Russia, America avoid conflict over Ukraine - GulfToday

Russia, America avoid conflict over Ukraine

Biden, Putin

Vladimir Putin with Joe Biden. (File Photo)

The crisis meeting in Geneva on Friday between United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov went into an extra round with Russia demanding a written response from America next week. This could either be described as a continuation of a stalemate or a bid to avoid an immediate confrontation.

Before going into the meeting the two representatives made it known that there is no likelihood of a breakthrough and their differences remained as wide apart as they have always been. Lavrov said in a post-conference press meeting that Russia had no intention of invading Ukraine and that President Vladimir Putin was willing to meet his American counterpart Joe Biden, but there should be preparation for such a meeting.

Russia has not moved an inch from its demand that Ukraine should not be admitted to Nato, the Western military alliance that was forged against then Soviet Union and its communist allies in eastern Europe as that would bring the West’s armed forces to the borders of Russia and there would be no buffer zone as it were.

The United States and Nato allies in Europe maintain that they will not reject Ukraine’s request to join the group. On the other hand, the US and Europe continue to warn Russia that there would be serious consequences if Russia were to invade Ukraine. However, it is not clear if that means it would lead to outbreak of hostilities between Russia and the West, or it means that this would force America and western Europe to impose economic sanctions against Russia.

During the old Cold War era in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, the two sides did not ever fight a war though there were many flashpoints. The one occasion it seemed, at least to the outsiders, that a war would break out between the Soviets and the Americans was during what has come to be known as the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962. The Americans discovered that the Soviets were placing missiles in Cuba, and then American president John Kennedy declared a naval blockade. Then Soviet premier Nikita Khruschev backed off as an alarmed world pleaded with the then two superpowers not to precipitate a nuclear war as both countries were in possession of nuclear weapons.

Ukraine is likely to remain a problem between the two sides for a longer time, and the tensions would not go away. President Biden in a White House press conference has hinted that the response to a minor incursion by Russia, and it was not specified what was meant by minor incursion, would require a different kind of response.

The Ukraine question then will remain at a boiling point longer because the two sides are unlikely to yield ground to the other. It is unlikely that America and its Nato allies will enter into a formal no-war treaty between Nato and Russia.

And Russia on its part will not guarantee the independence of Ukraine if it were to join Nato. Russia is already in occupation of a part of Ukraine in Crimea, on the pretext that the people of Crimea do not want to be part of Ukraine. Ukraine’s neighbour Belarus is a Russian military ally. In some ways, Russia is in a relatively stronger position in its relations to Ukraine and Nato. America and the West have objected to the occupation of Russia but it is a fait accompli and there is not much that the Americans and the Europeans can do about it. It is a reason that the Western powers are worried about Ukraine.

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