IWarnings are apparently circulating within NATO that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin could seek armed conflict with the West beyond Ukraine. As diplomats from several states of the military alliance reported to the “Spiegel”, there is a fear that the Russian armed forces could use their recently massively increased presence in the Mediterranean, the North Atlantic and the Arctic to strike on a broad front – even against NATO countries. In such a case, massive disinformation campaigns and cyber attacks can also be expected.
According to NATO, there are currently no concrete indications of preparations for such an attack. But Moscow’s escalation possibilities are real – and in an emergency, NATO would not be able to counter Russia quickly, either militarily or digitally.
US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said on Thursday: “It is certainly the case that the risk of a military invasion is high.” finally decided in favor of military action in Ukraine”. Sullivan called on Moscow to de-escalate and reduce troops in the area.
USA: “We are prepared for any eventuality”
He further explained: “We and our allies are prepared for any eventuality.” This applies both to diplomatic negotiations and in the event that Russian President Vladimir Putin seeks military escalation. “We have made Russia very clear about the costs and consequences of further military action or a destabilization of Ukraine.” Sullivan again threatened Moscow with economic and financial sanctions, export control measures and an armament of Ukraine “if the Russian military crosses the Ukrainian border “.
Most recently, the Russian government has demanded that NATO commit itself contractually not to accept any further former Soviet republics and to withdraw its troops from the eastern alliance states. Putin has massed around 100,000 soldiers on the border with Ukraine.
A senior Russian diplomat has also toyed with the possibility of Russian military involvement in the Americas. He can neither confirm nor rule out that Russia is stationing military infrastructure in Cuba and Venezuela, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in an interview with the Russian television channel RTVI TV on Thursday. How it goes on depends solely on the USA. The US government dismissed this as bullying.
Ryabkov led the Russian delegation at the US-Russian talks on the tense situation on the Ukrainian border and other security issues in Geneva on Monday. The discussions in Geneva and the talks between Russia and NATO on Wednesday in Vienna did not succeed in overcoming the rifts regarding the security guarantees demanded by Russia against the background of the Russian troop build-up near Ukraine.
Russia has massed about 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine, according to Western estimates, raising fears of an invasion. The government in Moscow denies any intention to attack, but sees the NATO accession of former members of the Warsaw Military Pact as a threat to its security. Among other things, President Vladimir Putin is demanding guarantees that NATO will not accept any other states that used to belong to the Soviet Union. In addition, NATO should not only withdraw military equipment from Ukraine, but also from its member countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Talks between Russia, the US and NATO this week failed to bridge the gap.
“We have nowhere to retreat”
Ryabkov said the refusal by the US and its allies to consider Russia’s core demand makes it difficult to talk about confidence-building measures that Washington has signaled willingness to negotiate. The US wanted to hold a dialogue on some elements of the security situation in order to reduce tensions, and then continue the course of geopolitical and military development closer to Moscow. “We have nowhere to retreat,” Ryabkov said, referring to Putin’s threat that Russia could take military-technical measures if the US provoked and increased military pressure.
A senior US official was unperturbed by Ryabkov’s suggestion that Russian troops might be stationed in Latin America. “We will not respond to noise,” he said. “If Russia were to actually move in this direction, we would respond decisively.”
Shortly after his election in 2000, Putin ordered a military facility in Cuba that dates back to Soviet times. In 2018, Russia briefly stationed nuclear-capable bombers in Venezuela to support President Nicolás Maduro.
Tensions surrounding Ukraine and Russia’s demands on the West were also topics at the meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna. Polish Foreign Minister and OSCE Chair Zbigniew Rau said in his opening speech: “The risk of war in the OSCE area is now greater than at any time in the past 30 years.” Rau underlined the need to focus on a peaceful solution to the conflict in and to focus on Ukraine, “fully recognizing the sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned of a complete rupture in Russian-US relations if sanctions demanded by Democratic US senators are imposed on Putin and other civilian and military leaders. These also provide for punitive measures against Russian financial institutions in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Peskov saw sanctions demands as an attempt to increase pressure on Russia during the talks. But this will not succeed. Russia will respond accordingly to safeguard the country’s interests, Peskov warned.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also condemned the sanctions proposals as an expression of American “arrogance”. Moscow expects a written response to its demands from the US and NATO next week to consider further steps, he said.