Russia won’t invade Ukraine, while the Biden administration is being “hysterical” about such a possibility, which is hurting Ukraine economically and otherwise. This is what Vladimir Socor, of the conservative think-tank Jamestown Foundation, stated during a debate on the subject.
While ruling out an all-out war, the analyst accepts the possibility that Russia could “take a small bite” off its Slavic sister, perhaps in the Azov area.
To avoid an invasion, the countries with which Ukraine has bilateral defense agreements should act to strengthen its defense capabilities, and not post-factum, but right now, says Socor.
The expert likened the current crisis to the Berlin one, when in 1958-1961 the Soviet Union managed to persuade its former allies to leave West Berlin and recognize the former Soviet occupation zone as an independent state. Instead, the West accepted the Berlin Wall as a compromise.
“There were 300,000 American troops stationed in Germany then, and Germany had an army of 200,000. Now, in April 2021, Russia has massed troops on Ukraine’s borders in order to force Ukraine to implement the Minsk agreements. The crisis entered its current phase in November 2021, when it grew from being a Ukrainian crisis into becoming a European one. Russia has extended its demands to a Central and Eastern European level, involving the entire North Atlantic Alliance.”
At the same time, according to the analyst, the concentration of troops was also a message for the United States to make it talk Ukraine into accepting the Minsk agreements. These include a special status for the occupied territories of Donbas and the creation of a state within the Ukrainian state, with its own army, foreign policy, relations with Russia bypassing Kiev, its own security, courts, parties, presidents, parliament, own government. After failing to impose the Minsk agreements on Ukraine, the Kremlin wants to do it with American hands, according to the expert.
Russia has been targeting the entire Euro-Atlantic system since November, and the situation is comparable to the Berlin crisis, says Vladimir Socor. “The question arises: why has Russia expanded its goals, which are largely new, unprecedented? I believe that the Russians are taking advantage of the weakness and incompetence shown by the Biden administration. For the most part, the current administration’s foreign policy leaders are inherited from the Obama administration, which Russia has learned not to respect. Россия ее не уважает. This is an important component of the Russian mentality. Russia believes that the time has come to reverse the NATO enlargement that took place between 1997 and 2004.”
As for direct military action against Ukraine, the expert believes that, despite its hawkish rhetoric, Russia will not attack Ukraine because it would lose more than more it would gain. “First, because it would end the strategic negotiations between Russia and the West, in which Russia hopes to achieve a change of the global security order, and the (Putin) regime needs victories to use them domestically. Second, Russia would bleed heavily in Ukraine. Even after a possible defeat of the Ukrainian army, there would be a prolonged phase of national resistance. Russia cannot afford this, for economic and other reasons.”
As for Moldova, the Jamestown Foundation expert believes that this territory benefits even from the fact that it has no shared border with Russia. The authorities need to focus on reforms, which have been dragging on for thirty years. “The lack of a shared border gives the country the peace it needs to reform. With the arrival of President Maia Sandu and the PAS government, the Republic of Moldova has the chance to capitalize on its geographical non-proximity to Russia”, said the expert.
The debate was the 223rd installment of the “Developing Political Culture” series, run by IPN with the support of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.