Russia’s response to the US and NATO has left the Ukraine crisis smoldering on the brink of war
Kiev — Russia and NATO continue their military build-up, including other Russian fighter jets just over Ukraine’s northern border in Belarus. Russia’s ongoing military exercises with its Belarusian allies have fueled the heat to Ukraine, as in 2014.
The US and its NATO allies presented a to President Vladimir Putin’s governmentfor “security guarantees” on Wednesday, hoping to keep the crisis through diplomatic channels. But in the meantime, CBS News senior foreign correspondent Holly Williams says America and its allies continue to prepare for a possible Russian invasion.
On Thursday, Russia’s foreign minister said Putin had reviewed the reply personally delivered by the US ambassador in Moscow. The reaction from Moscow indicated disappointment, but also a decision to keep talking for the time being.
The biggest “guarantee” that Putin’s regime sought was a promise that NATO would rule out accepting Ukraine or any of its neighbors as new members of the transatlantic security alliance, while simultaneously withdrawing troops from Russia’s borders. NATO has increased troop and weapon deployments in the region in direct response to Russia moving some 100,000 of its forces near Ukraine’s eastern border and now north Ukraine in Belarus.
The US and NATO made it clear even before sending their formal response to Moscow that a ban on new NATO members in Eastern Europe would be a “non-starter,” but they indicated a willingness to discuss other issues, including military exercises and weapon stations in the region and other “confidence-building” measures that could be taken by either side.
“There was no positive answer to the main question,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a statement on Thursday, referring to Ukraine’s application for NATO membership, but “there is an answer, hope for the start of a serious one.” Conversation about secondary school raises questions.”
But while diplomacy appeared to be ongoing, including bilateral talks expected between Putin and France’s leader in the coming days, both sides in the standoff are keeping the pressure on.
Russian military exercises near the Ukrainian border continue.
On Thursday, Moscow accused the United States of wanting to station more missiles in the region. A senior State Department official warned that such moves risk triggering a “new missile crisis.” His warning came weeks laterthe positioning of military hardware in Venezuela or Cuba, which brought echoes of the 1962 story .
Meanwhile, six US warplanes have arrived in Estonia to take part in NATO military exercises. The Slovakian foreign minister said on Thursday that NATO is considering stationing additional troops in his country. Estonia and Slovakia are both NATO members. Estonia shares its eastern border with Russia, while Slovakia lies just west of Ukraine.
NATO military operations like this — in what Russia considers its own backyard — is something the Biden administration has signaled a willingness to negotiate.
“The deployment of offensive missile systems in Ukraine, military exercises and maneuvers in Europe — all of these things would, I believe, address mutual concerns, including concerns expressed by Russia,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday in response to the US’s response to Russia’s demands were met.
While the US and its allies have emphasized their unity in confronting Russia’s aggression, some of those allies rely heavily on Russia for their energy needs, including Europe’s largest economy, Germany. This has tested the Alliance’s resolve.
Germany is the biggest buyer of Russian natural gas and has refused to ship arms to Ukraine.
But Germany’s top diplomat hinted on Thursday that the country is in step with its NATO allies to at least confront Russia with sanctions – even if that means looking for other gas suppliers with some help from Washington.
“We are working on a strong package of sanctions,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told her country’s parliament on Thursday, pointing out that these sanctions could affect the long-awaited commissioning of the new gas pipeline “Nord Stream 2”. connecting Russia’s suppliers directly with Western European consumers.
The US haveto avoid increasing its dependence on Russian energy with the pipeline, and it seemed as if pledges by Washington – to help arrange alternative gas supplies if Germany supports sanctions affecting Russian energy sales – had helped Berlin to get board.
“Should Russia decide to weaponize its natural gas by cutting supplies to Europe even further than it has done so far, we are in talks with governments and major producers around the world to increase their capacity,” Blinken said on Wednesday, playing on talks with the US to allies in the Middle East who have their own gas fields.
But as both sides continue to dig in, both literally and figuratively, along the border between Russia and European democracies, the Ukrainian people remain stuck in the middle.
At the ornate, gold-domed St. Michael’s Monastery in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, where believers have prayed for over 900 years, some Ukrainians told Williams they were praying for peace.
One woman told CBS News that she hopes God will personally bring Russia to their senses.
The US said that with the delivery of the answer to Russia’s questions on Wednesday, the ball was back in Moscow’s court. With the Kremlin expressing disappointment but not giving up on diplomacy, the next step is still difficult to predict.