Russia is once again ratcheting up the rhetoric, this time to a fever pitch. Just a day after Putin’s Security Council posted a remarkably accurate and amusingly concise assessment of US foreign policy aims on its website, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry as well as President Putin himself are out with strong condemnations of both the NATO presence in Eastern Europe as well as US plans to arm Kiev.
The comments come on the heels of a House vote which showed overwhelming support for the provision of lethal aid to Kiev and just a day after the first batch of American humvees received a warm welcome from President Petro Poroshenko. As a reminder, here’s what both sides had to say about Congress’s willingness to maybe start an all out proxy war in the Baltics:
The prepackaged spin is already ready: "sending weapons to the Kiev government would not mean involvement in a new war for America", claimed the abovementioned Eliot Engel who sponsored the document. “The people of Ukraine are not looking for American troops," Engel said. "They are just looking for the weapons.”
So the only question is how Russia will responds to this escalation: according to RT, "Washington's decision to supply Ukraine with ammunition and weapons would “explode the whole situation” in eastern Ukraine and Russia would be forced to respond “appropriately,” Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said at the end of February.
While it’s not immediately clear what constitutes an “appropriate” response, and while the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Alexander Lukashevich contends that an outright military confrontation between the West and Russia “isn’t something anyone wants,” that’s where the ambiguity and niceties end. Here’s more via Bloomberg:
NATO drills in Europe are buildup of U.S. forces.
Russia says NATO members on Russian border planning to deploy planes capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
Airforce drills in Estonia are buildup of U.S. presence; U.S. jets may reach St Petersburg from Estonia w/in mins.
U.S. is heavily deploying weaponry in eastern Europe.
U.S. arms supplies to Ukraine are threat to Russia, won’t scare Russia.
The Estonia reference refers to the “bilateral training” being conducted by the Estonian air force and 14 F-16s from the US. As The Aviationist notes, “the purpose of the deployment is to enhance interoperability with a NATO ally and with other regional air arms however, the deployment is above all, another step in the U.S. Air Force’s ‘Forward-Ready-Now!’ posture in the European theater where the Pentagon has already strengthened its presence.”
In case the Foreign Ministry’s words weren’t clear enough, Putin himself had a few choice words for the US and its allies:
- PUTIN SAYS IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO SCARE RUSSIA: INTERFAX
- PUTIN SEES ATTEMPTS TO BREAK NUCLEAR PARITY: INTERFAX
But even as Putin assures the West that the Kremlin fears no man and even though Moscow thinks that perhaps the US may be trying to undermine the global nuclear balance by making mutually assured destruction not so mutual, the Russian President is willing to talk about these things:
- PUTIN TELLS FSB WE'RE READY FOR DIALOGUE W/ OPPOSITION: IFX
Meanwhile, the Kremlin seems to believe that certain intricate plots are in the offing designed not only to destabilize Russia’s highly democratic political processes, but to undermine its thriving financial markets as well. Here’s more via Bloomberg:
Western intelligence services are planning operations to discredit, destabilize Russia, including for elections in 2016-18, Interfax reports, citing President Vladimir Putin comments to Federal Security Service meeting.
Putin tells FSB to uncover schemes on securities, currency markets.
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So to summarize, Moscow will not be intimidated by NATO because it’s impossible to scare a Russian, Vladimir Putin is open to talking with the opposition but he does not appreciate the implicit attempt to tip the nuclear power balance, nor does the Kremlin approve of the US scrambling F-16s to the Baltics, and “schemes” of any kind will be ferreted out by the FSB.
But other than that, tensions seem to be abating.