Image Source: Times of Israel
The United States of America and Russia relations have always been in a constant state of tension due to various reasons. However, this time it may seem that the relations will dip even further due to the recent threats given by the United States president Joe Biden. These threats were not given just because President Biden felt so. These threats come after Russia had been building up troops along the Ukrainian border.
Ukraine and Russia have been in a constant state of conflict with each other. However, this has intensified after Russia had invaded Crimea and had annexed it while Ukraine and the Western hemisphere could not do anything about it. The BBC reported that in recent weeks, Russia has been moving in tanks to the western border of Ukraine. This prompted starker warnings from the US intelligence circles.
Russia has accused Ukraine of mobilizing half of its army, an estimated 125,000 soldiers, to attack the areas that are being backed by Russian backed separatists. However, Ukraine has denied these allegations and stated that these are nothing but short of “propaganda nonsense”. Ukraine further stated that Russia is accusing Ukraine to cover up its troop buildup. Nevertheless, it is feared that Russia could use this accusation as a justification to enter a war with Ukraine. Furthermore, the number two on Russia’s Federation Council’s international affairs committee, Vladimir Dzhabarov, had said that half a million Ukrainians in the rebel-held areas had Russian passports. He further added that if the rebel leaders needed Russian help, Russia would not abandon its compatriots.
However, is the threat of an invasion real? There are no definitive answers however, the US and Ukrainian intelligence has warned that if an invasion were to take place it would most likely take place at the beginning of 2022. Furthermore, US intelligence analysts have warned that as many as 175,000 Russian troops can be involved in the war. The CIA Director, William Burns, believes that President Putin “is putting the Russian military, the Russian security services in a place where they could act in a pretty sweeping way”.
However, various analysts see that Kremlin (the Russian headquarters for political and military affairs) is trying to send a message with the Russian troop buildup. They believe that this is being done to prevent Ukraine and the West from crossing the “red lines”. These “red lines” have been established by Russia because they see it as a threat. These “red lines” range from NATO’s further expansion into the east to stopping Ukraine from joining NATO.
Although Russia is flexing its military power, NATO is not far behind to support and helping Ukraine. NATO’s Western military alliance is defensive and its General Secretary, Jens Stoltenberg, has stated that any military support is along those lines. Moreover, the UK is helping Ukraine to set up two naval bases at Ochakiv on the Black Sea and at Berdyansk on the Sea of Azov. In addition to this help, US anti-tank Javelin missiles and two US Coast Guard patrol ships have been sent to Ukraine.
Mr Stoltenberg further added that it is up to Ukraine and the 30 members of NATO when Ukraine has to join the alliance. Russia has no veto or says in this matter or even the right to interfere in the process.
Due to the above reasons, President Joe Biden has announced (after the talks with his Russian counterpart) that the US will be taking a tougher stance with Russia by imposing ‘tougher sanctions’. Russia has been a recipient of various US sanctions and it has been an effective tool so far against it. Some of the economic sanctions may include restricting Russian banks to stop converting Rubles to any foreign currency or even disconnecting Russia from the Swift financial systems or targeting Russia’s RDFI Sovereign Wealth Fund. The latter may cause a huge blow to Russia since the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift) is a global network connecting banks to communicate messages about activities like money transfer safely and securely, using a code. About 11,000 members of SWIFT send nearly 33.6 million transactions every day.
Furthermore, the US added that if President Putin wishes to sell natural gas to Germany (a NATO member) via the NORD Stream-2 pipeline, Russia has to think twice before attacking Ukraine. The US further added that officials in Germany have agreed to shut down the pipe in case of an invasion thus providing leverage to the US and its allies over Russia.
In addition to sanctions, there will be additional troop deployment in NATO countries as well as providing defence hardware to Ukraine
Russian President, Vladimir Putin, stressed that Russia should not be held responsible for the tensions since NATO was making dangerous attempts to take over Ukrainian territory and increasing its military potential on the Russian border.
President Biden’s sanction may or may not prove to be useful against Russia. However, it will put a halt to the Russian dream of expansion. Moreover, the US and its allies will have to defend Ukraine from the Russian invasion because if it does not, it will give a signal that NATO is weak and cannot be trusted. Although full-scale military action is not on the table, NATO can conduct limited operations and provide logistical support to Ukraine in case of a full invasion. Russia also has its own reasons for the troop buildup. It feels that if Ukraine joins NATO, it will have an American presence in its own backyard, thereby threatening Russian sovereignty. Only time can tell if Russia will invade or not, and if it does, hopefully, NATO would not sit back as it did in 2014 when Russia invaded Crimea.
Reference: The BBC and Tavaga.