Military Deployment in Ukraine: Is a War in Eastern Europe on the Horizon?

Yoselina Guevara

NATO member states began deploying more ships and fighter jets to Eastern Europe on Monday, January 24, in an effort to bolster the deterrence and defense of the Western military bloc as Russia continues to place troops along the Ukrainian border. In an official posting on the Atlantic Alliance website NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated “I welcome the allies bringing additional forces to NATO. NATO will continue to take all necessary measures to protect and defend all allies, including by reinforcing the eastern part of the Alliance. We will always respond to any deterioration in our security environment.”

NATO and allied military deployments

Specifically, Denmark has sent a frigate to the Baltic Sea and is prepared to deploy four F-16 fighters to Lithuania in support of NATO’s air patrol mission in the Baltic region. Spain has also agreed to send warships to Eastern Europe, to join the Allied Fleet, and is considering placing fighter aircraft in Bulgaria. France has made itself available to deploy troops in Romania. For its part, Amsterdam has positioned a naval warfare unit and ground troops pending a possible deployment.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov stated on Sunday, January 23, that Kiev had received the second batch of military aid from the United States, bringing to about 170 tons of weapons delivered by Washington to reinforce Ukraine’s defensive capabilities. Although it is not clear what weaponry was sent, Kiev had previously requested air defense systems, anti-ship missiles, Javelin anti-tank missiles, electronic jamming devices, radar systems, ammunition and medical supplies. The United States, already provides military assistance to Ukraine since 2014 on an ongoing basis and has delivered weapons to the value of about $400 million in 2021.

Russia has no fears

Although the United States and its allies, are trying to show muscle by increasing military aid to Ukraine, doubtfully all this deployment will be able to help settle the standoff between Kiev and Moscow. On the one hand, according to military experts, the Ukrainian army, although modern and well-equipped, was created to counter the Donbas militias and does not pose a serious threat to Russian troops. In other words, the Kiev armed forces have so far been confronted in the Donbass region with civilian militias, some of which have been trained by Russian instructors, but do not have the training of a professional troop. The only opportunities, in which the Russian army has intervened directly, have been on two occasions, near the areas of Ilovaisk and Debaltseve. Both clashes resulted in a crushing defeat of the Ukrainian armed forces and Moscow did not use any of its modern arsenal, such as aircraft and missiles. For some analysts, if an invasion of Ukraine were to take place, Russia would not send tanks, but would inflict a series of air and missile strikes on the sites of troop concentrations, headquarters, airports and warehouses. The capabilities of the Russian military are well known, giving it the opportunity to wage war remotely, via air.

Biden navigates in troubled waters

All the developments we have been observing in recent days suggest that the degeneration of the crisis in Ukraine into a full-blown war cannot be ruled out. Which, especially for the Russians, would not be the first option because an armed conflict has many implications. The United States, for its part, continues to exert pressure. In addition to sending weapons to Ukraine, it is evicting its embassy in Kiev, as well as issuing an order for resident Americans to leave the country and with the help of the international media it has created a whole campaign that a Russian invasion is almost imminent.

For the Russian Federation, an intervention in Ukraine would mean an increase in international sanctions, from the exclusion of Moscow from the Swift payment network, to the possible indefinite blockade of the Nord Stream gas pipeline between Russia and Germany. But it should be noted that this would also mean that European countries would be left in the middle of winter without the gas they receive from Russia.

Since the arrival of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine, President Putin has implemented a strategy in which he is trying to create the conditions for a negotiation in his favor, starting from a strong point, which is the threat. Politically at the moment the United States is not interested in having two enemies, the Biden administration is focused on China and this may make Washington give in to some of the requests made by Moscow.

Nevertheless, Biden remains under continuous internal and external pressure. In fact, even if he trains troops and sends armaments, Ukraine is not a relevant country for the United States, because it is the Baltic countries and Poland that are in charge of containing Moscow in Europe. But Washington has its Achilles heel that, in the event of a conflict, specifically a Russian invasion, it will have to be on Kiev’s side, as it has already stated in declarations to the press.

These are the waters in which Biden is navigating. The political administration, on the one hand, has been trying for decades to reach an agreement with Russia. And the American apparatus, that is, the agencies of the federal government (Defense Department officials and the services), do not want an agreement with Russia because they are afraid of losing control over Europe. These are the deep state fears that an opening to Russia, freeing it from NATO’s containment efforts, would allow Moscow to pact with France, Italy and Germany and lead to an erosion and eventual loss of Washington’s political hegemony over Europe.

Yoselina Guevara López Correspondent in Italy

Translation by Internationalist 360°