The Ukrainian street – far from politics – fears the escalation and its repercussions, especially since the war in the East has killed more than 13 thousand people and led to the displacement of millions, in addition to the economic consequences for the state and the pockets of people.
During the 7 years of the conflict, Ukraine has often warned the European Union and the West of a large Russian military presence on its eastern borders, and of turning the Crimean lands into a huge Russian military base that threatens its security and the security of the continent and the world.
The number of Russian forces that officials spoke about in Ukraine varied, reaching in some periods of tension a hundred thousand soldiers, and never less than 30 thousand, according to their assertion.
Earlier, the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Ruslan Khomchak, announced that Russia was intensifying its military presence near the eastern borders, pointing to the presence of 28 battalions of the Russian Armed Forces along the border, comprising about 32,700 soldiers, accusing Moscow of pursuing an “aggressive policy.”
This time, Russia did not deny the existence as it did, but emphasized it, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov considered that the movements of troops and military equipment near the borders aim to ensure Russia’s security, and do not pose any threat to Ukraine, he said.
Between the accusations and warnings of Kiev on the one hand, and the admission of Moscow on the other hand, we raise a number of questions in this report, including: What is new in the matter? What are the escalation factors that emerged after the truce in the eastern regions controlled by the pro-Russian separatists?
The research between the statements and hints of officials and analysts during the past three months leads to several factors, the most prominent of which are:
1- A crackdown on dissent
In early February, the Ukrainian authorities closed down 3 television stations affiliated with the oligarch, Victor Medevichuk, and froze his assets and those of those close to him.
To understand the great role that this factor plays in the escalation, it suffices to know that Medevichuk is described as “Putin’s man in Ukraine” and has a “spiritual” relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin who baptized Medevichuk’s daughter, and this kind of kinship is of great importance among the peoples of the region, Where the shrine of the baptized is considered as the real father.
Medevichuk is also considered the leader of the “Opposition Platform – For Life” party, which is the almost only pro-Russian party in Ukraine today.
It is noteworthy that “protecting Russian subjects” was the most prominent excuse used by Russia to enter its forces and loyalists into the territory of Ukraine years ago, whether in the south or in the east.
2- Support under Biden
It seems clear that the administration of US President Joe Biden took a more hardline stance with Russia and Ukraine. The year 2021 began with US support of $ 125 million for the Ukrainian defense sector, and an emphasis on readiness to supply Kiev with “lethal” weapons.
International relations expert Andrei Smolly says in this regard, “Moscow is taking this support into account, and sending a message to the United States and the Biden administration – who recently declared that Putin was a murderer – that the Russians are ready for all possibilities, especially war and on a large scale if necessary.”
He added, “Washington takes this seriously, and the European Command of the US Armed Forces has raised the readiness of its forces to the highest levels of combat readiness in anticipation of the resumption of hostilities in the Donbas region, eastern Ukraine.”
3- The decline in European support
On the other hand, the European stance in support of Ukraine and hard-line with Russia has decreased significantly recently, and it seems that interests play a large role in this matter.
Peter Dickinson, an expert on Ukrainian affairs at the Atlantic Council, says: It is clear that Germany today is interested in completing the “Nord Stream 2” project to directly transport Russian gas to it, regardless of its political and security implications.
He added that Germany and France are interested in improving relations with Russia and gradually returning them to normal, and “in all of this a green light pushes Putin towards more ambitions in Ukraine,” as he put it.
He continues: Two days ago, Putin held talks with Merkel and Macron, Don Zelensky, and this revives fears of deporting Ukraine to the sidelines of the peace process in the framework of the “Normandy Quartet” (Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France). That is why we see that many dignitaries in Kiev are calling today to Giving the United States a greater role within or outside the Quartet.
3- The Qurum platform
Many Ukrainian officials consider that their country’s endeavor to organize an international “Crimean Platform” conference next August to garner support and keep the sanctions imposed on Russia, anger Moscow, which has been negatively and greatly affected by the sanctions imposed on it since 2014, due to the annexation of Crimea and the feeding of the separatist movement in Eastern Ukraine.
4- Cooperation with Turkey
Military, security and technical cooperation relations between Ukraine and Turkey have reached an unprecedented “strategic” level in the history of bilateral relations, whereby Turkey has become a major source of drones for the Ukrainian army.
And the contribution that Turkey made to Azerbaijan in the battles for the liberation of Karabakh created in Ukraine the possibility of implementing a similar scenario to regain the territory of the Donbas region out of control, even partially.
Russia has warned against implementing this option, but it has become a constant mention in the corridors of Ukrainian politics and defense.
The extent of escalation
Returning to the reality of the mobilization and the potential for escalation, many officials warn of the intentions of a comprehensive, deep invasion into Ukrainian lands, but others hold a different opinion.
“Russia’s goal is to show and provoke, especially if it succeeds in drawing Ukraine into an open military confrontation, and this is unlikely in Ukraine due to the fact of unequal forces,” says international relations expert Andrei Smoley.
The Ukrainian street fears – far from politics – of escalation and its repercussions, especially since the war in the East has killed more than 13 thousand people and led to the displacement of millions, in addition to the economic consequences for the state and people’s pockets.