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What is behind the growing tensions in Ukraine?

20 17 29

Over the past few weeks, Russia has been amassing troops at the Ukrainian border, triggering alarm in Kyiv and European Union capitals. Kremlin-controlled TV channels have been busy preparing the public in Russia for a fresh outbreak of war. Alarmingly jingoistic statements are being made on various talk shows, with hosts and guests suggesting the possibility of Russia seizing new chunks of Ukrainian territory or even advancing as far as Kyiv.

Western observers have been speculating that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to test US President Joe Biden’s resolve or that he wants to distract public attention in Russia from the plight of the first poisoned, then imprisoned opposition leader Aleksey Navalny. It is also not inconceivable that he might be entertaining the idea of replicating the “Crimea effect” by waging “a small victorious war” on the eve of parliamentary elections in September. In 2014, the annexation of Crimea resulted in a huge surge in his personal popularity.

But given Putin’s propensity to stealthy and surprising moves, the current deployment of troops is way too demonstrative to be a preparation of imminent invasion. Their enhanced visibility has made some observers conclude that they are meant as intimidation rather than outright aggression.

From the Russian perspective, however, the Kremlin is being reactive, not proactive, in the face of a newly emerging threat. The amassing of troops is the Kremlin’s heavy-handed response to what it interprets as a coordinated attempt by Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to upset the fragile equilibrium which underpinned a relative calm on the front line in eastern Ukraine.

A landmark event, which preceded this escalation, was the war in Nagorno-Karabakh last fall, in which Russia’s military ally, Armenia, was soundly defeated by Azerbaijan with the assistance of Turkey,........

© Al Jazeera

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