The United States has warned again on Wednesday that a Russian invasion of Ukraine “could come at any time” despite repeated denials from Moscow.
So far, the standoff is as it has been over the past few weeks, despite what has become almost hourly warnings from western capital. These constant warnings from Washington, London and their allies feed into a growing hysteric atmosphere that is so evident in the current volatility in the global stock and oil markets.
Moscow on Thursday announced a new drawdown of military forces from the Crimean peninsula, continuing a troop withdrawal that was initially welcomed internationally when it was first announced Tuesday. But as the US cast doubts over the Russian statements, the rest of the Nato members fell in line.
Without providing evidence, a senior official in the US administration claimed that “up to 7,000 more troops have moved to the border in recent days”. His claim was followed by Britain’s defence intelligence chief who said in rare public comments that “more armoured vehicles, helicopters and a field hospital have been spotted” near the Ukrainian border. Similar statements came from Estonian officials as well as from other Nato members.
An uncertain approach
From day one, the US and western attitude towards the crisis appears uncertain. They could be seen as trying hard to instigate a military conflict by making it hard for Russian President Vladimir Putin to back down. For the past week, the Biden administration said repeatedly that Russia will attack any time.
White House went further on Monday to claim the ‘invasion’ will take place on Wednesday! It never did, but that didn’t stop Press Secretary Jen Psaki from again telling reporters on Wednesday that “we are in the window where we believe an attack could come at any time, and that would be preceded by a fabricated pretext that the Russians use as an excuse to launch an invasion”.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied it has plans to attack Ukraine but demanded written guarantees that Nato never admit the neighbouring country into its fold. Thus far Nato has rejected those demands, prolonging the standoff, described as one of the most dangerous crises in Russia-West relations for decades.
Germany will be hosting in Munich this weekend its annual security conference, usually attended by world leaders to discuss global security concerns.
German officials say the Ukraine crisis will top the agenda during bilateral and multilateral talks. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who earlier this week visited Kyiv and Moscow, is expected to continue his diplomatic offensive to find a way out of the crisis.
The security conference could provide a unique opportunity to end the current standoff. But for that to happen, Nato must build on the latest Russian steps, of withdrawing parts of its troops for the border area, to build confidence and give diplomacy the upper hand in instead of the sabre rattling and the constant threat of sanctions.