Die Zeit, Germany
Only the withdrawal of troops will save Russia
The reaction of the German, European and world media to Putin’s unprecedented arrogance and the introduction of regular Russian troops into the Donetsk region, as well as Moscow’s recognition of the quasi-LNR and DNR as independent states, show that European think tanks and political scientists were ready for such a scenario. One of the experts, political correspondent and editor of Germany’s Die Zeit, Theo SOMMER, who has previously been moderate in his publications on the actions of Russia and its leader, now admits that Vladimir Putin should notice that his policies in Ukraine achieved the exact opposite result to what he was trying to achieve. He must retreat from the abyss.
After all, who could have imagined the danger of war in Europe, the same as 60 years ago during the Cuban Missile Crisis? The question arises as to whether the events around Ukraine today are just empty chatter of Russia, or whether the existing tensions indicate the real threat of war. Is there still a way to de-escalate, reduce tensions?
The war of words is still going on, but the situation is getting noticeably worse. So far, the US position has been that the transfer of Russian troops gives Vladimir Putin the military potential to invade Ukraine, but he has not yet made that decision. However, on Friday, February 18, this year US President Joe Biden said that the Kremlin ruler had made his decision and that the attack would take place “in the coming weeks, in the coming days.” US Vice President Kamala Harris confirmed this at the Munich Security Conference: “This is the final”.
We do not know whether the information mosaic of the US intelligence services consists of reliable sources or simple interpretations, assumptions and insinuations. Biden did not say anything about his sources. Maybe he has a spy in Putin’s waiting room? And does Biden really think that the release of intelligence services will limit Putin’s ability to act aggressively and prevent the invasion if he is not deterred by strong sanctions, which he is threatened with great unanimity and credibility by the West in the event of a Russian military invasion of Ukraine? Doubts arise about this, the analyst said.
On the other hand, it is also difficult to understand Putin’s military strategy and diplomatic tactics. In any case, it is not reasonable to say at the same time that he does not intend to invade, but in fact to continue the significant deployment of troops and make serious negotiations conditional on the fulfillment of demands that are premature total capitulation of the West. Regular promises of peace, playing with military muscles, and diplomatic stubbornness are incomparable. The fact that the Russians have not sent a government delegation to the Munich Security Conference for the first time in three decades is also not a sign of a sensible, balanced policy.
No one knows what Putin is really planning. Does he want to carry out artillery shelling of the line of contact in Donbass to provoke Ukraine into retaliatory fire, which he can then use as an excuse for military intervention? Or does he want to use his non-transparent policy to keep Ukraine ready for military repulse in the coming months and thus stifle it economically? Are there any contradictions in the Russian military leadership, when some want to withdraw troops, others want to continue the offensive. A Moscow correspondent at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung recently quoted two high-ranking former military and intelligence officials, including the head of the All-Russian Officers’ Assembly, who warned Putin against attacking Ukraine. Those who risk war because of the “concentration of troops and rhetorical threats” make Ukrainians and Russians “mortal enemies,” call for war with NATO, and expose Russia’s eastern flanks, which are border areas with China.
Gradually, Putin will probably also have to realize that his policies are achieving the exact opposite of what he really wants. According to US President Donald Trump, the Transatlantic Partnership is currently only a faint shadow of its predecessor, today it is actually stronger than ever. NATO, declared a “brain death” by Emmanuel Macron a few years ago, is now more active, cohesive and more capable of defense than ever since the end of the Cold War. Instead of disarming in Europe, the United States is increasing its troop presence in Poland and Romania, while European NATO members, including the German Bundeswehr, are expanding their combat units in Poland and the southeast of the Alliance, while expanding the airspace. (air policing), as well as significantly increasing the naval presence in the Mediterranean in the Black Sea.
If Putin now responded with “military-technical measures” such as refusing to deploy new medium-range and short-range missiles against NATO countries, the Alliance could certainly consider reducing its presence in the east. Then it would be a return of the West to the security policy situation of 1997.
In any case, Putin can no longer doubt that the West will respond with unprecedented sanctions against the invasion of Ukraine. The inevitable consequence in this case would be the economic collapse of Russia. This can be prevented only by refraining from further oppression of Ukraine and by being ready for objective negotiations. Putin must move away from the abyss.
Until now, there has been a glimmer of hope that diplomacy will be able to prevent war and create a new foundation for security and peace. After Putin recognized Donetsk and Luhansk, this spark almost went out. The crisis will continue to intensify.
The pessimistic conclusion of the German analyst testifies to the understanding in European professional circles of the consequences of the Russian president’s actions to recognize the occupied administrations in eastern Ukraine as independent states and the consequences they will have. Sanctions by the international community for another gross violation of Russia’s international law and territorial integrity have not yet been announced. The US administration announced sanctions directly against the administrations in Donetsk and Luhansk, which was perceived by Ukraine as insufficient measures. However, sanctions from the EU and some countries around the world are yet to come.
The key question now is to what extent Russia has recognized the People’s Republic of China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Belarus, as the probability of a major war depends on this direction. If Moscow, by bringing tanks to Donetsk, confines itself to “defending” the self-proclaimed and now supported republics within the existing line of demarcation, it will mean that Moscow freezes the Transnistrian conflict scenario and confronts into a long-term coexistence without peace or war. , and Ukraine has temporarily lost much of its territory in the east. If the pseudo-republics, in Moscow’s view, have claims to their own borders within Ukraine’s administrative units, this will mean an inevitable war with Russia’s regular troops.
Developments are rapid.