Protagonists of the crisis between NATO and Russia, forces from Moscow, Kiev and Washington are conducting military exercises near the disputed Donbass region in eastern Ukraine.
The flexing of the warrior muscles comes at a time of growing tension in the region, which prompted US President Joe Biden to request a summit meeting with Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Tuesday (13).
True to his style, the Russian president snubbed this Wednesday. “It is too early to speak about this meeting in tangible terms. It is a new proposal which will be studied”, declared the spokesman of the Kremlin, Dmitry Peskov.
Meanwhile, Putin himself spoke with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö to discuss the meeting in the country, which is not part of the Western military alliance. The report was presented by Niisto himself at a press conference.
The last summit between Putin and an American president took place exactly in Helsinki, just after the 2018 World Cup final in Russia.
The Russian will try to capitalize as much as possible on his decision to concentrate 83,000 troops in Crimea and in the regions close to the Ukrainian border in recent weeks.
The move, which the Defense Ministry says is to carry out exercises over the next two weeks, raised alarms in Kiev and the West.
They have been a response to Ukrainian military movements near areas occupied by pro-Russian rebels since 2014, when Putin annexed Crimea and instigated civil war in the neighboring country after the overthrow of the friendly Kremlin government in Kiev.
As the diplomatic movement begins, after two weeks of accusations and mutual threats, all parties are moving.
Russia began on Wednesday the live fire training phase of its naval forces in the Black Sea, which bathes the entire disputed area. Its local fleet is located in Sevastopol, the main city of Crimea, on a base already leased to the Ukrainians before annexation.
The exercise aims to intimidate the two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, armed with cruise missiles, which are expected to enter the Black Sea between Wednesday and Thursday, coming from the Mediterranean through the Turkish Strait.
Under the rules of the Montreaux Convention of 1936, countries that are not bathed in the sea must notify the dispatch of warships to the Turks and can only stay for a limited time in the region, approximately 20 days in the case of two destroyers.
The Russian government has warned that it must stay away from Ukraine and Crimea, and the military exercises are an objective message in this regard. Moscow also accuses NATO of moving 40,000 troops to areas close to Russia, which the organization has denied.
Ukraine conducted two exercises on Wednesday. In one, he simulated a counterattack against an invasion of Russian tanks through the Crimean Peninsula. In the other, he set up a major counterterrorism operation in the Kharkiv region.
This action attracts attention because it is adjacent to the northern borders of the two self-proclaimed rebel republics of the Donbass region. Controlling road movement and controlling personnel is always seen as a harbinger of greater action.
But that seems out of context, despite internal pressure on unpopular President Volodimir Zelenski to try to win back at least a few points in Donbass while asking for NATO help.
In this sense, Putin’s tactic of baring his teeth may prove to be valid, avoiding a confrontation over the risk of escalating war with NATO, and at the same time forcing his main intention, which is to implement the 2015 agreements that keep the republics in Ukraine. , but autonomously.
This arrangement took place in Georgia after a brief war in 2008 and kept the Caucasian country out of NATO membership. For Russia, it is inconceivable that Ukraine will join the Western military structure, as the country has historically provided strategic depth in the face of invading European forces.