April 16, 2021

Russia and Ukraine

“President Joe Biden urged Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to ‘de-escalate tensions’ following a Russian military buildup on Ukraine’s border… Biden also told Putin the U.S. would ‘act firmly in defense of its national interests’ regarding Russian cyber intrusions and election interference, according to the White House. Biden proposed a summit in a third country ‘in the coming months’ to discuss the full range of U.S.-Russia issues, the White House said.” AP News

“The Biden administration announced Thursday the U.S. is expelling 10 Russian diplomats and imposing sanctions against several dozen people and companies, holding the Kremlin accountable for interference in last year’s presidential election and the hacking of federal agencies.” AP News

Many on both sides call for the US and NATO to support Ukraine against Russian aggression:

Russia’s military buildup [in Ukraine] is a test of western resolve… London is hawkish in relations with Russia (especially since the Skripal poisonings), but Paris and Berlin tend to be more cautious in confronting the Kremlin. There are commercial as well as strategic issues in play – not the least of which is a pipeline project for carrying Russian gas to Germany. The European Union is not well set up for foreign policy coordination. The continent is reliant on America for its security in ways that test Washington’s patience…

“[But] The wider the divisions within NATO, the more room Mr Putin sees for his trouble-making manoeuvres. And that puts Ukraine and the stability of eastern Europe in peril. There is no easy way to handle Russia when its foreign policy is conditioned by paranoid nationalism and cynical playing to a domestic audience by means of stoking international conflict. But the starting point for democracies on both sides of the Atlantic must be unequivocal solidarity with a sovereign state that has already suffered from Kremlin territorial aggression, and is threatened by it once again.”
Editorial Board, The Guardian

“In 1999 Putin, a then largely unknown politician, was installed atop the Russian power system. Shortly thereafter, Russian troops entered Chechnya, with Moscow establishing direct control of the country by May 2000. By year’s end, Putin’s approval rate had jumped to 84%. Several years later, with his approval rate down to 66%, Putin invaded Georgia. His approval rate quickly elevated to 88%…

“By November 2013, economic problems had sent his job approval ratings south once more (to 61%). But with the 2014 invasion and annexation of Crimea, his popularity rebounded to 89% by summer of 2015. Putin’s approval rating has trended downward since April 2018… Forewarned is forearmed. The West needs a clear strategy to prevent new Russian aggression against Ukraine…

Ukraine needs an immediate boost for its defensive capabilities. If nothing else, the United States and U.K. need to live up to their promises in the 1994 Budapest agreement, under which Kyiv de-nuclearized in exchange for guarantees of its territorial integrity and sovereignty, provided by three nuclear states: the U.S., U.K. and Russia. We know where Russia stands in this situation. There is a need for greater clarity from the U.S. and U.K.”
Mamuka Tsereteli and James Jay Carafano, Fox News

Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis writes, “Will Putin actually invade again? The good news is that it seems less likely than in 2014. The Ukrainian armed forces are better armed and trained, largely with U.S. assistance. But with Putin, you never know — and he may believe the U.S. domestic turbulence and division, coupled with the obvious challenges of the pandemic on both sides of the Atlantic, are sufficient distractions. He’s made similar bets before — in Syria and Georgia as well as Crimea — and is willing to take a chance and deal with the consequences later. The best course for the Biden team is to look [into] the eyes of the man the U.S. president correctly called a ‘killer’ — and call his bluff

“That means providing Ukraine more offensive weapons, especially antitank and anti-armor surface-to-surface missiles, and commensurate training for the Ukrainian armed forces directly by the U.S. European Command. It also means sending U.S. naval warships to operate in the Black Sea… placing additional sanctions on Russia in general and Putin’s cronies in particular in response to the SolarWinds hack and the Navalny poisoning; and continuing NATO engagement with Ukraine, including placing it in a Membership Action Plan, a precursor to joining the alliance.”
James Stavridis, Bloomberg

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