What Is Behind Them and Whether They Should Be Feared
In recent years Russia has virtually lost the initiative in the European theatre and lost the “battle” for Ukraine with the West. In turn, this completely undermined Moscow’s plans to turn Russia into a “great world power” with its exclusive sphere of influence.
And now the Putin regime is trying to take revenge for its geopolitical defeat. Moreover, due to the lack of necessary economic resources in Russia to achieve its goals, it is, as always, relying on military force and trying to intimidate its opponents.
This is exactly what has been happening since the beginning of this year as part of Russia’s increased military activity in Ukraine, as well as in the Black Sea and Baltic regions, accompanied by open threats against Ukraine and its Western partners. And in December 2021 Moscow has moved to direct ultimatums to US and NATO, which has made the situation around Ukraine critical. However, what is Russia really doing, and will it be able to realize its intentions?
…Moscow has fallen into the trap of its own neo-imperial policy…
Everyone knows that a cornered beast can attack a much stronger enemy. Moscow is now in this situation, having actually fallen into the trap of its own neo-imperial policy. For example, the Russian ruling elite not only failed to achieve its geopolitical goals for the revival of “Great Russia”, but faced a number of critical problems for it both in the international arena and at home. We have already written about this, so we will not tire readers with known facts. Moreover, the mentioned problems were actually confirmed by the President of the Russian Federation V. Putin at the press conference on December 23, 2021, although in his usual manner of “distorting” the facts.
In particular, according to him, “Russia is the best out of the COVID-19 pandemic, as its economy has fallen by only 3 %, which is less than in all developed countries”. In fact, in the US, the EU and China, only economic growth has fallen, not GDP, as in Russia. And no matter how much V. Putin tried to hide such a situation, he was forced to say about the actual demise of small business in the country. Although, even without him, everyone in Russia knew that, because state support was provided only to large business, in fact — to the oligarchs close to the Russian government.
Similarly, V. Putin could not hide the fact of excessive mortality in Russia due to the pandemic. However, he cynically gave it a positive meaning as a factor that contributed to lower unemployment in the country. The allegations of the President of the Russian Federation about the increase in funds allocated for medicine, education and social needs were similarly cynical, although in recent years budget expenditures for these purposes have fallen by almost a third.
- Putin’s comments on Russia’s allegedly peaceful foreign policy, including against Ukraine, were also completely false. And all the problems around Russia are created by the West and Ukraine, which are “deploying military bases near Russia’s borders”, “imposing unjustified sanctions”, and “preparing to seize the Donbas and Crimea by force”. At this, V. Putin reiterated his theses about the “military coup in Ukraine”, “Moscow’s non-involvement in the events in the Donbas” and “Russia’s forced action to accept Crimea as part of the RF to prevent the destruction of its population by Ukrainian nationalists”.
Russia itself was called by V. Putin “perhaps the most democratic country in the world”, where “human rights are respected”, “freedom of the press is supported”, and “every effort is made to investigate high-profile political assassinations”.
However, we will not retell or comment on everything that V. Putin said. It doesn’t make any sense. Everything is clear. Let’s just say that the next press conference of the President of the Russian Federation (as in all recent years) was aimed at masking the failure of the Kremlin’s policy, which is gaining more and more understanding among the Russian population. At this, the trend is deepening, as evidenced by the results of sociological research, as well as shown by mass protests in support of A. Navalny and S. Furgal.
And then there is Russia’s loss of Ukraine, which is already recognized by Russian politicians and experts. On the one hand, this completely destroys Moscow’s neo-imperial plans, and on the other hand, it nullifies Putin’s efforts to raise his authority by “finally resolving” the Ukrainian issue. Not to mention that Ukraine has indeed become a leading outpost of the United States and NATO in deterring Russia.
All this has led to the intensification of Moscow’s actions to intimidate Ukraine and its Western partners, as well as the deliberate aggravation of relations with them. Due to this, Russia, or rather its current government, is trying to resolve several issues, fundamentally important for it, namely:
- to seize the initiative from the West in order to gain the opportunity to impose its will on the United States and Europe;
- to assert its role as the world’s leading center of power on a par with the United States;
- to establish control over Ukraine or, at least, to stop the process of its Euro-Atlantic integration;
- to divert the Russian population’s attention from the country’s internal problems and to restore the authority of its government as one that fiercely defends Russia’s interests before the West.
However, until recently, all attempts by Moscow to achieve these goals have not yielded results. Moreover, the United States, NATO, and the EU have only tightened their grip on deterring Russia, including in the military sphere. At this, Western countries and international organizations did not make any concessions to the Kremlin regarding Ukraine, but, on the contrary, became a joint front in defense of our state. At the same time, aid to Ukraine has been increased, including the provision of lethal weapons.
This position of the West was confirmed by US President J. Biden during his video conference with V. Putin on December 7, 2021. Despite this, Biden’s agreeing to negotiate with V. Putin was presented by the Russian media as a Russia’s “victory”, which allegedly forced the United States into dialogue. And, therefore, Russia “showed not only its equality with the United States, but its ability to influence Washington’s policy”.
However, in reality, J. Biden simply showed Moscow its true place in the modern world. By the way, this is confirmed in all US concept papers on national security, where Russia is considered an adversary of America, but only after China.
This is what prompted the Kremlin to take more decisive, at first glance, steps, namely, the ultimatum demands to the United States and NATO to guarantee Russia’s security. As you know, the main ones included NATO’s giving up: further expand to the East at the expense of the former Soviet Union; deployment of strike weapons near Russia’s borders; military and military-technical cooperation with Ukraine and the deployment of the Alliance infrastructure on its territory.
Also, Russia has turned to direct threats to “turn Europe into a battlefield” if the United States and NATO reject these demands. Russia once again reiterated its “having no plans to attack Ukraine”. And immediately began to create new information reasons for this by spreading allegations about “the presence in the conflict zone in the Donbas of 150 American mercenaries who are preparing a provocation with the use of chemical weapons”.
Such actions by Moscow have once again shown the irresponsibility and unpredictability of its policy, as well as the fact that it can really go on another military adventure. With this in mind, the US and NATO’s leaderships agreed to negotiate with Russia on mutual security and reducing tensions around Ukraine.
As in the case of J. Biden’s consent to a direct dialogue with V. Putin in early December 2021, the aforementioned US-NATO decision is again presented by Russia as its “victory”. Moreover, Russia is already confident in the results of future negotiations, namely concessions from the West. In fact, this is openly demonstrated by Russian Foreign Minister S. Lavrov.
But then, Moscow, as always is indulged in wishful thinking. The United States and NATO have indeed agreed to negotiate with Russia, but, as before, from a position of strength. This was confirmed by NATO Secretary General J. Stoltenberg, who rejected any possibility of discussing with Russia the distribution of spheres of influence in the world, as well as agreeing with it to compromise on Ukraine. According to J. Stoltenberg, Ukraine is a sovereign state that has the right to protection under the UN Charter. He also stressed NATO’s openness to Ukraine.
The firmness of the US and NATO positions towards Russia was confirmed by the Alliance’s practical actions. Thus, against the background of Moscow’s ultimatums, the combat readiness of NATO Response Force was increased — a total of about 40,000 servicemen. And these are only forward NATO forces that can be deployed against the Russian Federation. And in Poland alone there are two US and NATO army corps, which outnumber the entire Western Military District of Russia, and can be deployed quickly.
…Such ultimatums are a manifestation of Russia’s weakness, not strength…
This is the reason for Moscow’s contradictory actions, which on the one hand threatens them with military force and, on the other hand, imposes ultimatums on them to ensure its security. By the way, such ultimatums are a manifestation of Russia’s weakness, not strength. The strong does not ask for security guarantees, let alone needs them, he provides them with his own hands.
And at the end of the article I would like to express a few opinions that contradict most of the current assessments of the situation around Ukraine. Russia has indeed deployed a powerful group of troops numbering more than 100,000 soldiers and officers in the Ukrainian direction. However, not in the spring or autumn of 2021, but since 2014 after the attack on Ukraine. And now they are all there on a permanent basis and conduct training at their training grounds.
At this, the movement of troops from places of permanent deployment gives the impression of their large-scale deployment near the borders of Ukraine. And how could it be otherwise, when one reinforced battalion tactical group can include from 10 to 30 tanks, from 10 to 40 armored personnel carriers (or infantry fighting vehicles), up to 10 artillery systems of various calibers, as well as several dozen trucks.
During the training period, each of the battalion tactical groups of all formations of the Russian Armed Forces deployed in the Ukrainian direction, in turn, are taken to the training grounds both on their own and by railway from a distance of several tens to over 100 km. After that, field camps are deployed on the training grounds, in the same way as in preparation for real combat.
This is exactly what Russia did in 2014. However, at that time its troops were really moving towards Ukraine and were deployed in field camps in the immediate vicinity of the Ukrainian border. All in all, one brigade tactical group in Orel, Kursk, Belgorod and Voronezh regions of Russia and three brigade tactical groups in Rostov region. Besides, wartime command and control systems, field airfields, warehouses and hospitals were fully deployed in the Ukrainian direction, and material and technical stocks were accumulated.
In the spring and autumn of 2021, similar measures were taken by Russia on a limited scale and mostly at stationary training grounds, rather than in the immediate vicinity of the border with Ukraine. At this, only a limited number of troops were additionally transferred to the Ukrainian direction, namely:
- in Crimea — a battalion tactical group, artillery and anti-aircraft divisions (groups) from the 7thAir Assault Division (HQ — Novorossiysk) and a battalion tactical group from the 58th Army (HQ — Vladikavkaz) ) of the Southern Military District;
- to Voronezh region of the Russian Federation — a communications unit and no more than a battalion tactical group from the 41stArmy (HQ —Novosibirsk) of the Central Military District.
Similar measures were launched by Russia in December 2021 as part of the winter training period of the RF Armed Forces. However, a large-scale transfer of troops to the Ukrainian direction from other regions of Russia is not yet happening. The allegation is Moscow’s information campaign to put pressure on Ukraine and its Western partners. Moreover, such a campaign is consciously or unconsciously supported by the Ukrainian and Western media, including through Russian agents of influence.
In particular, the evidence of this is the statement from the Ministry of Defense of Russia on the training of thousands of tank crews from the 150th Motorized Rifle Division at training grounds in Rostov region in December 2021. However, in reality, this Division has no more than 260 tanks. Similarly, in the spring of 2021 the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation S. Shoigu claimed that two armies would be deployed to the Black Sea (but, in fact, Ukrainian) direction. However, as noted above, in reality, only some of their units were deployed.
The same “fakes” are most of the space images of “Russian troops deployment near the borders of Ukraine”, which in reality are photos of field camps on training grounds, or areas of permanent deployment of units of the Russian Armed Forces.
…Russia can expand the scale of armed aggression against Ukraine even with the forces it already has deployed near Ukraine’s borders…
At the same time, this does not mean that Moscow is not preparing to attack Ukraine. Russia can expand the scale of armed aggression against our state even with the forces it already has deployed near Ukraine’s borders. Of course, we must be prepared for this, but in no way exaggerate Russia’s capabilities and not to succumb to its information provocations.
And another interesting thing. The US and NATO intelligences undoubtedly know what is really going on around Ukraine. So why are they actually playing up to Russia? The answer to this question is quite simple. And we have written about this before. The more aggressive policy Moscow pursues, the more it unites the Western world and the more reasons it raises for toughening sanctions against Russia and destroying its economy.
No one has cancelled the interests of Western companies working in the defense and energy sectors. For all of them, the aggravation of relations between the West and Russia is a source of income from increasing arms production and squeezing Russian oil and gas from the European market.
However, this is fully in Ukraine’s interests, as it is holding back Russia in one way or another.