Friday new consultations Russia and US, troop building around Ukraine continues

Tensions around Ukraine continue. A day full of diplomatic consultations between Russia and the West has not yet led to the desired de-escalation. However, US Minister Blinken of State and his Russian counterpart Lavrov agreed to join each other again next Friday in Geneva. Meanwhile, Russia has started placing men in Belarus, the Ukrainian northern neighbor.

According to the Americans, it is up to Russian President Putin to remove tensions by reducing the number of men at the border with Ukraine. Lavrov asked to stop the โ€œspeculationsโ€ about a Russian invasion of Ukraine in a phone call with Blinken.

American and Ukrainian security services take into account that Russia is preparing such an invasion. To this end, the Russians would have contracted about 100,000 soldiers. Moscow denies the accusation and says that Russia is being threatened by NATO, including the accession of Central and Eastern European member states in recent decades.

That is why Putin demands a guarantee that Ukraine will never become a member of the Western military alliance or that weapons will be placed in the country. Russia issued an ultimatum last Friday: within a week, the Kremlin expects a response to its demands. It is not clear what the consequences are if there is no response to Russian desires.

Provocation

In addition to the US, NATO has also sent an invitation to new talks to Russia. Moscow has not yet responded to that request. NATO boss Jens Stoltenberg says the alliance is willing to put concrete proposals on the table, such as improving mutual communication and disarmament.

This December video explains what the voltages are all about:

Stoltenberg considers it โ€œabsolutely possibleโ€ that a Russian invasion is imminent. NATO intelligence would show that there is a significant amount of Russian intelligence officers operating in Ukraine. They could provoke a provocation, giving Russia a case belli to invade its neighbouring country.

In addition to the NATO invitation, Russia also received an invitation for consultations between Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia, the so-called Normandy consultation, named after an informal meeting between the four countries during a D-day commemoration. When visiting Moscow, German Foreign Minister Baerbock said that diplomacy is the only way out of the current conflict.

No option of table

Baerboks visit was preceded by a trip to Kiev, where she spoke to her Ukrainian counterpart last night. There she stressed that Germany will not supply weapons to the Ukrainian army. However, Germany will respond with strong sanctions in the event of a Russian invasion, such as blocking the commissioning of Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

The German business newspaper Handelsblatt reported yesterday that closing the international payment system Swift, which would seriously affect Russia economically, is no longer seen as a serious option. The White House has contradicted that, as far as Americans are concerned, โ€œno optionโ€ is off the table.

The United Kingdom is going to supply the Ukrainian army with weapons. These are a number of anti-tank weapons, which, according to the British, will not pose a threat to Russia. According to CNN, the US government is considering sending additional ammunition, missiles and anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine.

Military to Belarus

Meanwhile, Russia has begun to move an unknown number of men to Belarus for a joint military exercise, which is due to take place in mid-February. Part of this is the โ€œrepulsion of a foreign attack,โ€ said the Russian Deputy Minister of Defence Fomin.

On social media, images of Russian military vehicles are circulating in Belarus:

According to Belarusian dictator Lukashenko, joint exercises are needed because Ukraine allegedly stationed military personnel near the Belarusian border. The exercises will be held at the border with Poland and Lithuania.