By: Emmanuel Roy


KIEV – Is Russia on the verge of starting World War III? A whole bunch of Europeans and white Americans killing each other isn’t all that bad. These people haven’t killed each other in decades, so a new war is needed, and Putin isn’t bluffing.

With thousands of Russian troops poised to cross the border into Ukraine, Russia’s strongman – Vladimir Putin – has formulated several demands:

  1. Keep the countries of the former Soviet Union out of NATO
  2. Withdrawal of NATO troops from Eastern Europe
  3. Remove all offensive weapons from Eastern Europe.

In a flurry of diplomacy across two continents, President Joe Biden, who is at a loss with an unruly Putin, met with Germany’s new leader on Monday and vowed that the crucial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany would be blocked if Russia moved further into the invades Ukraine. Does Russia care if it feels its security is being questioned? Germany needs the gas pipeline more than Russia.

Putin countered that the US and its allies were the only ones talking about an invasion, although he was ready to invade.

Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron met in Moscow for more than five hours while Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke at the White House to defuse the crisis before armed conflict erupts.

Russia has massed thousands of troops on the Ukrainian border, adding military might almost daily.

The White House has expressed increasing concern over the prospects of war, and Biden has sought to cement European allies’ support for economically damaging sanctions on Russia if it attacks.

“If Russia invades, that means tanks and troops will cross the border into Ukraine again, then Nord Stream 2 will be gone,” Biden said. “We will put an end to this.”

That would damage Russia economically, but also cause supply problems for Germany. The construction of the pipeline has been completed but is not yet operational.

“We are ready together, and all of NATO is ready,” Biden said, but ready for what? Ukraine is not a member of NATO. Even if it were, would we let Americans die to save Ukraine from Russian aggression when half of Ukraine is Russian?

While Biden firmly reiterated that the gas pipeline would not move forward, Scholz stressed the need to maintain some ambiguity about sanctions in order to pressure Russia to de-escalate the crisis. Frankly, the Germans could not be indifferent to Ukraine. You can get more from Russia than from Ukraine.

“Russia needs to understand that a lot more could happen than they might have reckoned with themselves,” said Scholz. Like what Mr. Schulz?

The buildup of over 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine has fueled Western concerns about a possible offensive. White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan warned Sunday that Russia could invade Ukraine “any day” and spark a conflict that would have “huge human costs.”

At the same time, Biden and NATO allies have made it clear that there are no plans to send troops to fight Russia on behalf of Ukraine, as we all expected. When the Russians took Crimea from Ukraine, the world barked for just a minute and everyone soon forgot if Crimea was part of Ukraine.

Macron and Putin expressed their differences during their long meeting – over a dinner with a choice of sturgeon or reindeer with sweet potatoes and pear tart with vanilla ice cream – but also stressed the need for further talks.

Putin noted that the US and NATO have ignored Moscow’s demands that the alliance guarantee that it will keep Ukraine and other former Soviet nations out of NATO and that they will refrain from stationing weapons and armed forces in Ukraine of the alliance from Eastern Europe.

He also signaled his willingness to continue negotiations and again denied that Russia had any intention of invading Ukraine.

“We are categorically against any further eastward expansion of NATO because it poses a threat to us,” Putin said. “We are not advancing into NATO, but NATO is coming to us, and therefore it is illogical to talk about Russia’s aggressive behavior.”

He scoffed at Western descriptions of NATO as a defensive alliance, saying sarcastically that “the people of Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan have learned this from their own experience.” And he threatened a major war if Ukraine joins the alliance and perhaps tries to retake Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

“European countries are automatically drawn into a military conflict with Russia,” Putin said. “You are being drawn into this conflict beyond your will. There will be no winners.”

Macron described the talks as “substantive, in-depth” with a focus on conditions that could help de-escalate.

“We tried to build converging elements,” he said. “The coming days will be crucial and intensive joint discussions will be required.”

Meanwhile, Biden warned, “it would be wise” for other Americans to leave Ukraine as key diplomats. It would also be advisable for NATO to halt eastward expansion and refrain from placing troops and weapons within Russia’s sphere of influence.

Americans will be horrified if the Russians decide to move troops and weapons to Mexico, Canada, or even Cuba. It is not illogical that Putin feels threatened by such encirclement.

On a positive note, Putin said without further elaboration that some of Macron’s proposals could serve as a basis for a settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, adding that they agreed to a call following Macron’s visit to Kiev on Tuesday.

Likewise, when asked if there was still an “offramp” for Russia in the standoff, Biden said, “The answer is yes.”

Before meeting Biden, Scholz told German media: “There will be a very heavy price if Ukraine is attacked militarily. And we are preparing very carefully for that and have talked at length about the details.” Scholz will travel to Kiev and Moscow from February 14th to 15th.

Separately, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said her country would add 350 soldiers within days to the 500 or so already part of a NATO battle group in Lithuania. “By doing so, we are strengthening our contribution to the forces on NATO’s eastern flank and sending a very clear signal of unity to our allies,” she said.

Biden has already deployed additional US troops to Poland, Romania and Germany, and a few dozen elite US troops and equipment landed in southeastern Poland near the border with Ukraine on Sunday, and hundreds more infantry troops from the 82nd Airborne Division are expected to arrive.

Britain said the US would send 350 troops to Poland to reinforce NATO forces, joining the 100 Royal Engineers already there.

At a press conference in Washington, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell defended mounting Western warnings of an imminent Russian invasion.

“This is not alarmism. Those are just the facts,” said Blinken. “And the fact is that in recent months we have seen a massive build-up of Russian forces on Ukraine’s borders.”

Borrell noted that “140,000 soldiers gathered at the border are not supposed to go to tea”.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was considering a more permanent military presence in south-eastern Europe in response to Russia’s “massive military deployment” near Ukraine.

“We are considering longer-term adjustments to our position, our presence in the eastern part of the alliance,” Stoltenberg said after talks in Brussels with Polish President Andrzej Duda. “If Russia really wants less NATO near the border, they get the opposite.”

Stoltenberg did not give details and said a final decision has not yet been made, but the move may reflect NATO’s long-term military presence in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, where about 5,000 troops are stationed. It would see a similar force in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia.

The aim would simply be to strengthen the defenses of NATO allies in the region. The troops would not cross Ukraine should Russia invade.

Biden and Scholz also discussed contingency plans for providing gas supplies to Europe should Russia cut supplies to Europe. Europe is already struggling with LNG supplies being eroded by a cold winter last year, a summer of low renewable energy generation and Russia supplying less than usual.

Biden claimed the US and other countries could make up for a “significant chunk” of lost supplies should Russia try to cut off Europe.

But energy experts say swapping out Russian gas would be complicated and can’t be done overnight. Export terminals cost billions of dollars to build and are at capacity in the US

The truth is, if Russia invades Ukraine, NATO forces in surrounding countries will be on high alert but will not join the fight to defend Ukraine. The same Crimean scenario would play out. NATO will not embark on an all-out war with the Russians to save Ukraine. As usual, the Americans will demand sanctions.

The Europeans, mainly France and Germany, will try to negotiate a peace treaty after the Russians take over Ukraine and install a puppet government. NATO will know that the Russians are serious about NATO expansion in Eastern Europe, a costly lesson to learn.

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