The deadlock in Eastern Europe has reached a standstill, with Russia and NATO standing head to head. No one can predict how the conflict will move forward, will Russia invade Ukraine or stand back. Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, wants to halt NATO activity across Russia’s border with Eastern European countries such as Latvia, Estonia and Ukraine.
Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are already NATO and E.U. members and share a direct border with Russia. All Russia wants is to stop further expanding NATO into former Soviet Republics, especially Ukraine, as it shares the longest border by any European country with Russia.
On Tuesday, Vladimir Putin released fiery comments on the conflict. “What the U.S. is doing in Ukraine is at our doorstep… And they should understand that we have nowhere further to retreat to. Do they think we’ll just watch idly?” he declared. “If the aggressive line of our Western colleagues continues, we will take adequate military-technical response measures and react harshly to unfriendly steps.”
Putin seems to hold his ground and will do anything to prevent Ukraine from entering NATO. He calls it an ‘existential threat’ to Russia. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that if NATO continues to provoke Russia and deploys its Nuclear capable missiles, Russia will be forced to do the same and deploy its intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe.
The United States is negotiating with Russia for de-escalating, and there are reports of a hotline between Russia and the U.S. At the same time, the U.S. is sending military equipment and supplies to Ukraine, which has infuriated Russia. U.S. President Biden has consistently signaled that the U.S. will not make any concessions on NATO or Ukraine’s future.
NATO says there will be no new U.S. missiles in Europe, and it is ready to avert new Russian missiles with a “measured” reaction that would only involve conventional weapons. Ryabkov declared Russia had a “complete lack of trust” in NATO. “They don’t permit themselves to do anything that could somehow increase our security – they believe they can act as they need, to their advantage, and we have to swallow all this and deal with it.
This is not going to continue.” He also mentioned: “If NATO sticks with the position not to negotiate about a deal, then we will certainly see Russia deploy the Screwdriver missile at its very western border.”
Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania met on Monday to discuss the simmering conflict. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed Ukraine’s willingness to join NATO if Russia threatened Ukraine. Poland and Lithuania voiced their support for Ukraine and said they would stand united against Russian aggression. Ukraine has remained on high alert since the troop build-up near the Russian border.
However, Russia denies any plans on invading Ukraine and calls the build-up ‘military practice.’ A Kremlin announcement said Putin stressed in a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron that reconvening the four-power Normandy group – which brings together the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany – would require definite steps Kyiv to enforce existing peace arrangements.
It’s only a matter of time to find out Russia’s true intentions and what the West will do to prevent Russia from taking aggressive steps towards its neighbors. Will NATO back down against Russia, or will it fight head-on with Russia for protecting its members? The potential of this conflict to escalate is massive. It can have unprecedented repercussions for Europe and Russia.
The U.S. Russia sees NATO expansion as a real threat to its very existence and will do anything to prevent former Soviet republics from joining NATO. But to what extent will the West allow Russia to provoke them? Only time can answer that question.