Do we see shades of 2014 when President Biden was the Vice President in an Obama administration that watched Russia annex Crimea and invade the eastern portion of Ukraine? NATO is worried about recent Russian military movements on the Ukraine border and increasing tensions between the two countries. Additionally, Russia’s military maneuvers have set off alarm bells for the U.S. However, as Liberty Nation reported, President Biden calling Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin a “killer” – a, perhaps, inartful characterization – may not put the U.S. president in a very good negotiating position.
Discussing the Russian troop deployment to and movement close to the Ukraine border, Joel Gehrke writing for the Washington Examiner, described the U.S. State Department reaction, via spokesman Ned Price:
“We’re absolutely concerned by recent escalations of Russian aggressive and provocative actions in eastern Ukraine, including violations of the July 2020 ceasefire. Additionally, we are aware of Ukrainian military reports concerning Russian troop movements on Ukraine’s borders. We are discussing our concerns about that increase in tensions and ceasefire violations and regional tensions with NATO allies.”
Alarm is a legitimate reaction when the Russians move troops to the borders of neighboring countries. A 2008 article in The Guardian reported that the incursion into Georgia’s contested South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions as “peacekeepers” started with Russian troops forming at the Georgian border. Similarly, in 2014, Russia moved troops close to the border with Ukraine and supported paramilitary rebel forces that took over much of eastern Ukraine. Russia used the same tactic in annexing Crimea.
According to state media, government spokesman Dmitry Peskov pushed back on international concern regarding troop maneuvers on the Ukraine border, scolding reporters that, “The Russian Federation transfers the Armed Forces on its soil as it wants to. This should not concern anyone, and this is not posing any threat to anyone.” Will Stewart, a correspondent for the British Daily Mail newspaper explained that Russia would not be pleased if NATO were to deploy forces of its own to Ukraine. Also quoting Peskov, Stewart reports:
“Russia today vowed to ‘take extra measures’ if NATO sends forces to Ukraine after the Kremlin dispatched 4,000 troops to the disputed border with its neighbor. ‘No doubt such a scenario would lead to a further increase in tensions close to Russia’s borders. Of course, this would call for additional measures from the Russian side to ensure its security,’ Peskov said.”
BBC News reports that the Russian troop build-up coincides with a recent incident of shelling by Russian-backed separatists: “In the worst flare-up in recent months, four Ukrainian soldiers died in separatist shelling on 26 March near Shuma, a village in the Donetsk region. There have been only low-level incidents since then.”
Additionally, the BBC explained that Ukraine’s army commander, General Ruslan Khomchak, told reporters that Russia has deployed 28 battalions, comprising 20,000 – 25,000 troops, near “Ukraine’s eastern border and in Crimea.”
Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau also expressed concern about the Russian posturing and the increasingly threatening rhetoric coming out of the Kremlin. Reuters explained in a March 31 article that Trudeau wanted to ensure that Canada’s 200 military trainers in Ukraine were not in jeopardy.
NATO and the U.S. should not be surprised that Russia has never fully accepted the “new world order” after the fall of the Soviet Union. A BBC News report back in 2005 – using Putin’s own words – puts the Russian president’s views in perspective. Addressing the Russian Parliament, he said the break-up and collapse of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century.
Putin reminded the Russian people and the West that the end of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics “in 1991 was ’a real drama’ which left tens of millions of Russians outside the Russian Federation.” Putin went on to say that Russia’s “place in the modern world will be defined only by how successful and strong we are.”
Whether Russian military adventurism and potential Ukraine-Russia border clashes is just a demonstration of “how successful and strong” they are, or something more troubling, remains to be seen. The Biden administration needs to take Russia for the serious near-peer and aggressive nuclear competitor that they are. Russia’s exercising combat troops on Ukraine’s border may be a first test of the Biden’s resolve.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
Read more from Dave Patterson.