Russia fears: Poland and Ukraine could sparker wider conflict
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And a Norwegian military analyst has warned war between Russia and the West over Ukraine is becoming “increasingly unavoidable” in an alarming indication of spiking tensions. Meanwhile, the United States has shared intelligence showing a build-up of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border, suggesting Mr Putin may be plotting a full-scale invasion.
Speaking on Thursday at a Foreign Ministry enlarged board meeting, the Russian President highlighted recent tensions in the Black Sea as a key source of concern.
He said: “The latest developments go beyond certain boundaries: strategic bombers fly at a distance of 20 km from our state border and they carry quite serious weapons, as is known.”
Without specifically mentioning Ukraine, Mr Putin also accused the West of aggravating the situation in other regions close to his country’s borders.
He added: “We constantly express our concerns over these actions, talk about red lines but, of course, we understand that our partners are very peculiar and, to put it mildly, do not take all our warnings and talks on red lines seriously.
“Even though the relationships between Russia and our Western partners, including the United States, were just unique and these ties were almost at the level of allied relations, our concerns and precautions about NATO’s expansion to the east were absolutely ignored.”
He explained: “And now let us see where the NATO military infrastructure is: it is located right near to our borders while missile defence systems have been deployed in Romania and Poland and they can be easily employed, considering that MK-41 launchers stationed there can operate as strike complexes.
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“It is just a matter of several minutes to change the software.”
The US Navy’s guided missile destroyer Porter, fleet replenishment oil tanker John Lenthall and command and staff ship Mount Whitney all arrived in the Black Sea earlier this month to participate in multinational drills organised by US European Command, Russia’s Defence Ministry has pointed out.
Writing for the state-run broadcaster Russia Today, Glenn Diesen, Professor at the University of South-Eastern Norway, claimed a war centred on Ukraine was “becoming increasingly unavoidable”.
He said: “Red lines are about deterrence. The purpose of drawing them in the first place is to communicate crucial security interests and the severe consequences that would ensue if they were undermined.
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“In essence, Moscow’s ultimatums are intended to stop the West from making a dangerous miscalculation.”
The US intelligence community has warned Mr Putin could be planning to invade Ukraine as early as next year.
Speaking on Friday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was monitoring what he called “large and unusual concentration of Russian forces” close to Ukraine’s border.
He added: “It is urgent that Russia shows transparency about this military build-up, de-escalates and reduces tensions.”
Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley discussed the situation with General Valery Zaluzhny, the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, on Friday.
In a statement issued afterwards, Joint Staff Spokesperson Colonel Dave Butler said: “The Chairman stressed the need for continued consultation amongst regional allies and partners, and reaffirmed US support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The head of Ukraine’s military intelligence told the Military Times outlet this weekend that Russia had more than 92,000 troops amassed around Ukrainian borders and is preparing for an attack by the end of January or the beginning of February.
Kyrylo Budanov said such an attack would likely involve airstrikes, artillery and armoured attacks followed by airborne assaults in the east, amphibious assaults in Odessa and Mariupol and a smaller incursion through neighbouring Belarus.
Speaking on Russian television on Sunday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “a provocation” in the area could not be ruled out given all the US rhetoric.
He said: “This hysteria is being artificially whipped up.
“We are being accused of some kind of unusual military activity on our territory by those who have brought in their armed forces from across the ocean.
“That is, the United States of America. It’s not really logical or polite.”
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