Russia-Ukraine, what Putin asks (and Biden’s answers)

from Fabrizio Dragosei

The renunciation of NATO, the question of Crimea, missiles: point by point, the strategic demands at the origin of the East-West crisis

L’ the arrival of tens of thousands of soldiers at the western border of Russia and the presentation of a package of requests to the US and NATO on European security are a provocation by the Kremlin leader eager to “lead his hands” or just the inevitable response to hostile initiatives of the West, as Putin argues? There is no doubt that at the origin of the worsening of relations (here all the reasons for the Russia-Ukraine crisis) there is also the attitude of the various US administrations that have always snubbed Moscow, not wanting to consider it a fundamental interlocutor. So from being a strategic partner that it was after the collapse of the USSR, Russia has once again become an opponent. And this is also thanks to the contribution of the former KGB agent who certainly did not do everything possible to avoid exacerbating relations. Let’s see the situation on the individual points and what Russia really wants from us (here the latest updated news).

Strategic missiles and shields
The breakdown of that balance that had ensured peace even during the Cold War dates back to the beginning of Putin’s presidency. The official motive was North Korea and Iran’s defense against bomb-throwing. But the defensive shield that the US decided to install in Poland and the Czech Republic (later Romania) and which is being completed effectively reduces Russian security because it can also intercept any nuclear weapons launched from Moscow in response to a theoretical American attack. with intercontinental missiles. Russian concerns are at the origin of the abandonment of the various negotiating tables. Then the US unilaterally came out of arms deals accusing Russia of having already violated them.

Troops on the border
The current situation has actually been dragging on for a year. Twelve months ago Russia began major maneuvers in the West but, according to what the Kremlin has always supported, in response to NATO initiatives. Indeed, in Brussels it was decided to create a rapid intervention force and to rotate the military of various member countries on the territory of former satellite nations of the USSR or republics of the Soviet Union itself (Baltic countries). The latest initiatives in this field are these days: Ukraine has started military maneuvers and Russia has agreed with Belarus for new exercises.

NATO enlargement
There was certainly an American promise made in Gorbachev’s time, but it was only verbal. As various former USSR (the Baltic) or Warsaw Pact countries joined the Alliance, Russia protested but to no avail. It is true, however, that NATO has not moved nuclear weapons east. Today Moscow is asking that it be codified in writing that Ukraine and Georgia will not enter. Washington cannot officially declare it (each country must be free to decide on its alliances, etc.) but in fact the enlargement to these two countries is impossible today. If only because both have open conflicts (Ossetia and Abkhazia for Georgia; Crimea and Donbass for Ukraine) that cannot be accepted under the 1999 NATO enlargement text.

Russian requests
The documents presented by Moscow to the US and NATO envisage conditions that will not be accepted, such as the withdrawal of US troops from countries that joined NATO after 1997, although Washington would certainly not mind reducing its commitment to the Old Continent. But Putin knows this very well and the request is only a pawn to be exchanged. Moscow would also like the annexation of Crimea to be recognized, but it knows that this too is impossible. So? Officially, to please everyone, it will take a resumption of negotiations on the various arms limitation treaties. And a slow and gradual de-escalation in fact. Crimea officially remains part of Ukraine and will continue to live in limbo, perhaps for decades. It is now connected with a bridge to Russia and its inhabitants have Russian passports.

This is the most difficult question. The Minsk agreements provide for the granting of wide autonomy but cannot be implemented because the Ukrainian nationalists influence the rulers of Kiev (Zelensky today and Poroshenko yesterday).The republics of Donetsk and Lugansk will somehow survive even without being recognized (Transnistria has been in this situation for thirty years). Most of the inhabitants have Russian passports. The situation could worsen if the hawks in Ukraine decide a coup against the separatists now that the country has received several weapons from the West. In that case, Moscow would intervene with a heavy hand as it happened in 2008 with Georgia when the then President Saakashvili tried to take back South Ossetia by force during the Beijing Summer Olympics.

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