Thursday, July 11, 2019

West’s Mixed Signals on Ukraine Make Further Russian Aggression There More Likely, Kirillova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 10 – The decision of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to reseat the Russian delegation despite no changes in Moscow’s behavior and despite the fact that most European countries continue to maintain a sanctions regime against Russian actions is not the only mixed signal the West is sending, Kseniya Kirillova says.

            And while it has received vastly more attention, this may not be the most significant one or the one most likely to lead the Kremlin to conclude that it can divide the West and even get away with a new round of aggression against Ukraine, the US-based Russian journalist continues (

                That more dangerous mixed signal may come from a decision to have a NATO naval exercise near Ukraine, something that infuriates Moscow without providing any guarantee that the alliance would in fact come to Ukraine’s rescue. On that point, she quotes the words of Andreas Umland, an expert at Kyiv’s Institute of Euro-Atlantic Cooperation.

            Umland observes that he does not entirely understand “the logic of NATO’s presence for Georgia and Ukraine because, on the one hand, they are not members of the Alliance and correspondingly, NATO has not assumed any obligation to defend them. But on the other, their cooperation with NATO in the Black Sea angers Russia.”

            “In order to escape this contradiction,” he continues, “the countries of NATO should give Ukraine and NATO some kind of alternative guarantees of security, possibly not via full membership in the Alliance but for example at the level of bilateral treaties as in the relations of the US and South Korea or in the framework of the Bucharest 10 or the Intermarium concept.”

            And Umland concludes that “to approach the borders of Ukraine with forces without giving any guarantees of help looks in my view inconsistent.” And such inconsistencies are exactly the kind of thing that leads Moscow to assume it can exploit them to its advantage (

                Indeed, Kirillova points out, Moscow is doing two things which suggest it is more than ready to do so in order to launch a new campaign against Ukraine from occupied Crimea. On the one hand, it continues to build up offensive forces there that have no purpose except to be used to carry out such attacks.

            And on the other, the Russian authorities refuse to address the serious water shortages in Crimea, quite possibly so that they can use this to justify a move into southeastern Ukraine. All too many people in the West might be quite willing to accept Moscow’s argument that it had no choice but to attack in order to get water that Kyiv was denying the people of Crimea. 

            The Russian journalist cites the words of Ukrainian political analyst Taras Berezovets on this point. “Perhaps,” he says, “Putin is not hurrying to develop alternative sources of supply of potable water precisely because he needs a pretext for a future invasion.” Many would see that as a sufficient reason not to oppose Moscow (
            And at the same time, he adds, perhaps ominously, “Ukraine does not have a sufficient number of forces on its southern border because our main military formations are concentrated in the Donbass.”

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