Are Russian forces getting ready for war in Ukraine? US President Joe Biden is certainly expecting some kind of military move.
Russia wants the West to promise that Ukraine will not join its Nato defensive alliance, and although the two sides are negotiating, that is not going to happen. What happens next could jeopardise Europe’s entire security structure.
Why is Russia threatening Ukraine?
Russia denies it’s planning any invasion, but it has seized Ukrainian territory before and it has an estimated 100,000 troops deployed near its borders.
Russia has long resisted Ukraine’s move towards European institutions, and Nato in particular.
Ukraine shares borders with both the EU and Russia, but as a former Soviet republic it has deep social and cultural ties with Russia, and Russian is widely spoken there.
When Ukrainians deposed their pro-Russian president in early 2014, Russia annexed Ukraine’s southern Crimean peninsula and backed separatists who captured large swathes of eastern Ukraine. The rebels have fought the Ukrainian military ever since in a conflict that has claimed more than 14,000 lives.
How big is the risk of invasion?
Russia says it has no plans to attack Ukraine: and armed forces chief Valery Gerasimov even denounced reports of an impending invasion as a lie.
But tensions are high and President Vladimir Putin has threatened “appropriate retaliatory military-technical measures” if what he calls the West’s aggressive approach continues.
Nato’s secretary general warns the risk of conflict is real and President Biden says his guess is that Russia will move in. The US says it knows of Russian plans to boost its forces near Ukraine “on very short notice”.
Russian TV shows tank exercises close to the border with Ukraine on 14 Jan 2022
Russian TV has shown pictures of tank exercises close to the border with Ukraine
The US says Russia has offered no explanation for the troops posted close to Ukraine – and Russian troops and tanks have headed to Belarus for exercises.
Russia’s deputy foreign minister compared the current situation to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, when the US and Soviet Union came close to nuclear conflict.
Western intelligence suggests a Russian incursion or invasion could happen some time in early 2022.