Deescalation appears to be accelerating over the Ukraine crisis given a number of rapid developments which have seen lead NATO countries break from the more bellicose and threatening tone of the United States and UK. After Germany's neutrality toward the Russia-Ukraine crisis became apparent, Sweden is the latest to follow its lead of forbidding arms transfers to Kiev, while Croatia is out with a firm statement saying it will recall all of its troops from NATO in the event of war.
This followed on the heels of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announcing that circumstances in the region are now "under control" and that there's "no reason to panic" according to The Associated Press.
It appears the earlier hyped messages of an 'imminent Russian invasion' have backfired, as Ukraine officials have now turned to castigating the media for spreading a sense of overblown panic and doom among the population. Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov went so far as to say the threat of a Russian invasion "doesn't exist" despite there still being "risky scenarios". Other Ukraine defense officials have echoed this as well...
Ukraine’s NSC Sec. Danilov tells @BBC_ua he doesn’t expect an imminent invasion and doesn’t share “the panic,” which he connects to “geopolitical and domestic” processes in the West:— Grigor Atanesian (@atanessi) January 24, 2022
“The buildup of Russian troops [at the Ukrainian border] isn’t as rapid as some claim” https://t.co/hudVerkfvl
"As of today, we don’t see any grounds for statements about a full-scale offensive on our country," Danilov had stated confidently on Monday. Here's more from the defense chief:
"As of today, the Russian army has not formed a strike group that would be able to carry out an invasion," Reznikov was quoted saying in local media after a meeting with lawmakers in Kyiv. "There are no grounds to think that an invasion will happen tomorrow from a military point of view."
"But that doesn’t mean," he said, "that they won’t develop—there are threats."
"The Kremlin is trying to destabilize Ukraine with hybrid means, particularly by sowing panic," he wrote in an op-ed published by Ukrainskaya Pravda a day earlier. "We must not give them the opportunity."
This perhaps more realist sentiment is spreading, and now with a European consensus emerging that direct conflict with Russia must be avoided at all cost, the message has reached the White House, which is singing a different tune from even a day ago...
"President Joe Biden told reporters Tuesday that he does not foresee U.S. troops moving into Ukraine," Axios writes Tuesday afternoon. Biden stressed, "There is not going to be any American forces moving into Ukraine," which seems a reversal of the "stand by orders" he gave the day before. Here's further details on the administration's backing off the prior confrontational tone, as it's looking more and more like diplomacy is winning out...
- He added that the decision to put troops on high alert is "not provocative" but intended to reassure the U.S.' allies.
- "We have no intention of putting American forces, or NATO forces, in Ukraine. But as I said, there will be serious economic consequences if he moves," he added, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
- Asked if he could see himself personally sanctioning Putin in the case of an invasion, Biden replied, "Yes...I would see that."
State Department spokesman Ned Price still thought it necessary to go and act tough for the cameras - "no concessions" he warned... even as allies like France are vowing they'll always be willing to site down dialogue and negotiate with Russia. "We will never give up dialogue with Moscow," French President Macron said Tuesday.
And yes, there is daylight... actually massive fissures opening among NATO allies on the issue:
US says 'no daylight' with European allies on Ukraine standoff :State Department spokesperson Ned Price says "there is no daylight" between the US and European allies on the severity of the response to any Russian invasion of Ukraine. "And more importantly, the Russian Federation pic.twitter.com/tCwhlUS8Jq— worldnews24eu (@worldnews24eu) January 25, 2022
Could this be a rift between the US/UK and France/Germany on Ukraine? https://t.co/hiuRfghARX— Leith Bou Phadel (@leithfadel) January 25, 2022
"No daylight" with European allies.
This quote from a senior French official shows the growing rift between #Britain 🇬🇧 and #France 🇫🇷 on Russia/Ukraine:— Samuel Ramani (@SamRamani2) January 25, 2022
“The UK is developing positions that are very explicit, very alarmist . . . We have to be careful not to create self-fulfilling prophecies.”
"The key point is that any steps that we would take would not be concessions," Price said. "They would need to be on a reciprocal basis, meaning that the Russians would also have to do something that would help improve our security – our security posture."
And Jen Psaki is still standing by the White House's line of an invasion is "imminent" as of Tuesday afternoon even as the Ukrainians themselves downplay it. Additionally Biden had this to say directly of the situation:
But he made clear Putin remains something of an enigma, one whose vague intentions have have proved befuddling to him and other western leaders.
"I'll be completely honest with you, it is a little bit like reading tea leaves," Biden said after browsing a small gift shop and selecting a sweatshirt for his grandson.
"Ordinarily, if it were a different leader, the fact that he continues to build forces along Ukraine's border, from Belarus all the way around, you'd say, 'Well, that means that he is looking like he is going to do something,'" Biden went on. "But then you look at what his past behavior is and what everyone is saying and his team as well as everyone else as to what is likely to happen, it all comes down to his decision."
All of this looks like an admission that the assessment has changed: no, at this point he's not going to do anything we thought he was going to do, the president appears to now be admitting. The above is also a reaction to NATO showing willingness to sit down and take Moscow's security demands seriously. According to the latest via CNN, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has ruled out sending troops to Ukraine...
NATO willing to "sit down and discuss arms control, disarmament, transparency on military activities, risk reduction mechanisms and other issues which are relevant for European security....But we are not ready to compromise on core principles," he says— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) January 25, 2022
Importantly for the Russians, and after all the panic that resulted from Putin merely moving a hundred thousand troops to southern positions but within Russia's own sovereign borders, it appears momentum is moving in their direction. Russia may get what it wants after all: guarantees of no further NATO eastward expansion - or at least for the West to take its concerns seriously.
The US previously said this demand was a "non-starter" - but given the rapid shift in atmosphere surrounding tensions, it'll be interesting to see if by week's end the US tune is very different.
For for time being, some level of
military economic threats and counterthreats look to continue...
BREAKING: Russia’s Federation Council warns Europe will not receive gas if Russia is suspended from SWIFT— Samuel Ramani (@SamRamani2) January 25, 2022