Are Russia and Ukraine Headed for War?
Kiev and Moscow are again on war footing following a drastic escalation of the ongoing Donbas Conflict, with the Kremlin moving trainloads of military hardware into Russian-occupied Crimea.
Russia announced the start of mass military buildup along Ukraine border, ratcheting up tensions with neighboring Ukraine amid Western concerns about the risk of renewed fighting.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Tuesday reiterated his country’s desire to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to protect itself against Russia, calling membership “the only way to end the war” in eastern Ukraine in a phone call with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. The NATO chief was non-committal in a tweet later, saying the alliance remained “committed to our close partnership” with Ukraine.
Ukraine is appealing for support amid a build-up of Russian forces along their shared border, raising fears of an escalation in the seven-year conflict that has claimed 13,000 lives. Russia denies it’s threatening Ukraine and accuses the government in Kyiv of preparing a military offensive to regain control of the eastern conflict zone.
NATO membership won’t help Ukraine solve “its internal problems,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday. “From our point of view, this will further aggravate the situation,” he said.
Zelenskiy also urged greater international pressure on Russia in a phone call with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Tuesday, a day after he spoke with U.K. Premier Boris Johnson. Ukraine’s foreign and defense ministers held talks with their U.S. and U.K. counterparts last week about tensions in the eastern Donbas region, while Zelenskiy’s chief of staff spoke to U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
The U.S. State Department signaled its concerns about Russian troop movements this week, with spokesman Ned Price saying Monday that “we are concerned by recent escalating Russian aggressions in eastern Ukraine, including the credible reports that have been emanating about Russian troop movements on Ukraine’s borders and occupied Crimea.”
‘Intimidation and Aggression’
“At the highest levels of government, literally, across multiple institutions, we have sent that message very clearly to our Ukrainian counterparts, and implicitly to the Russians as well, that we stand by Kyiv, we stand by our partner, Ukraine, in the face of this intimidation and aggression,” Price added.
Russia’s ruble accelerated its decline amid the geopolitical tensions, weakening 1.1% against the dollar to 77.2552 at 6:34 p.m. in Moscow, the worst-performing emerging market currency.
Zelenskiy told Trudeau 10 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the eastern zone since March 26. The U.S. and the European Union have sanctioned Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea and support of separatists in Ukraine’s Donbas region. Russia denies involvement in the fighting.
The U.S. has provided Ukraine with defensive military equipment, including Javelin anti-tank missiles. In his first official phone call as president with Zelenskiy last week, Joe Biden pledged to stand with Ukraine against Russian “aggression.”
On Tuesday, however, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said questions about NATO membership should be handled by the alliance.
“That’s a decision for NATO to make,” Psaki said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rounded on Western nations on Tuesday for backing what he called Kyiv’s “absolutely unacceptable actions and statements.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin bitterly opposes Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO, though there’s little appetite within the alliance to accept a membership application, as well as the former Soviet republic’s tilt toward the West since the 2014 revolution that ousted pro-Moscow leader Viktor Yanukovych.
“The ostentation with which the troops are being moved confirms that Russia is saber-rattling rather than contemplating a blitzkrieg,” Maxim Samorukov, a fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center, wrote on its website Monday. Still, tensions between the two sides mean a misstep or rogue action could drag them into a new military confrontation, he said.
With implementation of a 2015 peace agreement stalled and a July cease-fire fraying, the uptick in violence is hardening the stance of both sides, said Katharine Quinn-Judge, Ukraine analyst at the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.
“This doesn’t necessarily mean there will be a major escalation,” she said. “But we should still be worried because it’s a symptom of the deadlock in the peace process.”
— With assistance by Jennifer Jacobs
The ROC views competition with Russia’s enemies, as battle with the Antichrist. Alexander Dugin, arguably the Kremlin’s chief ideologist, calls Putin “katechon”, an Orthodox leader who protects Russia from the “kingdom of the Antichrist”. Dugin sees the anti-christ as a manifestation of “Western “globalisation, post-liberalism and post-industrial society”.
The ROC wants a strong and nuclear Russia so that “the sovereignty of the Orthodox way of life against satanic forces” can be preserved.”
Jakub Grygiel writes, Orthodoxy for the armed forces is not an ecclesiastical discourse; rather, it’s an instrument to inoculate the military against Western influence, psychological warfare, and perceived efforts at political subversion.”
Today, the culture of the United States is dominated by a secular elite attached to nebulous progressive ideologies, rooted in anti-christian values. Russian leadership views the construct of liberalism with disdain. Rather than seeing a “culture of tolerance” they see an aggressive adversary determined to march its progressive values into the heart of Moscow.
If we are to believe Dimitry Adamsky’ premise, Russia’s theocratic military leadership sees a culturally progessive, anti-Christian United States quite literally as a “Satanic Force”. Russia’s military leaders and the ROC undoubtedly see the Anti-christ.