After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, some Ukrainian officials have voiced concern that Moscow could launch a minor attack on the country to justify military intervention. After months of escalating tensions and no meaningful dialogue between Kiev and Moscow, many are wondering how soon this conflict can escalate into something more serious.
Ukraine, Kyiv— Russian authorities intend to destabilize Ukraine with a range of strikes, according to Ukrainian officials, rebutting President Biden’s assumption that the US and its allies would react differently to a small-scale incursion than a full-fledged invasion.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba replied to Vice President Joe Biden’s suggestion that Western countries were divided on how to respond to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the case of a “small invasion” into Ukraine in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Thursday. The White House then corrected his comments.
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“When it comes to little and major incursions or invasions, you can’t be half-hearted. Mr. Kuleba said, “You’re either aggressive or you’re not aggressive.” “We must not allow Putin the smallest opportunity to engage in quasi-aggression or small-scale invasion operations.” Since 2014, there has been an increase in hostility. This is a reality.”
Ukraine, already unsettled by the deployment of almost 100,000 Russian soldiers on its borders, was further rocked by Mr. Biden’s and French President Emmanuel Macron’s statements on Wednesday, which cast doubt on the West’s unity and commitment to assisting the country.
“Remind the major powers that there are no little invasions and tiny states,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Twitter on Thursday. There are no small casualties, and there is minimal pain associated with the death of loved ones.”
Mr. Biden did not explicitly address the Ukrainian criticism at a White House event on Thursday, but he did say that he has been quite clear with Mr. Putin about an invasion.
“Let there be no question,” he continued, “that if Putin takes this decision, Russia will pay a high price.”
Ukrainian authorities are irritated in part because their assessment is that a large-scale strike is unlikely. They argue that stiff Ukrainian opposition to a frontal invasion and Western pressure would serve as a deterrent. Instead, senior Ukrainian officials believe the Kremlin will use more clandestine means to destabilize its neighbor and depose its government.
As a consequence, Ukrainian authorities are urging Western leaders not to downplay Moscow’s ostensibly less-lethal actions.
Given the strength of Ukraine’s army, the population’s willingness to fight, and pressure from the West, Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, stated in an interview that a military invasion would be highly expensive for Russia. More likely, he added, Russia will strive to increase a campaign of cyberattacks, provocations, misinformation, and economic pressure, at least in the near term.
On Wednesday in Kyiv, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba met.
Associated Press photo
“Military measures will be very difficult for them to attain their objectives.” Mr. Danilov said, “I believe that is impossible.” “They have a multi-pronged strategy to disrupt the domestic situation on our soil.” For them, it is the most important duty.”
Mr. Biden said Russia would be held responsible if it attacked Ukraine during a press conference celebrating his first year in office on Wednesday, adding, “It depends on what it does.” It’s one thing if it’s a tiny intrusion, but then we’re fighting about what to do and what not to do.”
He predicted that if Russia attacked Ukraine, “it would be a tragedy,” and that the US and its allies would retaliate with economic penalties.
Following Mr. Biden’s words, the White House issued a statement saying that any Russian military troops crossing the Ukrainian border would be considered “a fresh invasion” and would be faced with quick retaliation from the US and its allies.
As the number of Russian soldiers in Ukraine continues to rise into the tens of thousands, Ukrainian politicians are attempting to calm residents and prevent panic. Mr. Zelensky said in a televised speech on Wednesday that the nation has been under fear of war since Russia invaded in 2014.
Mr. Zelensky said, “The hazards have been there for more than a day, and they haven’t increased.” “There’s a lot of buzz around them now.”
Despite varying danger assessments, Mr. Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, thinks Mr. Biden really wants to assist and collaborate with Ukraine.
Trump on Wednesday that if Russian President Vladimir Putin takes action against Ukraine, the US is prepared to impose sanctions. Biden also sketched out a diplomatic option. Susan Walsh/Associated Press photo
Mr. Kuleba said, “We in Ukraine have no doubt that President Biden is dedicated to Ukraine… and that he wants to avert confrontation and dissuade Russia.”
Mr. Danilov’s danger assessment demonstrates how difficult it is for Ukrainian and Western authorities to predict Mr. Putin’s intentions.
The Kremlin has rejected any plans for an invasion, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has often stated his desire to reassert Russian authority over Ukraine, which is seeking membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union.
According to Western and Ukrainian authorities, Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and attempted to instigate separatist uprisings throughout Ukraine’s east and south. With the support of Russian fighters, weaponry, and, finally, a clandestine military invasion, those rebellions only got a foothold in two eastern districts.
“‘We must not allow Putin the smallest opportunity to engage in quasi-aggression or small-scale invasion operations.’ Since 2014, there has been an increase in hostility. ‘This is the reality.’
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukrainian Foreign Minister
Ukraine’s army is far stronger and better prepared now than it was in 2014, when it could hardly keep its trucks rolling due to a lack of gasoline and batteries, and volunteers carried food and clothing to the front lines to help troops. It has eight years of combat experience. It also has contemporary equipment, like as US-supplied Javelin antitank missiles and Turkish-supplied attack drones. Nonetheless, Russia’s military is much more strong, with a formidable air force and missiles that Ukraine would find difficult to neutralize.
According to current and former Ukrainian officials, Mr. Putin’s choices now include trying to invade and occupy areas of Ukraine, deploying a fast attack to compel Kyiv to bargain, or using the fear of action to push the West into making concessions.
Russia is deploying soldiers on three sides to encircle Ukraine. According to US and European authorities, it has soldiers in Crimea to the south and eastern Ukraine, as well as roughly 100,000 troops on the Russian side of the border. Russia is transferring soldiers and equipment into Belarus, Ukraine’s northern neighbor, for what Moscow claims will be military exercises at the beginning of next month, according to US sources.
On Wednesday in Kyiv, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Russia could swiftly quadruple the number of soldiers on the border.
According to current and former Ukrainian authorities, an invasion would likely start with a barrage of cyberattacks, misinformation, and provocations aimed at destabilizing the nation and creating a pretext for invasion. Hundreds of thousands of Russian passports have been distributed in parts of eastern Ukraine that are not under Kyiv’s authority, and the Kremlin has frequently warned that Kyiv is going to reclaim such areas by force, which Ukrainian authorities deny.
In December, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that US mercenaries were stationed in eastern Ukraine, planning provocations with storage tanks containing unknown poisons. He didn’t back up his claim with proof.
In recent weeks, Ukraine and its Western supporters have linked many claimed destabilization plans to Russia.
Mr. Danilov said that Russia and Belarus were responsible for a cyberattack last week. Russia has sent a cadre of agents to execute a false-flag operation in eastern Ukraine, according to the US. Late last year, Mr. Zelensky accused Russia of staging a coup against him. Everything was refuted by Russia.
Other current and previous Ukrainian officials agreed with Mr. Danilov that occupying Ukrainian cities would be expensive in terms of both military and economic costs. Apart from Russia, Ukraine is Europe’s biggest country, with 261,000 military and the ability to call up 130,000 territorial-defense reservists, as well as the national guard and police. In a survey taken late last year, one-third of respondents said they would take up guns to protect the nation if it was invaded.
Officials in Ukraine have long warned that Russia may attempt to grab the country’s south to establish a connection between Crimea and Russian forces stationed in Moldova’s mostly unrecognized breakaway state.
Mr. Danilov’s predecessor, Oleksandr Danylyuk, suggested that if Russia attacked, it will likely launch a large-scale invasion aimed at placing Ukraine under Moscow’s authority rather than just increasing its current area.
In an interview, Mr. Danylyuk said, “Large aggressiveness will shock the West, and they will be eager to discuss.” “Small acts of hostility will be met with harsh retaliation. “The disadvantages will exceed the rewards.”
Mr. Danylyuk said that Mr. Putin had two basic possibilities. The first is a large-scale operation intended at capturing Ukraine’s eastern half and overthrowing or forcing the government to talk. The second is a missile and airstrike assault aimed at destroying military and transportation infrastructure. Such an approach would be less expensive and target Kyiv’s weak spot: its antiquated air defense. Mr. Danylyuk said, “It was developed in the 1980s.” “It will not deter Russian aircraft, missiles, or even drones, which are all state-of-the-art.” It wasn’t made for it.”
Others agreed with Mr. Danilov’s judgment that Mr. Putin would try to avoid an expensive conflict by destabilizing Ukraine before taking action.
“It’s not like he’s going to deploy his tanks through Ukraine.” “It’s just not conceivable,” former Ukrainian foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin remarked. “It would put Russia in a position where it will be seen as a pariah in international relations by everyone.”
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