“All concerned [must] take immediate steps to deescalate tensions and continue on the diplomatic path.” That is the emphatic plea of UN Secretary General Guterres. It was presented on January 31 to the Security Council. Its meeting that day was called by the United States to “discuss Russia’s threats to Ukraine,” according to the Guardian.
Two days later Reuters began reporting, “Biden orders nearly 3000 US troops to Eastern Europe to counter Russia.”
It looks to me that Biden has just thumbed his nose at the Secretary General.
This is all about the ongoing war of words between presidents Biden and Putin. Biden alleges that Russia is poised to invade and conquer Ukraine. Putin says Russia has no such plans.
Nonetheless, both sides seem to be playing a machismo-laced game of tit-for-tat. We can see US/Nato strengthening its side of the Ukraine-Russia border and Russia taking military steps of its own. And on it goes.
Each side seems to blame the other for initiating the threatening behavior. But at this point what does that matter? They both should just stop their behaviors that can be interpreted as provocational and, as the UN Secretary General said, “continue on the diplomatic path.”
The US troops are being sent to enhance “defensive capabilities in front line allied states,” said retired admiral John Kirby speaking for the Pentagon. Is that a tacit assertion that Germany, Poland, and Romania are expected to be targets of possible Russian attack?
Why those countries? Romania hosts an Aegis Ashore missile site at Deveselu Air Base, and Poland has one at Redzikowo. And Germany? According to Nato “Germany hosts several Nato facilities, such as Headquarters Rapid Deployable German-Netherlands-Corps in Münster and the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) in Uedem whose primary peacetime role is the tactical Command and Control of Quick- Reaction Alert Forces used to police Nato airspace above the Benelux countries, above Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the Baltic States.”
It will be some job for some 3000 US troops to help defend all that. But it seems more likely that the deployment is just a provocation with a bit of showmanship.
Lately, however, there also has been a shift in terminology. Earlier US statements have referred to European “borders,” but now I’m seeing the term “flanks.” Very military, very menacing. (Voice of America: “US Sending 2000 More Troops to Europe to Bolster Nato’s Eastern Flank.”)
This sounds like serious business. “Biden says no one knows what Putin will do,” according to CNN. An AP story revealed, “US orders 8500 troops on heightened alert amid Russia worry.” Biden is not fooling around.
Are we about to see the start of bombs flying, and how soon?
For some time word was that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is dangerously imminent. On January 18, NBC news reported “White House warns Russian invasion of Ukraine may be imminent.” Days later the Independent chimed in, “Biden warned Ukraine’s president Kyiv could be ‘sacked’ by imminent Russian invasion.”
Despite all this there are some blatant contradictions. For starters, Ukraine, at the focus of all the fuss, does not seem to agree with Biden on this.
British journalist Mary Dejevsky writing in the Independent said, “The disparity between the alarm being sounded in the most hawkish western capitals, including London, and the calm that prevails across Ukraine has been one of the most striking aspects of this potential conflict. The headline of her story reads, “Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, is a lone voice of reason in stand-off with Russia.”
According to the Washington Post, “Ukraine’s Zelensky’s message is don’t panic.” He’s quoted saying, “Take a breath. Calm down.” That seems more in keeping with the UN Secretary General’s admonition.
Anecdotally I’ve heard that average Ukrainians aren’t as alarmed as Biden seems to be. One report from Odessa said they are trying not to think of the worst, but are starting to wonder what plans should be made in case it happens.
But here’s the kicker of it all. The imminent invasion? It was all a big mistake. The troops put on high alert over an imminent invasion: mistake. The US forces being rushed into Poland, Romania, and Germany in response to an imminent threat: mistake. Yes, it was all a big mistake.
The White House now admits there was no imminent threat.
Does this sound like Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction that never were there? According to the February 2 Washington Post, “The White House is distancing itself from its previous assessment that Russia poses an “imminent” threat to Ukraine.” Press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration will no longer use the word “imminent.”
It’s not giving up on the assertion that an invasion is in the works, mind you. But should anybody still believe that now?
The latest revelations make Biden sound like an international loose cannon.
It is time to start demanding concrete, honest proof of these dangerous allegations of a Russian invasion — and time for both sides to stop all military escalations and, as Guterres says, “continue on the diplomatic path.”