Vladimir Putin sent thousands of soldiers to the border. The clashes in eastern Ukraine, which so far have attracted little international attention, are proving dangerous and alerting the west.
The past few days have been huge tension between Moscow and Kiev, and, amid threats and accusations, doubts are raised as to Putin’s real intentions in sending thousands of soldiers and military tanks to various points on Russia’s border with Ukraine.
Some international analysts argue that military intervention in eastern Ukraine is imminent, others suggest that the maneuvers represent only a demonstration of the Kremlin’s strength.
While European leaders, the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) express support for the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, and leave warnings to the Kremlin, in Moscow there is a guarantee that military movements are not a threat and that an escalation of the conflict only depends on the West.
Despite a peace agreement signed in 2015, with mediation from the European Union (EU), the two sides continue to face each other at the border of the disputed territories.
Against this background, the tension started to rise in late March and in early April, with increased clashes and the number of victims, with at least 23 Ukrainian soldiers already dead this year.
According to the New York Times, the death of soldiers, coupled with the increase in Russian forces at the border, caught the attention of top American officials in Europe and Washington.
“The escalation with the mobilization [de tropas] it is creating serious concerns that this is more than a show of strength. There are signs that Russia may be preparing for significant action, ”he said. Nigel Gould-Davies, former UK ambassador to Belarus, to the Observer.
Already Maria Raquel Freire, professor at the Faculty of Economics of the University of Coimbra (FEUC), considers that “the Russian military movements intend to demonstrate a clear strength, in a context where relations with the West remain difficult”.
The expert adds: “We cannot exclude a new escalation of violence, but (…) it does not seem to me that the gains from this armed conflict outweigh the negative implications for Russia in political and economic terms, and even in security”.
In recent months, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been closer to the West, and in a phone call last week with his American counterpart, Joe Biden, heard the promise of “unwavering” US support for Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Support also came from the NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, and the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who have also expressed concern about Russia’s military maneuvers along the Ukrainian border.
This greater proximity of Ukraine to the West – with which it has cooperation agreements, but not of accession, either to NATO or to the EU – coincides with the increasingly distant relationship between Zelensky and Putin.
However, despite the fact that the country is not part of the alliance, NATO has already announced military exercises with Ukraine.
The escalation of tension between Russia and Ukraine also comes at a time when relations between the Kremlin and the West are going through a very troubled phase, partly due to the poisoning and prison sentence of Russian opponent Alexei Navalny.
However, a Russian military offensive in Ukraine would have unpredictable consequences, and ultimately it could lead to a open war between the West and Russia. Scenario that Maria Raquel Freire considers unlikely.
Ana Isabel Moura, ZAP //