German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karnbauer Wednesday accused Russia of “provocation” by building up forces on the border with Ukraine.
“My impression is that the Russian side is trying everything to provoke a reaction,” Kramp Karenbauer told German public radio “ARD” before a meeting of the defence and foreign ministers of NATO member states, adding, “With Ukraine, we will not be drawn into this game.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin is massing his forces again near the Ukrainian border, and Kremlin-controlled media has escalated threats of war, while the United States and its European allies are concerned that another Kremlin military offensive against Ukraine may be imminent.
To ward off war, a research study published by the Atlantic Council recommended policymakers in the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Poland, Japan and Canada who worked together to impose sanctions and other measures on Russia after Putin’s 2014 attack on Ukraine, to develop viable options in the event of annexation of territory from Ukraine. To Russia or to invade it.
“It could be that some of these options are military; not sending troops, but sending weapons to Ukraine like drones,” she said.
Other options could include new penalties that are severe enough to cause harm, but not so strong that they can be used. “Although the sanctions currently imposed on Moscow have affected the Russian economy, they are far below the level that can be imposed.”
The study stated that if the Russian military attacked Ukraine, American and European policymakers would make their decisions in light of a real ground war with heavy losses and a mass exodus of civilians.
White House spokeswoman Jane Saki indicated that the Russian presence in the region is greater than at any time since 2014, when Russia invaded Ukraine, as well as disturbing reports of the deployment of Russian ballistic missiles on the Ukrainian border.
On the other hand, the Kremlin warns of the need to protect “Russian citizens” – that is, Ukrainian citizens in the Donbas region of Ukraine, which has been under de facto Russian occupation since 2014, of whom hundreds of thousands have recently obtained Russian passports.
“It is a threat that is rightly seen as a possible pretext for Russia to launch a renewed military offensive against its neighbour,” the Atlantic Council study says.
Analysts fall behind on Putin’s intentions. Some believe these developments are the reaction of a beleaguered Russian president dealing with a new US president, Joe Biden, as well as potential domestic unrest as the health of imprisoned opposition politician Alexei Navalny deteriorates.
While others see the danger of annexation or a real invasion by the Kremlin, which wants to divert attention from internal challenges and perhaps benefit from the new administration in Washington.
Some veterans of the Biden administration believe that Putin is following the old rules of the game in the KGB: threatening to take action, keeping options open, unbalancing your opponents, and seizing opportunities that may arise.
The study believes that the United States and its allies need to respond in order to prevent a major military escalation in the worst case, and at least weaken Putin’s efforts to gain political advantage through intimidation.
“The good news is that the Biden administration has not been idly by. In a well-designed move on March 31, the administration’s senior national security team called their Russian counterparts. On April 2, Biden called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to express US support for Ukraine. Leaders also called.” The French and the Germans are in Putin, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked Putin on April 8th to dismantle the Russian military buildup.
“This is good, but not enough. The United States and its main allies should make it clear to Putin that another Russian invasion of Ukraine or annexation or recognition of the Russian-controlled territories in the Donbas would be costly to the Kremlin,” she said.