EU leaders, who also held a summit on Thursday, met on Wednesday with Zelenskyy. At their meeting on Thursday, they issued a stern warning to Russia “of serious consequences and heavy costs,” as Russian President Vladimir Putin launches a new military campaign against Ukraine, according to their report.
There is no indication that Putin has decided to launch such an attack, and there is no consensus among Western officials and analysts as to why he may want to do so now. But for the most part this year, Putin has been focusing on Ukraine, looking angry that a country close to Russia in terms of culture, language and geography has strayed too far from its path.
At the very least, according to observers, the formation of the military appears to be part of an effort to pressure NATO countries to reverse what the Kremlin sees as a plot to overthrow Ukraine.
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NATO views the plot as absurd.
More than a dozen NATO countries have military advisers in Ukraine, including 150 from the U.S. Special Forces and National Guard. The United States alone has spent $ 2.5 billion on security assistance, including state-of-the-art surveillance equipment, armored cargo systems and anti-tank systems in Javelin.
But because Ukraine is not a member of NATO, the alliance has no obligation to protect it in the event of an attack.
That did not provide tangible comfort in the Kremlin, however, describing NATO’s activities in Ukraine as an existing threat, as even Russian leaders have dismissed the threat posed by the construction of their military on the Ukrainian border.
In a telephone conversation this week with British and French leaders, two senior NATO members, and the Finnish president, NATO’s closest ally, Putin presented the same need: the immediate start of negotiations to tighten tight boundaries on expanding NATO. , especially with regard to extending membership in Ukraine.
Putin delivered a similar message to US President Joe Biden in a video call last week aimed at ending the Ukraine conflict.
But Western officials have said Putin’s call to impose stricter limits on how to expand NATO is not new.
“Ukraine’s NATO support for Ukraine is not a threat to Russia,” Stoltenberg said on Thursday. “Ukraine has the right to choose its own security plans. This is the basic principle of European security. And the decision that Ukraine can join NATO will be taken by Ukraine and only 30 NATO allies. “
In the face of such rejection, Russia’s leadership statements have become increasingly common. Last week, Sergei Ryabkov, deputy minister of foreign affairs and a key figure in negotiations with the United States, said that while Russia hoped for a political solution to the current crisis, “our weapons of mass destruction” were important.
“We are confident in the integrity of our defenses and in the ability of our armed forces to carry out any task, so there are no questions,” he told a news conference.
Repeatedly, Russian officials have warned that any attempt by Ukraine to start a war against various Russian-backed militias in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine will be met with vigor, as Putin recently blamed the Ukrainian people for the genocide.
There is no evidence that Ukraine planned such an act, and there has never been a sign that Ukrainian troops were mobilizing troops when confronted with Russian construction. Such allegations, however, have shocked Ukrainian and Western officials, who say they fear the Kremlin may try for various reasons to intervene in the end.
Although Putin did not give any indication as to whether he would command a new war in Ukraine, the construction of the Russian army continues. As of this week, according to the Ukrainian military, more than 100,000 XNUMX troops were stationed inside the Ukrainian border, as well as more than 1,300 tanks, 1,800 pieces of ammunition and Iskander-M missile batteries were able to launch rocket attacks. internally. Ukrainian territory.
The main focus of the Russian military is in eastern Ukraine, near the border with two separate Ukrainian states, Donetsk and Luhansk, where Russian forces continue to support bloody violence.
But perhaps most impressive, military analysts say, dozens of troops and equipment in the north and northeast. In both cases, the Russians sent a powerful military force, which they said could be used to launch an all-out attack on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
“If you are heading towards Kyiv and you are outside the capital, this is not sustainable in Ukraine,” said Robert Lee, a US Marine Corps veteran and medical doctor at King’s College London, a Russian military specialist. “That’s why the troops in the northern part are so worried.”