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Russia and the Ukraine crisis

Brussels (20- 15/12).  The European Council taking stock of the Russian-Ukranian crisis. “Prepare for the worst, but hope for the best”, was the message by Josef Borell the representative of the EU External Action Service (EEAS).

This week Thursday and follwing the Russian response will show if Europe is shifting closer to war. Language in the EU parliament has warned the Russians. The drums of the war are beaten.

Borell stressed the current crisis of disinformation, hybrid warfare, cyber attacks and energy is part of a wider strategy. The amassing of troops, heavy artillery and logistic structures is clearly a departure of the Russian Federation to seek a peaceful solution despite the denial by the Kremelin.

The Russians promptly denied claims of war but said publically, as long as NATO is not committed to guarantee no expansion to the east the military option remains on the table.

The Europeans are largely unified against the Russian threat. After lenghtly deliveration by the representatives in the parliament will vote on Thursday on what are the next steps.

It is expected the EU is taken hard stance against Russia that includes restrictive measures such as cancellation of Russian long term visas to the EU space, freezing of assets and actions against what the EU calls “energy profiteers”.

EU parliamentarians outlined the consequence for the Russian Federation if war is chosen to capture additional territory in the Ukraine. The financial, political and economic sanction regime is viewed as the most likely tool to be applied but analysts warn of the overly aggressive steps by the EU and NATO could Moscow over the edge.

Only one EU parliamentarian raised an important question of the Russian view. Because of its history the Russian reaction will never allow Ukrainian territory to be used as a staging ground.

“If Napoleon and Hitler would have started the campaigns on the Ukrainian Russian border they would have won the wars.”, a German parliamentarian pointed out.

Another aspect is the economical consideration. Officials made it clear, if war commences the pipeline will remain shut as profit from the sale of gas to Russia will not fund the war effort by Moscow.

The shift in change of attitudes in Brussels was visible. Delegates are seldom unified on anything in Brussels, but an attack on the Ukraine will unleash the military might of NATO and the EU combined. The EU has already taken steps to support the Ukraine with weapons which was disclosed in todays hearing.

Olga Tokariuk wrote, “Over these years, the country has, of necessity, improved the combat capability of its army, which is now 25th strongest in the world. The economy, badly affected by the war initially, has been gaining pace, with yearly pre-pandemic GDP growth at about 3%, partly driven by a robust and progressive IT sector.”

It is yet to be seen as a test for the EU and NATO training regime if the train-the-force works after the dismayal debacle in Afghanistan. Some Observer think that the Ukranian are defending the country against a foreign invader. Time will tell.

Analysts pointed out that the Russian Federation proxy group such as Wagner Group acts on behalf of Moscow. The ban of the company and the sanction regime was a low hanging fruit for Brussels to disrupt the proxy war machine of the Kremlin.

Wagner was planned to be used to train and bolster the separatists in the Eastern Ukraine as well the Mali regime made overtures to the Russians to provide security training once the French pull out from the Mali mission.

“Wagner is active in Syria, Libya, Ukraine and the individual (sanctions) are linked to serious human rights violations in different countries,” the senior EU official said.

The sanctions will be approved at the European Foreign Affairs Council on Monday and published in the EU’s Official Journal, two diplomatic sources said.

Moscow considers that any European sanction against its nationals constitutes interference in its internal affairs liable to retaliatory measures.

Reuters revealed in September that authorities in Bamako had requested Wagner’s support to fight jihadist groups in the Sahel. Paris warned Mali against resorting to mercenaries, stressing that it would lose support from the international community.

According to two diplomats, the Malian junta also risks European sanctions, and a legal framework for their implementation will be set on Monday by the foreign ministers, even if the list of people targeted will not yet be decided.

Banning the group will unlikely stop Moscows backyard interference and the step was seen as more of a symbolic action by Brussels.

Russia’s soft power has failed spectacularly in Ukraine since the aggression began in 2014, with the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of Eastern Ukraine. Only one in ten Ukrainian voters now support pro-Russian political parties. The mood of the Ukrainian public has shifted too. While in 2008, 51% of Ukrainians saw integration with Russia as a foreign policy priority, in 2021 58% of Ukrainians supported the goal of NATO membership, seeing it as a deterrent from Russian aggression. Fewer than 10% advocated an alliance with Russia.

Christmas 2021: Ready for War?

Renewed Russian aggression against Ukraine will spark enormous popular resistance. A scenario in which a potential new Russian intervention is welcomed by the local population, as was partly the case in Donetsk and Luhansk regions in 2014, is unimaginable this time. No Ukrainian region, even those in Eastern and Southern Ukraine that are predominantly Russian-speaking, would welcome the invaders. The simplistic argument that language indicates loyalty has long been disproved by the tens of thousands of Russian-speaking Ukrainians who joined the armed forces to fight against the Kremlin’s aggression in Donbas.

I have been speaking to members of the Ukrainian military in recent days. They sounded surprisingly calm: “Russia attacked Ukraine back in 2014, and since then we have always thought that it could escalate at any time.” Their message to Putin? “There will be no recognition of Russian annexation of Crimea, no autonomy for the occupied Donbas, no backtracking on Ukraine’s path to EU and NATO. We are ready for war and will fight till the last soldier.”

Realities of war are of course a bit different which anyone who ever served in a warzone will attest, however the Ukranian army is a different animal today. With the EU having agreed to lethal aid experts consider that the local skirmishes are breaking out along the eastern areas of the Ukraine are economical reasons for Russian actions.

The Dombass is rich in coal resources and water is much in demand in the Crimea.

Christmas is only ten days away. Lets hope the drums of war fall silent and the joy of Christmas fill the chambers in Moscow, Berlin, and Brussels.