Home News Putin and Biden Signal Larger Confrontation Ahead, as Ukraine Conflict Continues

Putin and Biden Signal Larger Confrontation Ahead, as Ukraine Conflict Continues

Putin and Biden Signal Larger Confrontation Ahead, as Ukraine Conflict Continues
Source: Al Jazeera

The East-West spat over Ukraine erupted again on Tuesday, with Russian legislators approving President Vladimir Putin to employ military force outside of his nation, and US President Joe Biden and European leaders retaliating with penalties against Russian billionaires and banks.

Both presidents hinted that a more serious conflict may be on the way. Putin has yet to employ the 150,000 soldiers stationed on three borders of Ukraine, while Biden held off on imposing even harder penalties, which may put Russia’s economy in jeopardy, but stressed they would go forward if there was further action.

The moves, which were supported by the relocation of more US soldiers to the Baltic states on NATO’s eastern flank bordering Russia, came as Russian forces moved into rebel-held territories in eastern Ukraine, defying US and European requests by recognizing the separatist regions’ independence.

Biden claimed the Kremlin had flagrantly broken international law in what he dubbed the “start of a Russian invasion of Ukraine” in a speech at the White House. If Putin goes any farther, he has threatened further sanctions.

Biden stated, “We are unified in our support for Ukraine.” “In our opposition to Russian aggression, we are unified.” “None of us should be deceived,” Biden warned of Russian assertions of a rationale or excuse for an invasion. We’re not going to be tricked. “There isn’t a single reason.”

Hopes for a diplomatic settlement to the invasion threat, which US officials have presented as all but inevitable for weeks, looked to vanish. Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a planned meeting with his Russian colleague in Geneva on Thursday, saying it would be ineffective and that Russia’s actions showed Moscow was not committed to a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

More than two dozen European Union countries unanimously agreed to levy their own initial set of penalties against Russian officials in order to display a united front to the world. Germany also announced that it will pause the certification process for Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, a lucrative project that Moscow has long desired but that the US has condemned for growing Europe’s dependency on Russian energy.

Meanwhile, the United States has taken steps to isolate Russia’s government from Western financial institutions, punishing two of its banks and prohibiting it from dealing in its debt on American and European exchanges. The administration’s moves targeted civilian figures in Russia’s leadership structure, as well as two Russian banks with more than $80 billion in assets that are regarded especially close to the Kremlin and Russia’s military. This includes freezing all assets held by those banks in US jurisdictions.

Biden, on the other hand, refrained from imposing some of the US’s broadest and harshest financial sanctions, such as sanctions that would bolster Germany’s hold on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline’s start-up; an export ban that would deny Russia U.S. high tech for its industries and military; and sweeping bans that could cripple Russia’s ability to do business with the rest of the world.

Biden announced the deployment of extra US soldiers to the Baltics, but only as a “defensive” measure, saying, “We have no intention of engaging Russia.” According to a senior defense official, the US is moving around 800 infantry troops and 40 attack aircraft from other parts of Europe to NATO’s eastern border. There will also be a number of F-35 strike planes and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters moved.

Members of Russia’s upper house, the Federation Council, voted overwhelmingly earlier Tuesday to authorise Putin to use military action outside the nation, thereby formalizing a Russian military deployment to the rebel territories, where an eight-year struggle has claimed the lives of almost 14,000 people.

Shortly after, Putin spelled forth three requirements for ending the crisis, which has raised the fear of large casualties, energy shortages across Europe, and global economic instability.

Putin said that the problem might be addressed if Ukraine recognized Russia’s authority over Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Moscow seized after capturing it from Ukraine in 2014, renounced its NATO membership bid, and demilitarized somewhat. The annexation of Crimea was denounced by the West as a breach of international law, and the West has previously resisted permanently excluding Ukraine from NATO.

“I haven’t specified that the military would go there right now,” Putin replied when asked if he has dispatched any Russian troops into Ukraine and how far they may travel. “It’s hard to predict a certain pattern of action,” he continued, “since it will rely on a concrete circumstance as it develops on the ground.”

The EU has imposed initial penalties against 351 Russian legislators who voted to recognize Ukraine’s two separatist regions, as well as 27 other Russian officials and entities in the defense and financial sectors. They also wanted to restrict Moscow’s access to finance and financial markets in the EU.

After first reluctant to use the phrase “invasion,” the White House began referring to Russian deployments in the Donbas region as a “invasion,” a red line that Biden had stated would result in heavy penalties.

“We believe this is the start of an invasion, Russia’s newest invasion of Ukraine,” said Jon Finer, chief deputy national security advisor, on CNN. “An invasion is an invasion, and that is exactly what is happening right now.”

On Monday evening, just after Putin indicated that soldiers would be sent in, the White House issued limited sanctions aimed at the rebel regions. “Russia has occupied these territories since 2014,” according to a senior Biden administration official who briefed reporters on the penalties. “Russian forces entering into Donbas would not be a new move.”

Western officials have long warned that Moscow will hunt for an excuse to invade, and on Monday, Putin looked to have found one when he acknowledged the independence of the rebel areas of Donetsk and Luhansk. The Kremlin subsequently upped the stakes even higher by declaring that recognition applies to vast portions of the two provinces presently occupied by Ukrainian forces, including Mariupol, the key Azov Sea port. However, he noted that the rebels should finally talk to Ukraine.

The outpouring of condemnation from all corners of the globe was swift. Even while some urged for swifter and even more punitive penalties against Russia, legislators from both parties in Congress pledged sustained US support for Ukraine in Washington. Senators considered a sanctions package but decided against it while the White House continued its plan.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine said he would consider cutting diplomatic ties with Russia, and Kyiv recalled its envoy to Moscow.

If Putin goes farther into Ukraine, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has stated that the West will follow suit. “If Russia decides to use force against Ukraine again, there will be even harsher sanctions and a larger price to pay,” he said.

The United Kingdom will impose sanctions on five Russian institutions and three rich people, according to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He cautioned that launching a full-scale attack would result in “much more harsh penalties.”

Zelenskyy said he was mobilizing part of the country’s military reservists, but that a full military mobilization was unnecessary.

In a speech to the country, Zelenskyy stated that his directive only applied to soldiers assigned to the so-called operational reserve, which is generally activated during ongoing battles, and that it covered “a unique period of time,” without elaborating.

“A complete mobilization is not required today.” “We need to swiftly increase the number of personnel in the Ukrainian army and other military units,” he stated. Ukraine may call up up to 2.5 million personnel, according to Oleksii Danilov, the president of the National Security and Defense Council.