October 25, 2021

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“Poke-and-probe.” Why Russia is amassing troops and military material along the border with Ukraine Euromaidan Press

"Poke-and-probe."  Why Russia is amassing troops and military material along the border with Ukraine Euromaidan Press

2021/04/14 – 15:15 •

Article by: Yaroslav Bozhko

Translated by: Christine Chraibi

Today, since there is no direct inside information from the Kremlin, it is impossible to answer the question: “Will Russian troops launch a full-scale offensive against Ukraine?”

According to Christina Quinn, Chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Kiev, the movements of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border and into occupied Crimea are unprecedented and are the largest since 2014. Therefore, Ukraine and the West must speak hard and coordinate their actions; otherwise, this “poke-and-probe” method will soon become a real case of Russian aggression.

In the event of a large-scale escalation, Russia could conceivably achieve a military victory, even at the cost of many casualties. However, we should understand that such losses and the risk of being officially named the aggressor will not stop Russia. The Russian Federation did not hesitate to use military force and “make a bad impression” during the wars in Chechnya, Georgia in 2008, Syria and Ukraine.

Furthermore, it is highly likely that the Kremlin will make use of one of its favorite narratives of “unpredictability” during further operations (in particular, by spreading rumors about the possible use of nuclear weapons in the event of foreign interference in occupied Crimea).

However, it would be wrong to consider this escalation purely as a Ukrainian-Russian confrontation. Western leaders, who have not yet realized the scale of this conflict, should think outside the box and see more than just a conflict between two nations.

This is Russia dealing a severe blow to the ability of the Western world to defend its interests in the post-Soviet space.

A number of factors indicate a serious Russian aggression:

  • the deployment of military field hospitals and fuel depots near the Ukrainian border;
  • the arrival of Russian military propagandists Semyon Pegov and Dmitry Steshin in the occupied territories; these men regularly cover the military activities of the Russian Federation and its delegates.

We cannot be sure that the Kremlin had a specific purpose when it began to move and amass its troops closer to the Ukrainian border.

But we have a situation developing before our eyes, and the Kremlin’s actions may directly depend on how Western leaders react to the first stage of the escalation.

In a sense, Russia is using the “poke-and-probe” method to test Ukraine’s defense complex, identify the response mechanisms of the Ukrainian security forces and authorities, and monitor the West’s response to measures. preparatory of Russia.

Despite all the support and assistance Ukraine has received from the United States, we cannot be sure that the Biden administration has worked out a functional framework for its new policy towards Ukraine, i.e. it has set permissible and desirable limits. . Certainly there is a lack of confidence in Ukrainian-American relations, given the scandals of the past two years, which have been staged with the active participation of Russia and its agents of influence.

Furthermore, the position of the US ambassador to Ukraine remains vacant, a fact that does not inspire confidence between the two nations. The response process will be slow as it is unrealistic to form a qualitative policy “via Skype” under such conditions.

Therefore, Russia has the opportunity to use force or threaten to use force in Ukraine to change the regional status quo before the Biden administration imposes sanctions.

Unfortunately, all diplomatic negotiations that will take place after the launch of an overwhelming military force by the Kremlin will be based on the new status quo, which will take into account Russia’s military potential instead of preventing its implementation.

Therefore, given its adventurous foreign policy,Russia currently has a unique window of opportunity to change the status quo in the region.

Furthermore, the escalation is taking place with the elections for the State Duma of the RF looming in the summer of 2021.

The current Moscow government has always relied on neo-imperialist discourse and brandished the threat of outside interference, escalating some points of instability and receiving political dividends from quick victories. It is up to both Ukraine and the Western community to make the price of a hypothetical “quick victory” unacceptable to Russia.

Indeed, the world community has a formidable tool at its fingertips: disconnect Russia from the SWIFT international payment system.

It is worth noting that this escalation occurs just as President Biden is elaborating his policy towards major global players and may be aimed primarily at influencing American politics. The Kremlin may attempt to offer a “trade” – easing tensions in Ukraine for a quiet deal on the completion and launch of Nord Stream-2.

Therefore, the position of Germany is more important than ever for Ukraine. Indeed, the situation could be resolved very quickly if Germany takes a firm stand on Russian military escalation and the fate of Nord Stream-2.

However, if Germany fails to deliver, it will be much more difficult to convince Russia to move away, to refrain from adding fuel to the fire.

Today it is very important that the West make Russia pay the highest possible price for its open aggression against Ukraine, even if it is unacceptable to Moscow.

If Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations and the position of the US, Britain and the European Union fail today, it will mean not only a tactical but a strategic success for the Russian Federation in the region. Central European military and security infrastructure will face a threat that no one could previously have foreseen.

Yaroslav Bozhko is the head of the Doctrine Center for Political Studies, political consultant and analyst. He holds a Masters in Political Science from Kyiv Taras Shevchenko University.

Translated by: Christine Chraibi

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Tags: Crimea, Kremlin propaganda, military strengthening, Russian aggression