British warships migrate to the Black Sea in May, an area to which Russia is currently sending ships. It also closes the Kerch Strait in Crimea for foreign warships and is holding a military exercise ‘in response to growing NATO pressure’.
Recently, the area grew rapidly into the focal point in the difficult relationship between Russia and the West. As tensions continue to rise, international observers do not rule out a Russian offensive. But whether it really comes to a total escalation is difficult to predict.
Russian state media has heard and read this week that Russian troops are ready to take action “as tensions with the US-led NATO bloc escalate into total war”. The Russian Defence Minister, Sergei Shoygoe, warned last Tuesday that all NATO military actions – including troops building supported by NATO – are seen here as an outright threat against Russia.
Ukraine wants peace
Ukraine will not resume the war in the east of the country, said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Koleba last Tuesday during a joint meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels. “We don‘t plan offensives or escalations,” says Koeleba.
Koleba accuses Russia of building its military presence along the Ukrainian-Russian border. According to the Ukrainian authorities, some 80,000 Russian soldiers have already gathered at the border and pro-Russian separatists have violated the ceasefire on the assembly line.
‘Error lies with Ukraine‘
Russia is just saying that the Ukrainians are provoking violence. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned that there is a threat of civil war due to “Ukrainian provocations”. According to the Kremlin, Russia holds military exercises on its own territory and has every right to do so. Since the beginning of the conflict, Russia has been claiming that it is a struggle between Ukrainians and that Russia has nothing to do with it.
Ukrainian President Zelensky asked NATO early this month for help to conduct military exercises together with the Ukrainian army to counterbalance Russian military exercises. This has been promised – this summer more than a thousand soldiers from at least five NATO Member States will participate in a large-scale exercise.
Analysts say that the annexation of the self-proclaimed People’s Republics Donetsk and Lugansk would cost Russia a great deal of money. The entire region has been ruined after seven years of war and should be rebuilt from scratch. Furthermore, an offensive would result in a series of new sanctions from the West against Russia. And this is when Russia has been hit financially hard by the consequences of the coronapandemic. On the other hand, the Kremlin has been saying that it has been ready for further sanctions for weeks, and Western sanctions are being placed in Russia as the cause of the ever-deteriorating economic situation.
It is clear that Russia seems to have a particular interest in keeping Eastern Ukraine unstable. The more unstable the conflict is, the more difficult it becomes for Ukraine to become a member of NATO.
NATO membership would be unacceptable to Russia. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned last Friday that Ukraine‘s accession to NATO would lead to a “large-scale increase in tensions” and to “irreversible consequences for Ukraine’s sovereignty”.