Exacerbation of the Situation Around Ukraine

Reasons, Strategic and Current Goals of Russia and the United States and NATO



Victor Hvozd
Doctor of Military Sciences


In my article “America Is Back: Joe Biden’s First Steps and Their Consequences” I assessed the possible impact of the new US President’s policy on the geopolitical situation in the world. And came to the conclusion that there is a high probability of aggravation of relations between the United States and Russia, which will intensify their confrontation in the main areas of intersection of their interests, including in the post-Soviet space.

J. Biden’s first steps in the post of the US President and the reaction of the leadership of the Russian Federation fully confirm such forecasts. This is also confirmed, in particular, by the recent political scandal between the United States and Russia over J. Biden’s undiplomatic statements about V. Putin. In the near future, an even more critical factor in US-Russian relations may be the United States’ imposing new, tougher sanctions on Russia. At present, such sanctions can be imposed on the basis of the comprehensive analysis of Moscow’s aggressive policy, which should be completed in April 2021.

The document is being developed on J. Biden’s order and includes evidence of Russian interference in the US elections and other hostile actions against the USA, as well as a list of violations of international law by Russia (including the poisoning of A. Navalny and other opponents of Putin’s regime). In this regard, Russia may experience significant restrictions on its securities in the international financial market, which, in fact, blocks the Russian government’s access to foreign loans.

It is known that since the beginning of this year tensions around Ukraine have significantly increased, which is due to Russia’s violation of the ceasefire in the Donbas, as well as its intensified military activity on the Ukrainian direction. This is accompanied by an active political and information campaign accusing Ukraine of preparing for an attack on the “DPR” and “LPR”, which is allegedly supported by its Western partners. At this, Russia is actually threatening Ukraine with its military intervention in the conflict in the Donbas, and at the same time is trying to “bargain” with the United States on the Ukrainian issue, offering cooperation in resolving various issues important for Washington (including arms control, counterterrorism, settlement of armed conflicts in the Middle East, forcing North Korea to suspend its nuclear program, etc.).

Russia’s military build up on Ukraine border

In fact, such a policy means that Russia is returning to a fierce confrontation with Ukraine, including in the military sphere, as it had been till 2019. Given the analysis of the situation, the reasons for this are the failure of Russia’s plans to restore its influence in Ukraine after the changes in the Ukrainian leadership, and a number of other factors related to US-Russian relations and also Russia’s internal problems. In view of the above, the main goals of the Russian provocations against Ukraine are as follows:

  • to force Ukraine to agree with Russia’s approach to the “settlement” of the conflict in the Donbas. The essence of this is well known. Similarly, Russia is trying to force Ukraine to stop pressuring its pro-Russian lobby;
  • to demonstrate that the post-Soviet territories remain “the sphere of Russia’s exclusive influence”, where any (militarily included) actions are possible to realize its interests. Thus, Russia actually challenges the United States and Europe and “takes out” on their partners from among the countries of the former Soviet Union;
  • to put pressure on the United States and the European Union over their attitude to Russia and Ukraine. At this, Russia is “raising the stakes” in its confrontation with them, demonstrating the real possibility of a large-scale armed conflict in Europe;
  • to distract the Russian population’s attention from the country’s internal problems on the eve of the parliamentary elections in October this year. At the same time, an attempt is being made to raise V. Putin’s rating on the traditional slogans of defending Russia’s interests from the West, as well as protecting the Russian-speaking population in other countries, primarily in Ukraine;
  • to level the international resonance of A. Navalny’s poisoning, as well as the facts of Russia’s subversive activities against other countries.

At the same time, Russia is trying to persuade the world that its policy is peaceful, and denies everything when it is accused of provoking tensions around Ukraine. For example, the intensification of measures of operational and combat training of the Russian Armed Forces in the western part of Russia is explained by its leadership as the inspection of troops and preparation for the strategic command and post exercise “West-2021”.

Joint meeting of the ministries of defense of Belarus and Russia to discuss the “West-2021” SCPE

However, Russia’s steps to prepare the SCPE are fully in line with the preparations for a real war, when active hostilities in the Donbas can indeed resume and the scale of the military invasion of Ukraine can be expanded with the ultimate goal to “finally resolve the Ukrainian issue”.

During, or under the cover of the preparation for “West-2021” SCPE, since February 2021 in the Western and Southern military districts of Russia there have been events with:

  • improvement of transport infrastructure;
  • deployment of elements of command and control systems, air defense and wartime logistics;
  • deployment of troops at the training grounds in field areas.

At present, active tactical trainings of motorized infantry, tank, artillery and other battalion-level units are underway at the training grounds in the regions near Ukraine’s borders and in other Russian regions. At this, some military units (mainly tactical aviation and air defense) are moving from the rear to the advanced areas, including on the Ukrainian direction.

Given the new troops that Russia has deployed near Ukraine’s border since 2015 (two combined arms armies), the number of Russian troops involved in the above-mentioned events is indeed the largest since the active phase of the RF’s armed aggression against Ukraine.


Our Western partners recognize the threat of Russia’s new attack on Ukraine. In view of this, the United States, NATO and the EU, actively supporting Ukraine, are trying to curb such aggressive intentions. The concrete steps of Western countries and international organizations on this direction are well known and widely covered by the media.

The United States/NATO’s Defender Europe-21 exercise

In the current situation around Ukraine, more interesting are strategic and current military-political goals of the United States, NATO and the EU. At this, they are largely related to their own interests and changes in US policy after J. Biden’s coming to power. At the moment, the main of these goals are as follows:

  • to curb Moscow’s neo-imperial ambitions and its expansion in Europe by actively supporting Ukraine as the main counterweight to Russia in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. According to most estimates, without establishing control over Ukraine, Moscow will never be able to implement its geopolitical plans to restore a sort of the USSR as a global adversary of the West;
  • to prevent a new outbreak of conflict near the EU’s eastern border as a result of the intensification of the armed confrontation in the Donbas and the expansion of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine. As shown by the experience of the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, such a development would have tangible negative consequences for the entire European Union;
  • to undermine the position of the Putin regime and critically weaken Russia by creating additional grounds for toughening sanctions against it. In fact, the United States uses Russians’ provocations of military tensions around Ukraine as another compelling reason to justify J. Biden’s policy toward the Russian Federation;
  • to strengthen the US and NATO positions in South-Eastern Europe and the Black Sea region by speeding up Ukraine’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration. Thus, NATO has already raised the issue to provide a Membership Action Plan to Ukraine. Besides, the deepening of US/NATO cooperation with Ukraine creates the conditions for their use of its military infrastructure and the possibility of conducting different operations on Ukrainian territory, in its airspace and territorial waters.

At this, the United States/NATO, to contain Russia, are taking their own steps in the military sphere. In particular, the United States/NATO are steadily increasing their military presence in Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltics, as well as conducting military exercises symmetrical to the “West” and “Caucasus” of the RF Armed Forces.

For example, since 2020, the US/NATO “Defender Europe” strategic exercises are taking place on the northern and southern flanks of the European theatre. A characteristic feature of the preparation of this year’s exercise, which is planned in the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions, is support to Ukraine by the demonstration of military force to Russia.

Under the pretext of preparations for the exercise Defender Europe-21, since January 2021 US/NATO have sharply intensified naval activities in the Black Sea region. In particular, there has been a multi-domain operation of the 6th Fleet of the US Navy, as well as NATO’s international exercises Poseidon-2021 and Sea Shield-2021. These and other measures have strengthened the US/NATO naval presence in the Black Sea. For example, in March 2021, for the first time, four missile ships entered its waters at once, including two frigates, a destroyer and a cruiser.

Given the strategic nature of Russia’s and US/NATO’s goals, as well as the firmness and resilience of the parties’ positions, they will continue to implement their plans. At this, the situation around Ukraine may become especially acute in the summer and autumn of this year during the active phase of the “West-2021” SCPE of the Russian Armed Forces and the US/NATO’s Defender Europe-21 exercise. And then, military threats against Ukraine will reach the highest level.


…Russia’s policy to restore military pressure on Ukraine confirm the impossibility of reaching any peaceful and equal agreements with it…

In general, the above-mentioned circumstances allow us to draw the following conclusions:

first, the changes in Russia’s policy to restore military pressure on Ukraine confirm the impossibility of reaching any peaceful and equal agreements with Russia, which relies only on forceful measures and understands only the language of force. All this also applies to the Donbas and Crimea;

second, the new US President, J. Biden, and his administration are moving toward more concrete and tough actions to deter Russia as a major source of military threats to America and the Western world. Under this approach, Washington’s main efforts focus on forcing the Kremlin to change its policy by stepping up sanctions against it while continuing a dialogue with it from the position of strength;

third, J. Biden’s policy toward Russia is supported by the USA’s European allies, who see this as a guarantee of their security from threats from the East. In turn, this strengthens the transatlantic solidarity broken by former US President D. Trump;

fourth, the United States, NATO, and the EU are adamant about their position on Ukraine, which is fundamentally important in defending their interests. Therefore, they will not allow any compromises with Russia over Ukraine. Moreover, one should expect active actions of the leading Western countries to assist in strengthening Ukrainian defense and bringing NATO cooperation with it to a qualitatively new level;

fifth, the escalation of relations between Russia and the West will further increase tensions around Ukraine, including in the military sphere. Under such circumstances, Russia will not stop its pressure on Ukraine in order to demonstrate the possibility of expanding the scale of its armed aggression. For their part, the United States and NATO will step up efforts to deter Russia and defend Ukraine militarily.

…The main tool in repulsing Russian aggression will remain the Armed Forces of Ukraine…

However, at this stage, the United States and NATO are unlikely to directly intervene in the armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine until it poses a direct threat to their security. Based on this, the main tool in repulsing Russian aggression will remain the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which requires further increase in their combat capabilities.

At this, the intelligence agencies of Ukraine will continue to be important as a tools of exposing threats to Ukraine and the plans and actions of its adversaries.


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