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Minsk, Moscow Announce Joint Military Drills


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  • Curator
https://www.rferl.org/a/belarus-russia-drills-ukraine/31585734.html

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Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka (center) attends a meeting on territorial defense issues in the town of Shklov in June with Defense Minister Viktar Khrenin (left).

 

Belarus has announced joint military exercises with Russia along its southern border as NATO gathers for a meeting to discuss its concerns about the Russian troop buildup near Ukraine.

Belarusian Defense Minister Viktar Khrenin said on November 21 that the exercises would be held on its border with Ukraine in the "medium term."

He did not provide a date for the exercises with Russia, but suggested they were in response to alleged new military deployments in countries to the west and south of Belarus.

"We see troop formations around our state borders.... We can only be concerned by the militarization of our neighboring countries, which is why we are forced to plan measures in response," Khrenin said in comments on his ministry's website.

NATO has deployed four international battle groups to defend Poland and the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia since 2017.

The battalion-sized units were deployed in response to Russia's illegal seizure of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and Russia's support for separatists fighting against Kyiv's forces in eastern Ukraine.....

Edited by dvernb
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  • Chamberlain

U.S., Britain warn Russia against any new Ukraine aggression

The United States and Britain warned Russia on Tuesday over any new military aggression against Ukraine as the Western military alliance NATO met to discuss Moscow’s intentions for massing troops on the border with the former Soviet republic.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was to brief his 29 NATO counterparts on Washington’s intelligence on the group’s eastern flank and in Ukraine, which is not a member.

Kyiv’s aspirations for integration with the West trigerred a major stand-off with Moscow earlier this century.

The Kremlin went on to annex the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and then backed rebels fighting government troops in the east of the country. That conflict killed 14,000 people, according to Kyiv, and is still simmering.

At a news conference before the NATO meeting, Blinken expressed alarm at the “unusual” Russian troop movements and “increasingly belligerent rheteoric” from Moscow.

“Any escalatory actions by Russia would be a great concern to the United States... and any renewed aggression would trigger serious consequences,” he said.

“We will be consulting closely with NATO allies and partners in the days ahead... about whether there are other steps that we should take as an alliance to strengthen our defences, strengthen our resilience, strengthen our capacity.”

Two Russian troop build-ups this year on Ukraine’s borders have alarmed the West. In May, Russian troops there numbered 100,000, the largest since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Western officials say.

Moscow has dismissed as inflammatory Ukraine’s suggestions that it is preparing for an attack, said it does not threaten anyone and defended its right to deploy troops on its own territory as it wishes.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said ahead of the talks that Russia’s intentions were unclear.

“We see heavy capabilities, we see armoured units, drones, electronic warfare systems and we see tens of thousands combat-ready Russian troops,” he added.

NATO members Britain and Germany echoed Blinken’s warning.

“We will stand with our fellow democracies against Russia’s malign activity,” said British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. “Any action by Russia to undermine the freedom and democracy that our partners enjoy would be a strategic mistake.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said: “NATO’s support for Ukraine is unbroken... Russia would have to pay a high price for any sort of aggression.”

Adding to Western concerns, Belarus on Monday announced joint military drills with Russia on its border with Ukraine. While also a former Soviet republic, Minsk - unlike Kyiv - is a close ally of Moscow.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, whom the West accuses of seeking to divide the European Union by sending Middle Eastern migrants to the border of NATO members Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, warned Minsk would not sit on the sidelines in case of war.

“It is clear whose side Belarus will be on,” he said, referring to Moscow, whose financial and political backing helped him weather mass public protests in August 2020.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nato-russia/u-s-warns-russia-of-serious-consequences-of-any-new-ukraine-aggression-idUSKBN2IF0MP

 

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  • Curator

A tense situation no doubt about it. That said, 100,000 troops may well be enough to push into Ukraine, but not much else.

 

And even then, it's only enough if nobody else gets involved. If NATO were to decide to for instance, bring their air power to bear, Russia would fail. Both sides have to know the stakes of course, but there are plenty of things to consider. NATO could just say, we'll look the other way while you take the Ukraine, but we've been down this road before: Neville 'peace for our time' Chamberlain. We all know how well that worked out. That's why a part of me believes Putin is bluffing. His country of 150 million could not prosecute a conventional war successfully against NATO's overall population of nearly 900 million. I mean, they could trade nukes with us, but he doesn't win that either. So what's the end game..?? Face to face with Biden and then a draw down...?? Seems to be about the only option. He doesn't really have the force to do much else, and the west isn't itching for any war either.

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  • Curator

Did the Poots just show his hand...??

MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Moscow would seek Western guarantees that would preclude any further NATO expansion and deployment of its weapons near Russia's borders.

Putin's statement came amid Ukrainian and Western worries about an alleged plan by Moscow to invade Ukraine. Russian diplomats countered them Wednesday by expressing concern about Ukraine's military buildup near the area of the separatist conflict in the country's east.

Speaking at a Kremlin ceremony where he received credentials from foreign ambassadors, Putin emphasized Russia will seek "strong, reliable and long-term guarantees of its security."

More:

https://www.ctvnews.ca/world/putin-demands-nato-guarantees-not-to-expand-eastward-1.5688529

 

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  • Chamberlain

Ukraine urges NATO to be ready with sanctions in case of Russian invasion

Ukraine urged NATO on Wednesday to prepare economic sanctions on Russia to deter a possible invasion by tens of thousands of Russian troops concentrated within reach of its border.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he would make the request to NATO foreign ministers meeting for the second day in Latvia to discuss how to respond to the Russian build-up and avert potentially the most dangerous crisis in relations with Moscow since the Cold War.

"We will call on the allies to join Ukraine in putting together a deterrence package," Kuleba told reporters as he arrived for the talks in Riga.

This should include preparing economic sanctions against Russia, in case it "decides to chose the worst-case scenario", Kuleba said, adding that NATO should also boost military and defence cooperation with Ukraine.

Ukraine is not a member of NATO but the U.S.-led alliance has said it is committed to preserving the sovereignty of the former Soviet republic, which has tilted towards the West since 2014 and aspires to join both NATO and the European Union.

That has enraged Russia, drawing a warning from President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday that Russia was ready with a newly tested hypersonic weapon in case NATO crossed its "red lines" and deployed missiles in Ukraine.

Putin said on Wednesday that Moscow wanted serious negotiations with the United States and its allies to extract legal guarantees that would rule out "any further NATO moves to the east and the deployment of weapons systems that threaten us in close proximity to Russian territory".

That is unlikely to be acceptable to the United States, which has said no country has the right to veto Ukraine's NATO ambitions. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Stockholm on Thursday.

Russia also backs separatists in a long-running war in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine and accused Kyiv on Wednesday of mobilising 125,000 troops, or half its army, in the conflict zone. Kyiv declined to comment.

The Kremlin said it feared Ukraine was gearing up to try to take back the rebel areas by force - something Kyiv denies - and accused it of "very dangerous adventurism".

It said Russia could not take any steps to de-escalate because of a large concentration of Ukrainian forces close to the border.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said direct talks with Moscow were needed to end the war in the east, which Kyiv says has killed more than 14,000 people.

"We must tell the truth that we will not be able to stop the war without direct negotiations with Russia, and today this has already been recognised by all, all external partners," Zelenskiy told parliament.

Russia said it had started regular winter military drills in its southern military district, parts of which border Ukraine, and that 10,000 troops had relocated to training grounds across the huge area. Its ally Belarus has also announced joint military drills with Russia on the Ukrainian border.

The West has maintained economic sanctions on Russia's energy, banking and defence sectors since 2014 after it seized the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine. It has also targeted a growing list of senior Russian officials with asset freezes and travel bans.

But Russia has also blunted the impact of sanctions by reducing its borrowings on foreign financial markets and maintaining large currency and gold reserves.

"We are confident that if we join efforts, if we act in a coordinated fashion, we will be able to deter President Putin and to demotivate him from choosing the worst-case scenario, which is a military operation," Ukraine's Kuleba said.

Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod told reporters any military operation that would violate the sovereignty of Ukraine would be met with "severe consequences" and that Denmark was ready to engage with heavy sanctions.

His comments echoed those of NATO and the United States, who on Tuesday issued stark warnings to Russia that it would pay a high price for any new military aggression against Ukraine.

The EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, told reporters: "For the European Union, the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine is above anything. And we will be standing firmly and decisively with Ukraine in front of any attempt to undermine its territorial integrity and sovereignty."

https://www.reuters.com/world/prepare-sanctions-russia-ramp-up-military-cooperation-ukraine-tells-nato-2021-12-01/

 

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  • Chamberlain

In a video call, President Biden voiced worries over Russian troop build-ups near the border with Ukraine and called for a de-escalation of tensions.

Russia says it will not attack.

President Putin accused Ukraine of provocation, and sought guarantees against eastward Nato expansion and deployment of weapons close to Russia.

More than 90,000 Russian troops are believed to be massed near Ukraine's borders. The movement has strained already tense relations between Russia and the US.

After Tuesday's call, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the Biden administration was preparing specific robust responses in the weeks ahead if they were required.

The measures included economic sanctions and other actions such as additional troop deployments to Nato allies in the region and defence equipment for Ukraine.

Mr Sullivan refused to be drawn on what the economic measures might be. But he said Nord Stream 2, a new gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, which is not yet in operation, provided "leverage" for the US and its allies.

"If Vladimir Putin wants to see gas flow through that pipeline, he may not want to take the risk of invading Ukraine," he told journalists. Earlier reports said US officials had reached agreement with Germany to shut down the pipeline in the event of an invasion.

Other possible measures include restrictions on Russia's banks converting roubles into foreign currencies, or even disconnecting Russia from the Swift global financial payment system, reports say.

"Things we did not do in 2014 we are prepared to do now," Mr Sullivan added, referring to Western responses to Russia's annexation of Crimea.

He also said there was "a lot of give and take" in the call and "no finger-wagging" but that President Biden was "crystal clear where the United States stands on all of these issues".

 

Video footage of the opening moments showed friendly greetings between the US and Russian leaders, before the talks continued behind closed doors.

The call was held on a secure video link set up under previous administrations but never used before. President Putin spoke from his residence in the southern resort of Sochi and President Biden from the White House.

More:

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-59567377

 

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