What is Russia's interest in Ukraine
Russian troops on the border with Ukraine: show of force or imminent invasion?
The West is increasingly concerned about the Russian troop movements on the border with Ukraine. NATO promised to continue to support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and to monitor the situation very closely. This was also assured by the EU foreign affairs representative Josep Borrell of the government in Kiev. Germany and France, who are trying to find a solution to the Ukraine conflict in the so-called Normandy format, made similar statements.
In a telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi, US President Joe Biden reiterated Ukraine's "unwavering support for its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of ongoing Russian aggression".
But reports are circulating in social networks about the relocation of Russian units to the Bryansk, Voronezh and Rostov regions and to the annexed Crimea. Dmitri Peskov, spokesman for the Russian President, said Russia is free to move its troops to its own territory. "Russia does not threaten anyone and has never threatened anyone," said the Kremlin spokesman.
"New leverage against the West"
The Russian military observer Alexander Goltz believes that Russia's actions are demonstrative in nature. "Russia needs new leverage against the West," said Goltz, and that is now the danger of a war against Ukraine.
Before Alexei Navalny was arrested, threats were made to increase pressure on the Russian opposition in response to Western sanctions in the case of the Kremlin critic. "There is a lot at stake. Russian President Vladimir Putin will continue this policy of blackmail and pressure, even if he is fundamentally not prepared to engage in combat," says the expert.
Even so, there could be fighting. However, Goltz does not expect any military action in Donbass until mid-May: "As long as the steppe is not dry, no offensive can start. You would get stuck, as has often happened."
The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Ruslan Khomchak, said recently that there are already 28 tactical battalion groups from Russia at the Ukrainian state border and in the areas not controlled by Kiev in Donbass and Crimea.
According to Khomchak, who cites the Ukrainian secret service, Russia wants to send another 25 tactical battalion groups to Ukraine on the pretext of preparations for the "West 2021" maneuvers with Belarus. "This, together with the existing forces on the border with Ukraine, represents a threat to the military security of the state," said the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Army.
"Threat to the entire eastern flank of the EU"
Pawel Felgenhauer, an independent Russian military expert, does not rule out Russia preparing for an escalation in Donbass. "The military is ready, but will there be an order from the politicians?" He asks, adding: "For about six months - from July / August to the New Year - there was a real ceasefire in Donbass. It was next to nothing and in January the escalation began at the front and in the propaganda - especially from the Russian side. "
In this way, Russia wants to force the government in Kiev to make concessions in the negotiations on Donbass, says Volodymyr Fesenko of the Ukrainian Center for Applied Political Studies, Penta. The political scientist assumes that Russia also wants to reach a new round in negotiations with the West. The government in Moscow is concerned with western sanctions, including those against Nord Stream 2.
Russian military maneuvers in Belarus (2017)
But Fesenko also does not rule out a military conflict and points out that the Crimea is now a huge military base: "Modern strategic and tactical weapons are concentrated there, not only the Black Sea Fleet, but also large military groups and offensive air forces." In addition, the maneuvers carried out in Belarus in recent years would not only threaten Ukraine, but also the Baltic countries, Poland and the entire eastern flank of the European Union.
"Russia has long been prepared for an invasion"
Mychajlo Samus from the Kiev "Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament" is convinced that Russia has long been preparing for an invasion. Because between 2014 and 2018, the Russian military concentrated equipment and units on the border with Ukraine.
"In fact, Russia has formed three new armies around Ukraine," said the expert. Six submarines with "caliber" missiles that can carry nuclear warheads have been moved to the Crimea. But Samus does not believe that Putin would dare to escalate openly because he prefers provocations through hybrid proxy forces, i.e. through allies and at the cyber and propaganda level.
According to Susan Stewart from the Science and Politics Foundation (SWP) in Berlin, Russia wants to show that it still has opportunities to destabilize the situation in eastern Ukraine. As for the West and especially the new leadership in the USA, the expert says: "If it was a test by the Russian leadership, then she saw that there was definitely a Western reaction to it."
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