The United States and its Western allies expressed concern about the risk that Russia was about to launch a military attack on Ukraine, while Russia asserted that the United States and Ukraine deliberately escalated tensions.
Russia-Ukraine relations collapsed in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea and backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Tensions have lasted for 7 years without end, so far they have escalated again with the risk of Russia attacking Ukraine militarily. Reuters news agency recently published a detailed analysis of the situation in Ukraine and Russia.
What do Russia and Ukraine say about the risk of military conflict?
Russia denies threatening other countries and insists it has the right to send troops anywhere within its territory if necessary. Russia accuses Ukraine and NATO of exaggerating tensions.
Russia also questioned the possibility of Ukraine launching a military operation to recapture the Donbass region currently controlled by the separatists.
Russia’s intelligence services reported this week that the situation in the region has escalated to the equivalent of the 2008 Russian-Georgian conflict.
Ukraine denies Russia’s accusations, saying that it is Moscow that is about to launch a military operation with nearly 100,000 troops concentrated on the border.
Risk of Russia’s military attack on Ukraine
Reuters interviewed multiple sources, including Western and Russian intelligence officials. Nearly all believe that the possibility of impending conflict is not high.
The most likely scenario is that Russia uses force to deter the West about the “red lines” in Ukraine. The current situation is the same as it was at the beginning of the year, when Russia escalated tensions with Ukraine and then de-escalated it by withdrawing its troops.
In this way, Russian President Vladimir Putin makes it impossible for the West to know for sure when Russia will actually strike militarily.
If a conflict broke out, what would the scenario look like?
Russia now has 900,000 regular troops compared with 209,000 on the Ukrainian side, or four times as much, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).
Samir Puri, an IISS expert, says Russia’s advantage is in eastern Ukraine. Russia could align itself with eastern separatists, helping the separatists expand their control over Ukraine.
In the event of a large-scale conflict, Russia can simultaneously attack from Belarus, from the east or south, through the Crimean peninsula and land to capture the two strategic Ukrainian cities of Odessa and Mariupol.
How can Ukraine defend?