The war drums are pounding in Ukraine as Russia ramps up its military presence for an impending fight that could draw NATO allies into a bloody World War III conflict.
The Russian Navy fired on and seized Ukrainian spy vessels in what many consider an aggressive violation of international law at the direction of President Vladimir Putin. Russian forces have already effectively annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula through military force while NATO countries and ex-Pres. Obama sat on their hands. The message is clear to Russian strongman Putin that the West remains politically and militarily unwilling to go head-to-head with Russia.
“Russia will likely escalate militarily against Ukraine imminently,” the Institute for the Study of War’s research team members Catherine Harris and Mason Clark reportedly said. “Russia likely perceives the lack of a unified NATO response to Moscow’s aggression in the Sea of Azov as an opportunity to escalate against Ukraine and elsewhere in the future. None of the responses are likely sufficient to deter Putin, whereas the disagreement itself will likely embolden him.”
The recent arrest of the sailors in international waters has amped up tension between politically divided Ukraine and Russia. President Putin has directed an escalation in military presence along the Russia-Ukraine border. An increased naval presence in the Black Sea has also been reported as propaganda efforts to sway Ukraine sentiments that Russia is poised to repel a Western assault.
Other reports indicate that Putin has grown frustrated and anxious about the forceful diplomatic pushback over the Ukraine sailors who were arrested. His inclinations appear to be that a pre-emptive military incursion may be the best course to secure long-term control over Ukraine.
“The Black Sea incident certainly was a provocation organized by the sitting government, including the incumbent president ahead of the presidential vote in March,” Putin reportedly said, claiming that Ukraine President Poroshenko was determined to “exacerbate the situation and create obstacles for his rivals.”
The country has been divided over its allegiance to Russian culture, roots and orthodox Christianity and independence.
In an effort to de-escalate tension, U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who acts as NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, planned to engage his Russian counterpart, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, to reportedly “promote military predictability and transparency.”
However, reports coming out of the EU show concern that the pro-Russia groups in Ukraine will request military assistance to take control of the government. Putin has been actively involved in the conflict, and many believe he desires to unify Ukraine under the former Soviet banner.
“Russia has embarked on a systematic effort to explore and exploit Western vulnerabilities, particularly in some of the non-traditional areas of cyber, space, undersea warfare,” British General Mark Carleton-Smith reportedly said.
Russia made military incursions into Ukraine’s internal conflict that resulted in the annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014 and reportedly returned in 2016. In each instance, Putin appears to have grown increasingly comfortable with the idea that Russia can reclaim Ukraine without European nations or the U.S. putting boots on the ground.
But on the American front, President Trump has positioned himself as the dominant international strongman. His populist mandate and economic successes are resonating throughout Europe. The U.S. has reasserted its lead-from-the-front mantle after the kowtowing Obama Administration showed widespread weakness in front of enemy states such as Iran and North Korea.
The American strongman continues to insist that the U.S. should not be dragged into World War III by aggression between foreign nations. But his American leadership mandates that Russian expansion through force be met by an immovable foreign policy.
Reports coming out of the EU point to Russia moving on Ukraine in the near future unless a diplomatic resolution is found. But in the long term, military numbers and assets have been increasing along EU borders as well.
“Russia today indisputably represents a far greater threat to our national security than Islamic extremist threats such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS,” British Gen. Carleton-Smith reportedly said.
Media reports coming out of the region agree that chaos and World War III could ensue should Russia move on Ukraine.
“What is glaring is that Europe now lacks any collective forum in which such escalations can be discussed and possibly resolved,” The Guardian’s Simon Jenkins reportedly said. “Eastern Europe is now a tinderbox of competing populisms, full of talk of Putin only understanding violence, of dodgy alliances and half-meant security promises. There is no leader, no overseer, no plausible guarantor of peace. The only promise is of anarchy.”