Earlier this week, Moscow reinforced their refusal to rule out military deployments to Cuba and Venezuela as tensions with the U.S. over Ukraine came to a head. A top official said that Russia would take necessary steps to ensure its security, following talks between Russia, the U.S. and NATO that failed to resolve tensions at the Ukraine border. Monday’s development has heightened concerns about a potential conflict breaking out in Europe, as Russia’s growing military presence around Ukraine’s borders has turned Western allies’ heads. Russia continues to refute claims of plans to invade, and instead has turned the blame on NATO, accusing the alliance of threatening its territory. Despite the U.S. stressing their desire to push on with diplomacy, international powers now fear a military escalation in Eastern Europe that would bring the region to the brink of war.
Russia’s divisiveness has stemmed from the U.S. and its allies’ military activities in what Russia considers to be their territories. “It all depends on the action by our U.S. counterparts,” claimed Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, warning that Moscow could take “military technical measures,” need be. The U.S. has responded in union with the EU, NATO, and Ukraine “on the notion that there is a diplomatic path forward,” as U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan said. Poland’s foreign minister, Zbigniew Rau, has spoken out about tensions while avoiding naming Russia specifically. He claims, “It seems that the risk of war in the OSCE area is now greater than ever before in the last 30 years,” and called for “a peaceful resolution of the conflict in and around Ukraine.”
The actions of Russia, and its demands over the security of nearby territories are ultimately a threat to the sovereignty of territories such as Ukraine. Although there have been no outright attempts on behalf of the Kremlin to invade, its refusal to allow Ukraine to act as the independent territory that it is has now become an ongoing issue that demands an approach more decisive than the current conversations being held between Western powers and Russia. The pressure mounting on NATO now begs the question of if the alliance can remain firm in the face of a list of demands on behalf of Russia regarding its own security. The West’s response is critical, as its support of Ukraine is the first step towards deterring Russia’s heavy hand in the international world.
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014, and since then has been accused of inciting a pro-Russian separatist war in the region. At the end of last year, according to Aljazeera, 100,000 Russian troops were spotted along the Ukraine-Russia border. Russia continually refuses to admit to plans of invasion, and instead has issued continual demands from the West that include preventing Ukraine from becoming a member of NATO. In addition to military buildups, Ukraine government websites have been hit with cyberattacks in recent weeks that show signs of Russian involvement, according to Ukraine’s state security service. Disinformation is being used to spread false narratives about deterioration of human rights in Ukraine, as well as Western escalation of tensions, and is believed to be a pretext for another invasion.
“Western leaders often display strong words backed by weak actions. The ‘dialogue fixes all’ approach has never worked in Russia and won’t work now,” says Ivana Stradner, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute working on Russia and cyber security. As the West has watched the situation in Ukraine slowly unfold into a conflict of cybersecurity concerns, Stradner poses the legitimate question of if a diplomatic approach is enough when discussing the Russian threat to the sovereignty of nearby territories. As the threat of an outbreak looms closer, and more unsuccessful talks bring progress to a standstill, the U.S. and NATO must now consider alternative approaches to de-escalate tensions caused by Russia and bring Eastern Europe back from the brink of another war.