breakaway states (the Donbas), a recommendation that Putin decided to defer. And there are reports of denial-of-service attacks on official Ukrainian websites, although the significance of those attacks has yet to be assessed.

On the other hand, the Russians announced that some of their troops will return to barracks, although it is not clear whether that decision will change the tactical situation in any way. And in a meeting between German Chancellor Scholz and Ukrainian President Zelensky, Ukrainian admission to NATO was treated only as a very distant possibility (but not the flat-out rejection of the possibility as demanded by Putin). Finally, President Putin indicated that he believed that there was still time for a negotiated settlement.

Nonetheless, US President Biden delivered a very muscular speech on the situation today. He emphasized that the US still favored diplomacy, but he offered absolutely no concessions to any of the Russian specific demands (ruling out NATO for Ukraine forever and the withdrawal of NATO forces to the countries in NATO prior to 1994). The language of the speech was decidedly aggressive: “The United States will defend every inch of NATO territory with the full force of American power.  An attack against one NATO country is an attack against all of us.  And the United States commitment to Article 5 is sacrosanct.” It may be the case that Biden believes that Putin is completely boxed in and has no recourse but to back down. If that is the case, then American hubris has struck again.

Posted February 15, 2022 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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