Security Dialogue Between the United States and Russia

Its Reasons and Consequences for Ukraine

 

 

Ivan Sichen

The main event in the world in January 2022 was the start of the Russia-West negotiations aimed at the normalization of relations between the parties and de-escalation of the situation around Ukraine. As expected, the first rounds of the US-Russia talks on January 10 and January 21 in Geneva actually ended to no result.

The United States and Russia have not changed their positions and only agreed to hold a dialogue on certain aspects of security in Europe. At this, the United States completely rejected Moscow’s demands for NATO’s refusal to further expand to the east, reduce the Alliance’s military presence in Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltics, and close Euro-Atlantic integration prospects to Ukraine and Georgia.

With this in mind, the West and Russia are continuing consultations, accompanied by mutual pressure from the parties. And, as before, Russia maintains a high level of military activity near the borders of Ukraine, which poses a direct threat to the security of our state.

 

…Russia’s high level of military activity near the borders of Ukraine poses a direct threat to the security of our state…

In our previous articles, we already assessed the reasons for the sharp escalation of the situation around Ukraine since the beginning of last year and the escalation of tensions in relations between Russia and the West. As you know, in December 2021, this process culminated in Moscow’s transition to direct ultimatums to the USA and NATO, accompanied by outright threats to turn Europe into a “one battlefield” if the West refused to comply with Russia’s demands. To better understand the essence of today’s events, we would like to recall the main factors that led to this situation.

To begin with, the main reason for Moscow’s actions to escalate tensions around Ukraine was the failure of Putin regime’s attempts to make the Ukrainian authorities accept the Russian version of the so-called Steinmeier formula. Due to this, the ruling elite of Russia hoped to create conditions for disintegration of Ukraine under the guise of its federalization and restoration of control over it, while gaining the opportunity to improve its relations with the West.

Moscow’s inability to achieve its goals, in fact, showed the final loss of its influence in Ukraine. Moreover, from 2019–2020, Russia began to lose its advantage over the United States/NATO in the European theater, and, consequently, the only real opportunity to put pressure on the West.

These circumstances had critical consequences for the Russian Federation, as they thwarted its geopolitical plans to reach the level of a “great world power”. This is what prompted Moscow to take the above-mentioned actions aimed at intercepting the initiative from the West (regarding Ukraine included), as well as positioning Russia as a world center of power equal to the United States. Resolving these issues is the main goal of Russia’s ultimatums, which are disguised as demands for guarantees of its security.

 

…Moscow’s information campaign has already given the impression of a critical escalation similar to the 1962 Caribbean crisis…

On the grounds of US responsibility for the security of Europe and Ukraine, Washington agreed to dialogue with Moscow, but it similarly determined the “red lines” of its interests. As before, the main ones were Russia’s having no right to dictate terms on the Alliance’s activities and the admission of new members, as well as the inadmissibility of a new Russian attack on Ukraine.

Despite this, US consent to talks with Russia was seen by Russian propaganda as Moscow’s “diplomatic victory”. Evidence of this was called “the USA’s de facto recognition of Russia’s equal position, which showed the Kremlin’s ability to impose its will on Washington”. In view of this, it was claimed that “the United States is weak and ready to make concessions to Russia”. The same was expected from Europe.

There were also hopes for the possibility of signing a new document in line with the Helsinki Act of 1975 with the establishment of security guarantees in Europe in their Russian interpretation and recognizing of Russia’s new territorial assets (Crimea). Unfortunately, similar views are demonstrated by a number of Ukrainian politicians and experts who freely or unwillingly play in Moscow’s favor.

 

In reality, the situation is quite different. During the talks in Geneva on January 10 and January 21, 2022, the United States clearly reaffirmed its position on the inadmissibility of Moscow’s demands. The same position was expressed by NATO Secretary General J. Stoltenberg. According to him, NATO is also ready for a dialogue with Russia on security in Europe, but will never make any fundamental concessions.

…The United States and NATO reiterated their intention to respond harshly to Russia if its aggression against Ukraine expands…

The United States and NATO reiterated their intention to respond harshly to Russia if its aggression against Ukraine expands. According to the US leaders, 18 options for such an answer are being considered: from the introduction of new critical economic sanctions against Russia — to a sharp increase in military pressure on it and of the US military assistance to Ukraine. The White House’s position on this issue is fully supported by the US Congress, which is considering a special bill that would impose sanctions on V. Putin and his family, as well as leading Russian oligarchs from Putin’s “team”. A new package of sanctions against Russia is also being developed by the European Union.

At this, steps to deter Russia are clearly coordinated between the United States and its allies, and all of them with Ukraine. As part of such actions, our Western partners consistently adhere to the principle of “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine”. According to this approach, all meetings and negotiations of the US, NATO and EU representatives with Russia are coordinated with Ukraine.

In particular, on January 3, 2022, a phone conversation between the Presidents of the United States J. Biden and Ukraine V. Zelenskyi took place (the third over the recent period), and on January 10, 2022 — meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission (simultaneously with the negotiations between the United States and Russia). Besides, in January 2022 Ukraine was visited by German Foreign Minister A. Baerbock, US Secretary of State A. Blinken, CIA Director W. Burns and a group of US Senators. It is noteworthy that the visits of foreign ministers of Germany and the United States to Kyiv took place on the eve of their meetings with Russian Foreign Minister S. Lavrov in Moscow and Geneva.

…Washington recognizes Russia as an adversary with great ambitions, but with limited opportunities to implement them…

All this testifies to Washington’s recognition of Russia not as an “equal center of power” like the USSR, but as an adversary with great ambitions, but with limited opportunities to implement them. Based on this, the United States is in no way going to make concessions to Russia, including the distribution of spheres of influence in the world. The same applies to Ukraine.

For objective reasons, the United States and NATO will not grant Ukraine full membership in the Alliance in the near future. However, they will not leave it on its own and will not agree to the resumption of Russian control over it. This was confirmed by the United States, the United Kingdom and other NATO members’ demonstrative actions against the background of the US-Russia talks in Geneva on January 21, 2022. For example:

  • the United States sent a consignment of lethal weapons (including ammunition) to Ukraine, made a final decision on the transfer of Mi-17 helicopters intended for Afghanistan to the Ukrainian army, and allowed Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to “share” American weapons with our country, including Javelin anti-tank missiles and Stinger portable anti-aircraft missiles;
  • the United Kingdom has handed over to Ukraine NLAW anti-tank missiles in sufficient amount to destroy all Russian tanks near Ukraine’s borders. In addition, the construction and equipping of missile boats for the Ukrainian Navy has been accelerated at British shipyards. A unit of British special forces also arrived in Ukraine;
  • Canada and Spain, as members of NATO, have sent their warships to the Black Sea. Among them are frigates (destroyers) equipped with Aegis guided missile systems, capable of destroying the entire Russian Black Sea Fleet with all its bases in Crimea and Novorossiysk.

And, most importantly, the United States’ Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas Greenfield, warned of the possibility of the United States’ military involvement in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. And this means the actual extension of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty on collective defense to Ukraine as well.

 

…Russian leaders are well aware of the existing realities, although they are trying to change the position of the West through demonstrations of military force and a large-scale disinformation campaign…

Of course, the leadership of the Russian Federation is well aware of the existing realities, although it is trying to change the position of the West through demonstrations of military force and a large-scale disinformation campaign. Due to the intransigence of the positions of the West and Ukraine, which did not live up to Russia’s expectations, such a campaign has recently become particularly sharp and false.

Thus, various media, including Russian, Ukrainian and Western ones, are spreading information about Russia’s strengthening of its troops on the Ukrainian direction. This is how the measures of operational and combat training of the RF Armed Forces on both near Ukraine and in other regions of Russia are commented, which are mostly routine and carried out every year. In addition, such comments on the actual actions of Russia’s Armed Forces are supplemented by all sorts of provocative fictions.

In particular, since December 2021, as part of the winter training period of the Russian Armed Forces, battalion/divisional tactical groups of the Russian troops had been deployed to training grounds in all Russian military districts on a rotating basis. At the same time, for two or three weeks, tactical exercises are conducted with each of them with the involvement of units of other types of troops, including army and tactical aviation.

Typically, the Southern Military District of the Russian Armed Forces uses twenty military training grounds in Astrakhan, Volgograd and Rostov regions, in Stavropol and Krasnodar regions, in Crimea, Adygea, Dagestan, North Ossetia, Abkhazia and Armenia. As a rule, there are about ten thousand servicemen from the 8th, 49th and 58th Combined Arms Armies at the same time. In turn, about 3,000 servicemen of the battalion/divisional tactical groups are being taken to the military training grounds of the 20th Combined Arms Army of the Western Military District in Smolensk, Bryansk, Belgorod and Voronezh oblasts.

As we wrote in the previous articles, the redeployment of military equipment and personnel of battalion/divisional tactical groups from places of permanent deployment to the training grounds is carried out by its own movement and rail transport at a distance of several tens to more than one hundred kilometers, which gives the impression of large-scale troop movements. Such events have been carried out systematically since 2017–2018, after Russia had deployed its troops in the Ukrainian direction, which are there on a permanent basis.

Undoubtedly, all the above-mentioned actions of Russia are aimed at ensuring the possibility of expanding the scale of armed aggression against Ukraine and using force against it. However, this does not mean that Moscow will launch a new attack on Ukraine in the near future, as the media report.

Especially as the deployment of Russian troops in combat formations directly on the border of Ukraine together with the creation of the necessary field infrastructure (as was the case in 2014–2015) is not happening. At this, the assumption that Russian troops may launch a large-scale offensive against Ukraine directly from places of permanent deployment or training grounds is not true.

…The amount of troops of the Southern and Western Military Districts of the Russian Armed Forces near Ukraine is clearly not enough for a full-scale attack on it…

Besides, the amount of troops of the Southern and Western Military Districts of the Russian Armed Forces available near Ukraine is clearly not enough for a full-scale attack on it. Yes, they do include 100–120 thousand servicemen, and this is constantly presented as a fact of critical threat to Ukraine. However, at one time Russia needed so many troops to conduct a so-called counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya alone, which had incomparably less potential than Ukraine has now.

As the experience of Russia’s attack on Georgia in 2008 showed, the Georgian troops’ use of MANPADS (even obsolete Soviet models) made it possible to disable a Russian mixed fighter-bomber regiment within two or three days. After that, Russian pilots refused to take part in hostilities.

Additional troops have not moved en masse to the borders of Ukraine. Thus, the media reports regarding the redeployment of the troops of the 6th Combined Arms Army (HQ — St. Petersburg) of the Western Military District to Smolensk region of Russia are in no way true. This Army includes only two motorized rifle brigades, which are designed to cover Russian territory from Finland and Norway on the front of more than a thousand kilometers and cannot be moved to other areas for reasons of Russia’s own security. Especially since Norway is already a member of NATO, and Finland has close ties with the Alliance. In fact, in December last year and in January of this year, the troops of the 6th Combined Arms Army were engaged in planned activities of operational and combat training at training grounds near the places of permanent deployment.

The same can be said about the media reports about the relocation of units of all four armies of the Eastern Military District of the Russian Armed Forces in the western direction. This fact does take place, however, within the framework of the preparation of the strategic exercise “East-2022”. The main episodes of the exercise take place at the training grounds of the 36th Combined Arms Army in Transbaikalia (Buryatia) — in the western part of the Eastern Military District, where military units from other armies of the district and the coastal troops of the Pacific Fleet are sent.

Besides, some units of the Eastern Military District are involved in joint Belarusian-Russian military exercises in Belarus. Due to this, the possibility of transferring troops over long distances is being tested. By the way, recently the leadership of Belarus has become another participant in Russia’s information campaign.

In January 2022 the self-proclaimed President of Belarus A. Lukashenko made a number of statements on “the deployment of 30,000 US/NATO troops in Poland and Lithuania”, as well as “strengthening the Ukrainian Armed Forces near the Belarusian border by 10,000 people”. According to him, this requires a joint response from Belarus and Russia. One of the forms of such a reaction was the plan to conduct a surprise combat readiness inspection of the Union State rapid reaction forces and the joint Russian-Belarusian exercise “Allied Determination-2022” in February 2022. According to A. Lukashenko, Russian troops have already begun arriving in Belarus.

At the same time, Moscow is threatening the United States and NATO with the possibility of deploying the latest missile systems, including hypersonic ones, in Kaliningrad region of Russia, in Cuba and Venezuela.

Against this background, from the second half of January 2022, reports of preparations of foreign diplomatic corps for emergency evacuation from Ukraine began to spread.

 

…Moscow is unlikely to enter into an armed conflict with the United States and NATO, as this would have catastrophic consequences for Russia itself…

In fact, Moscow’s information campaign has already given the impression of a critical escalation similar to the 1962 Caribbean crisis. As you know, at that time the United States and the Soviet Union reached mutual compromises, which concerned the reduction of military tensions between them in exchange for confirmation of the spheres of division of the world, which was determined after World War II. This is exactly what Russia is trying to achieve. At the same time, Moscow is unlikely to enter into an armed conflict with the United States and NATO, as this would have catastrophic consequences for Russia itself. The new attack on Ukraine would also have significant negative consequences for the Russian Federation, both due to the inevitability of a significant increase in Western sanctions and a significant increase in the number of casualties among Russian servicemen. In particular, according to official data of the Russian Ministry of Defense, which accidentally leaked into the media, in 2014–2015 in the conflict zone in the Donbas, 5.4 thousand Russian servicemen were killed. And this was at the time when Ukraine did not yet have powerful armed forces that could severely repel the Russian invaders. But now it has them. As well as the ability to effectively repulse attacks on strategically important computer networks in Ukraine, which are systematically carried out by Russia.

…Russia’s military intimidation of the United States, Europe and Ukraine is largely the Putin regime’s bluff…

Therefore, Russia’s military intimidation of the United States, Europe and Ukraine is largely the Putin regime’s bluff. However, this does not give reason for complacency. Moscow’s information campaign has already led to the spread of panic among a certain stratum of the Ukrainian population. In turn, this is used by Ukraine’s pro-Russian opposition forces as an argument against our country’s joining NATO.

However, given the irresponsibility and unpredictability of Putin’s regime, he can indeed start a major war against Ukraine, the United States and NATO, no matter what it costs. Therefore, Ukraine must be ready for any development. Especially in the context of the concentration of powerful Russian troops near the Ukrainian border since 2014, intensification of Russian provocations in the Donbas, as well as threats of sabotage at chemical plants of the “DPR” and “LPR” with accusing Ukraine of it. And this is not to mention that the State Duma (Parliament) of Russia has begun the process of recognizing the self-proclaimed “republics” in the East of Ukraine.

 

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