It appears Russia has gained the legitimacy that they desire in the Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been trying to build closer ties with NATO and the EU much to the anger and ire of Russia. There has been nothing but challenges in the region since the movement of Russian troops into Crimea in 2014. In supposed secret operations that are still denied, Russia sent troops and hardware to eastern Ukraine seven years ago.
Nothing to See Here, Folks
The world has tensely watched the extraordinary movement and elevations of military troops and equipment by Russia on the Ukrainian eastern border over the past couple of months. Both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu continually stated the movements were only exercises. The Russian Defense Ministry said the maneuvers in Crimea involved more than 60 ships, over 10,000 troops, around 200 aircraft, and about 1,200 military vehicles. Ukraine and much of the rest of the world watched with great concern over the belief that Russia could annex larger portions of the Ukraine.
Several major events in recent weeks have caused significant change in the region. Not long after President Joe Biden‘s inauguration, he stated Russia’s leader was “a killer”. Subsequently, Biden emplaced tough new sanctions in retaliation for US election meddling. As Russian escalations in the region continued, the U.S. military requested Turkish approval for the passage of warships to the Black Sea. Russia then announced closures of the Black Sea areas near Crimea to foreign navy ships until November. Last week, Biden made his first call to the Kremlin and proposed meeting Mr. Putin in the coming months. Trying to determine if the call was disaster deterrence or misguided concessions, analysts are still debating the President’s call.
Russian Media Responds
According to the BBC, Russian political discussions on television are applauding Moscow’s show of force, standing up to the US and western hostilities. Russian media also suggests that President Biden‘s nerves have failed. Others on Russia TV are suggesting that the US realizes it is impossible to achieve military superiority of Russia and the two countries need to return the dialogue.
With the buildup, Moscow has made it clear to the United States that Russia still considers its neighbor’s fate Russia’s business, and Ukraine’s desire to join NATO is a NOGO. Last Wednesday, during the annual “state of the nation” address, there was more sabre rattling, with President Putin once again warning NATO to steer clear of Russia’s “red lines”.
Reduction of Troops on the Border
Regardless, with all the recent happenings, it is not exactly clear which event has caused Russia to say it will begin a phased reduction of troops from the border with neighboring Ukraine. The military will apparently be ending the deployment and troops should return to their bases. Heavy weapons will be kept in western Russia for another massive military exercise, 160 kilometers (100 miles) east of the border with Ukraine.
On Thursday, Russian Defense Minister Shoigu stated that the military drills involving more than 10,000 troops in and around the Crimean Peninsula, was nothing more than a routine training exercise. Shoigu stated, “I believe the goals of the snap inspection have been fully achieved and that our troops demonstrated the ability to reliably defend the country.” It is during this statement that Shoigu ordered re-deployment of ground troops by May 1.
Ukraine Still Watchful
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed the de-escalation but stated that Kyiv would remain vigilant. “Ukraine is always vigilant yet welcomes any steps to decrease the military presence and de-escalate of the situation in Donbas.” Proving his resolve, the Ukrainian president signed a law allowing the call-up of reservists for military service without announcing a mobilization this past Wednesday. Yesterday, Ukraine’s President Zelensky announced his desire for a revamping of a 2015 peace accord for the war-torn Donbas region with a bigger diplomatic role for the U.S., UK, and Canada in ending the conflict.
For the moment, it appears the pressure valve for the Ukrainian situation has been released.