Why Russia Likely Not Invading Ukraine

Russia and the United States are making deals on Ukraine behind Kiev’s back.

The two rival powers see the eastern European country simply as a political object, and in the near future they could strike a larger deal on the coal-rich Donbass region of eastern Ukraine. . The outlines of a possible agreement are gradually emerging.

After this week’s “virtual summit” between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart Joe Biden, the Kremlin reported that he could welcome the involvement of the United States in the Normandy format – a platform for negotiations on a peaceful settlement of the Donbass conflict.

The Normandy Format talks involve representatives from four countries: Germany, Russia, Ukraine and France. Indeed, the potential involvement of the United States – Ukraine’s largest donor – could increase the chances of the implementation of the Minsk Agreement, signed in the Belarusian capital in 2015.

The agreement effectively ended offensive military operations in the Donbass, but the war of position is still ongoing.

The Kremlin complaints that Kiev has deployed up to 125,000 troops to the region, in an alleged attempt to reclaim territory now under the control of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk and the Russian-backed Lugansk People’s Republic.

At this point, Moscow appears determined to protect its proxies in the event of a potential Ukrainian offensive.

“Any provocation by the Ukrainian authorities to militarily resolve the difficulties in Donbass will be thwarted”, noted the Chief of General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, General Valery Gerasimov.

His statement was a clear warning to Ukraine and the West that Russia is ready to step in should Kiev launch a full-scale military campaign against Russian-backed forces.

Ukrainian servicemen gather near an armored personnel carrier parked along the front line during clashes with Russian-backed separatists near the small town of Volnovakha in the Donetsk region on 23 June 2021. Photo: AFP / Anatolii Stepanov

The West and Ukraine, on the other hand, prevent that Russia increased its military strength near the Ukrainian border to 120,000, including the deployment of military, air and naval troops. Rumors say Russia could invade Ukraine as early as January or February, although Gerasimov denies any such plans.

From the Kremlin’s perspective, Russia achieved most of its political and military goals in 2014 after Moscow annexed Crimea, a territory with enormous gas and oil reserves.

Shortly after the controversial referendum on the status of Crimea, the self-proclaimed rich in charcoal The Donbass republics declared their independence from Ukraine. But the Kremlin still refuses to recognize these entities, even though their savings have been de facto integrated in Russia.

So, one can always wonder if Moscow is interested in another land grab. In 2014, Russia could have seized not only Crimea and Donbass, but also all the other Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine, from Kharkov in the east to Odessa in the south.

At the time, following Euromaidan’s regime change in Kiev, the Ukrainian armed forces were on the verge of collapse, but Russia did not take the opportunity to take control of the whole party. south-eastern Ukraine.

Moscow is therefore unlikely to attempt to do so in 2021 or 2022. Russian policymakers are well aware that the Ukrainian military has been modernized and fitted with sophisticated American-made equipment. Javelin anti-tank guided missiles and Turkish products Bayraktar drones.

More importantly, it is highly doubtful that Russia, in the midst of global economic and energy crises, is ready to occupy more Ukrainian territory and “feed” millions of Ukrainian citizens perceived to be disloyal.

It is much more likely that Moscow and Washington will continue to negotiate Ukraine’s future, even as both sides continue to show courage under the new Cold War military diplomacy.

December 8, Poutine noted that it would be “criminal inaction” for Russia to stand idly by and allow NATO to enter Ukraine, making the West fear a “major war” in Eastern Europe.

Yet despite harsh rhetoric and thunderous threats, Russia and the United States will not wage a direct war against Ukraine, at least not any time soon.

The future of the Donbass conflict, which is in reality already a proxy war between the United States-sponsored Ukraine and the Russian-backed Donbas republics, will depend on the ability of Putin and Biden to conclude new more important agreements.

There are indications that the two leaders have already made progress on some issues. For example, the most recent version of the US National Defense Expenditure Law for fiscal year 2022 do not include a provision for sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline, built to ship fuel to Europe.

On the other hand, the US House of Representatives approved an annual defense spending bill in 2022 that includes $ 300 million in aid to Ukraine. Even though such a move worries Russia, the country’s powerful energy giants such as Gazprom, Lukoil, Rosneft, among others, still have no reason to fear Western sanctions.

According to US officials, even if Russia invades Ukraine, Washington is unlikely to impose any restrictions on Moscow’s energy activities. It is, however, entirely possible that the West will soon impose some “preventive” sanctions on Russia – even though an invasion may never take place – which will undoubtedly have an impact on the Russian economy.

It is energy exports, rather than fears of an alleged NATO expansion eastward, that primarily guide Russia’s foreign policy. This is why a potential return of the Donbass – where coal production is de facto controlled by Russia and its proxies – to Ukraine would represent a greater loss for the Kremlin than the potential membership of this European country of the east to NATO.

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