Tensions are Rising as Ukraine and Russia are Building Up Troops Close to Donbass

In a statement released on March 2, 2021, the Russian government warned the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) about deploying troops inside Ukraine during a time when fighting is increasing in the Donbass region.

As Ukraine has sent military assets to the Donbass region, Russia has built up its military forces along its border with Eastern Ukraine, further fueling speculation of a potential hot war kicking off in next month or so. Moscow has promised to take  “extra measures to ensure its own security” should it detect the movement of NATO troops inside of Ukraine, per the Kremlin statement released on March 2, per a Reuters report. 

The Kremlin’s statement read as follows:

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday that the situation at the contact line in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatist forces was quite frightening and that multiple “provocations” were taking place there.

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U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart, Andrii Taran, and “condemned recent escalations of Russian aggressive and provocative actions in eastern Ukraine,” the Pentagon said.

“Our rhetoric [over Donbass] is absolutely constructive,” Peskov stated in response to journalists’ inquiries. “We do not indulge in wishful thinking. Regrettably, the realities along the engagement line are rather frightening. Provocations by the Ukrainian armed forces do take place. They are not casual. There have been many of them.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky criticized the Russian troop movements across the eastern Ukraine border, describing the situation as “muscle-flexing” which could potentially lead to “provocations.” Zelensky believes that Ukraine’s armed forces are “ready” to confront any kinetic maneuvers the Russians try to pull off.

Recently there were violent skirmishes in Donetsk that garnered international attention after four Ukrainian national troops were killed. The Ukrainian government quickly blamed the deaths on separatist fighters backed by Russia. According to a ZeroHedge report, the Donetsk People’s Republic claimed that the deaths weren’t the result of a firefight, but because of Ukrainian soldiers inspecting a minefield.

The Ukrainian parliament announced that it would be undergoing a noticeable “escalation” in the eastern region of the country, which has been a violent hotspot since 2014. ZeroHedge observed that the region “has seen 14,000 deaths going back to 2014”. Since the parliament’s announcement,  Ukraine’s military leaders have alerted the military about the potential for a hot conflict. 

Russian troops and armored units were found moving into Crimea and on Russia’s border with Eastern Ukraine. The Russian government assured critics that these maneuvers are normal transfers of armed forces within a country’s borders and a sovereign territory.

Last week, US European Command (EUCOM) released a notification indicating a raised “threat level” in Europe. The current designation has been raised to one of “potential imminent crisis” because of the fears of heightened tensions in Eastern Ukraine. 

An EU diplomat, maintaining anonymity, told Reuters that the growing build-up in Russian forces allegedly deals with Russia’s attempt to gain leverage with the Biden administration , whose foreign policy hasn’t been particularly coherent. 

“Partly, it is the usual tactics, turning up and down the conflict to create instability, to show that Russia is a key player,” the EU diplomat observed. “We cannot exclude that Biden’s presidency is part of the Russian calculus, that it’s time for Moscow to show a bit of muscle.”

Russia countered by stating it had no interested in generating increased conflict in Donbass:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that most of Ukraine’s military appeared to understand the danger of a “hot conflict” in Donbass.

‘I very much hope that they will not be ‘incited’ by politicians, who in turn will be ‘incited’ by the West, led by the United States,’ said Lavrov.

Lavrov issued a stern warning about the Ukraine attempting to stoke further tensions: “Russian President Putin said (this) not long ago, but this statement is still relevant today, that those who would try to start a new war in Donbass – will destroy Ukraine.”

The Ukraine conflict is a mess. Foreign policy pursued by the U.S. since the collapse of the Soviet Union, from the denuclearization Ukraine that has left it vulnerable to Russian aggression to the attempted expansion of NATO in Ukraine — a move that Russia could never tolerate — has been misguided and suffused with arrogant assumptions.

Russia is a great power on the rise and it has its national  interests, which must be respected. The Russo-Ukrainian War is none of America’s business and other entities like the EU, UN, Russia, and Ukraine should mediate this dispute instead.

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