‘Refrain from setting loose confrontation spiral’: How Russia is reacting to West’s warnings of action over Ukraine tensions

Newspapers in Moscow have criticised the Western nations, with deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov saying that the talks of an invasion were ‘shallow and unfounded’

File photo of Russian president Vladimir Putin. AFP

In the last few days, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has kicked up a notch, with Western powers calling on Moscow to lower tensions.

Responding to fears of a Russian invasion, US president Joe Biden, along with the leaders of UK, France, Germany and Italy, agreed to use “all the tools at their disposal” to calm the situation.

For those who don’t know or are unaware, US intelligence officials last week determined that Russia is planning to deploy an estimated 175,000 troops and almost half of them are already stationed along various points near Ukraine’s border in preparation for a possible invasion that could begin as soon as early 2022.

Ukraine has complained that Moscow has kept over 90,000 troops not far from the two countries’ border following massive war games in western Russia in the fall.

In response to this, Western powers have warned Russia of ‘dire consequences’ if Ukraine is attacked.

On Thursday, Germany’s foreign minister in a warning to the Vladimir Putin-led country said that that it would pay a “high political and economic price” if it makes any militaristic moves against neighboring Ukraine.

“The territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine aren’t up for negotiation for us,” Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said, adding that the highest priority must be to avoid a military escalation.

“We can only find solutions down the diplomatic route, and we are both ready to become personally deeply engaged (on this matter).”

France too echoed similar sentiments, with its foreign ministry issuing a statement, reading: “Strong messages were sent to Russia that a new attack on the territorial integrity of Ukraine would have strategic and massive consequences.”

United States president Joe Biden also warned Putin — during their virtual meet — of a “strong” Western economic response to any attack on Ukraine.

Soon after the two leaders held a virtual summit on 8 December, the White House said: “President Biden voiced the deep concerns of the United States and our European allies about Russia’s escalation of forces surrounding Ukraine and made clear that the US and our allies would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of military escalation.”

However, Kremlin keeps denying that they are planning to invade Ukraine with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying that the talks of a Russian incursion were “shallow and unfounded”.

The Russian press too hasn’t taken to the allegations by the Western powers too kindly.

TASS, Russia’s leading news agency, quoted Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov as saying that ‘Moscow hopes that the United States and its allies in Europe will not step over the “red lines” and will refrain from setting loose the confrontation spiral’.

“We hope that Washington and its European allies will display wisdom and recall, at last, the fundamental principle of equal and indivisible security, which implies respect for the interests and concerns of all countries in the Euro-Atlantic without an exception and will refrain from stepping over the ‘red lines’ that there exist and that have been drawn pretty clearly for the opponents to see. This will allow for preventing the confrontation spiral from going loose,” he was quoted as saying.

Similarly, RT media, in an column titled ‘Russia’s plan to invade Ukraine exists only in the US and NATO imagination’, Scott Ritter wrote, “The irrational fears and knee-jerk reactions involved are all too real, and, as such, represent a situation that Russia simply cannot ignore.”

In another column, Scott Ritter writes again that “Joe Biden needed an agreement with Vladimir Putin that would help reduce tensions in Europe over Ukraine and NATO expansion. So he manufactured a crisis as an excuse for putting a US position on the table.”

It is left to be seen if Russia does, in fact, invade Ukraine. Though most experts doubt the likelihood of an offensive, some hinting that Russia’s aim was to extract diplomatic benefits.

For now, all we can do is sit and watch as the drama unfolds.

With inputs from agencies

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