Photo: Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba with a delegation of the US Congress.
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine
The Russian crisis, which has intensified in recent months, continues to gain momentum. The aggressive rhetoric of the Kremlin leaders is complemented by ongoing maneuvers on the border with Ukraine. Currently, joint military exercises are taking place in Russia and Belarus, which began on February 10, 2022 and should end by February 20. Large-scale Russian-Belarusian exercises «Allied Resolve 2022» may be the beginning of an offensive on Ukraine, while the United States even named a specific date - February 16.
Against the background of Russia's actions in the military dimension, a real parade of diplomacy is taking place around Ukraine, which never happened since Ukraine's independence. Almost every day, ministers, heads of state and representatives of international organizations come to Kyiv. Some of these meetings are part of shuttle diplomacy, with state leaders taking turns visiting Kyiv and Moscow. Over the past month, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands Wopke Hoekstra, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte, the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Manuel Albares, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany Annalena Baerbock, Leaders of France and Germany Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Foreign Ministers of the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Canada, OSCE Chairman-in-Office, the Speaker of the Estonian Parliament, the Prime Minister of Lithuania, the Delegation of the European Parliament, the US Congressmen, etc. have visited Ukraine.
Russian maneuvers have forced European countries to consolidate around Ukraine and realize the fact that the security of a 40 million state, one of the largest nations in Europe, is directly related to the security of the entire continent. The ultimatum demands of the President of Russia, contained in the so-called «Security guarantees» are related not only to Russian-Ukrainian relations, but also to the North Atlantic Alliance. The thesis that Russia will not stop at Ukraine alone has long been clear to the Eastern European states. Now, however, other NATO members have realized the danger of Putin's revisionism, which aims to overhaul the existing European security architecture and divide the continent into spheres of influence. In response to the demands, Vladimir Putin received the opposite reaction from NATO member countries.
First, the Pentagon announced a temporary increase in US troops in Europe to strengthen NATO's eastern flank. 2,000 soldiers will be sent to Poland and Germany, 1,700 of them will be stationed in Poland. About 1,000 will be transferred from Germany to Romania. The United Kingdom has also announced the transfer of 350 troops to Poland. French President Emmanuel Macron has announced that additional troops will be sent to Romania, the Netherlands will provide Bulgaria with two F-35 fighters, Spain will strengthen its navy within the Alliance, and is considering delivering fighters to Bulgaria. Denmark is considering similar reinforcements - sending four F-16 fighters to Lithuania. Further action on the redeployment of NATO troops to Eastern Europe was agreed at a meeting of Allied defense ministers on 16-17 February. NATO's southeastern flank, the Black Sea region, has long received little attention compared to the Baltic. Russia's aggressive policies pushed the United States and a number of other countries to reconsider their approach, given security threats to allies in the region, dangers to free navigation and NATO's broader interests in the Mediterranean, which is directly linked to the Black Sea.
Secondly, the member countries of the Alliance have provided an unprecedented level of support to Ukraine through the provision of weapons. According to the estimates of the international intelligence community InformNapalm, during the month (from January 15 to February 13, 2022) 43 cargo planes with weapons and ammunition from partner states have arrived in Ukraine. Javelin ATGMs and NLAW ATGMs are among the weapons provided. Ukraine already has thousands of missiles to stop Russian tanks. The state also received man-portable surface-to-air missile systems Stinger and Piorun, which are a modernized version of the Grom systems. Currently, their exact number is unknown, but the availability of such complexes significantly enhances the ability of the Armed Forces of Ukraine to counter Russian aviation. The next step in strengthening the defense capacity of Ukraine should be enhancing Ukrainian air defense systems and strengthening the ability to defend the coast, because Ukraine still remains vulnerable from the sea and air.
Thirdly, the US, UK and European Union have developed packages of sanctions against the Russian economy, the Russian elite and their families to be imposed in the event of an expansion of Russian aggression. Sanctions may also be imposed against Russian businesses and oligarchs. According to British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, any company of interest to the Kremlin and the regime in Russia could be targeted. It should be noted that the possibility of imposing tough sanctions may become a fuse for the Russian invasion, however, according to the Ukrainian leadership, they will not protect Ukraine after attack. Therefore, the Ukrainian side insisted on the introduction of preventive sanctions, the idea of ??which at the initial stage was supported by a number of partner countries. However, the NATO member countries coordinated their position and finally rejected the possibility of imposing preventive sanctions.
In addition to arms supplies, partner countries have helped stabilize Ukraine's economy. As a result of Russian maneuvers around Ukraine on land and at sea, Ukraine suffers significant economic losses. At the end of January, it became known that the European Union provided macro-financial assistance in the amount of 1.2 billion euros. Then, after Volodymyr Zelensky's meeting with Emmanuel Macron, it was announced that France would provide 1.2 billion euros in program funding. According to the agreement, the French Ministry of Economy and Finance will provide a loan of 200 million euros to the government of Ukraine, as well as financial guarantees of 1 billion euros. Under these guarantees, Ukraine will be able to obtain loans from French banks on favorable terms. Another initiative was the joint international fund to support Ukraine in the amount of 35 million pounds, launched by the United States, Britain, Canada, Sweden and Switzerland.
Economic assistance is now as important as diplomatic and military. The depletion of Ukraine, the weakening and destabilization of the country from within, are creating a favorable ground for the Russian invasion. Currently, the government of Volodymyr Zelensky is quite successful in controlling the current situation and overcoming problems as they arise. For example, Ukraine has allocated 17 billion hryvnias to overcome the crisis in the field of air transportation, which arose due to fears of insurance companies about a possible Russian invasion. Insurance, leasing companies and air carriers have received financial guarantees from the Ukrainian government to ensure the safety of air travel in the country.
Internal stability, military and diplomatic support, can significantly affect the calculations of the Russian leadership. European countries have been consolidating in recent months, and all diplomatic efforts are now focused on averting a full-scale Russian-Ukrainian war that would cause catastrophic consequences not only in Europe but also far beyond. Russia's invasion, regardless of its outcome, will have demographic, economic and geopolitical consequences. This includes the flow of refugees to the European Union and rising world food prices, as Ukraine and Russia export 29% of world wheat, which in turn will undermine the position of governments far from Eastern Europe.
The eventual destruction of Europe's security architecture will reduce the level of protection of NATO members, increase mistrust between nations and force governments to spend more on the security and defense sector. Given the history of Russia's West 2021 exercise, which took place on Belarus' borders with the Baltic states, Europe's loss of Ukraine will be a stage followed by aggression against Eastern European states. Realizing the danger of Vladimir Putin's current actions, NATO members have unprecedentedly supported Ukraine by providing defense weapons and resorting to shuttle diplomacy in an attempt to change the Russian president's intentions. These efforts may deter a full-scale Russian invasion, but as long as Russian troops remain at the border, Ukraine is preparing for defense.
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