Ukraine Spending $640 Million to Build Fence Along Russian, Belarusian Borders
In response to the recent migrant buildup in Belarus, Ukraine will build a fence along its borders with Belarus and Russia to keep migrants out.Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs Denys Monastyrskiy said funds for the fence should be gathered next year, with the project's cost being an estimated 17 billion hryvnas, or $640 million.
When Russia wanted the US to sit up and take notice last April it sent tanks towards the Ukrainian border. The show of force worked: President Joe Biden called Russia's Vladimir Putin and in June the two men met in Geneva.
But whatever they agreed about Ukraine at their summit, something has since gone awry.
In recent weeks, Russian tanks have been moving west towards Ukraine once again, prompting fresh, even starker warnings from US intelligence circles that a cross-border offensive could be on the cards. © Maxar via Reuters This build-up of Russian forces was spotted some 300km (185 miles) from Ukraine
Moscow insists that's "anti-Russian" hysteria, and most analysts agree there's no rationale for Russia openly entering - and massively escalating - the conflict in Ukraine, where it backs separatist forces but always denies a direct role.
The world is worried Putin is about to invade Ukraine. Here's why
Russian President Vladimir Putin's next move is being watched closely by experts.Tens of thousands of Russian troops have reportedly gathered at the border with Ukraine, and experts fear Russia could be about to stage a repeat of its 2014 invasion and annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, which prompted global outrage and sanctions on Moscow.
'Red rag to a bull'
Instead, they see the Kremlin sending a message that it's ready to defend its "red lines" on Ukraine: above all, that it must not join Nato.
"I think for Putin it's really important. He thinks the West has begun giving Ukraine's elite hope about joining Nato," political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya at R.Politik told the BBC.
"The training, the weapons and so on are like a red rag to a bull for Putin and he thinks if he doesn't act today, then tomorrow there will be Nato bases in Ukraine. He needs to put a stop to that."
Ukraine's desire to join the security bloc is nothing new, nor is Russia's insistence on vetoing that ambition in what it sees as its own "back yard".
But Moscow has been rattled recently by the Ukrainian military using Turkish drones against Russian-backed forces in eastern Ukraine; the flight near Crimea of two nuclear-capable US bombers was an extra irritant.
Putin barks, Biden blinks
Contradicting his pre-inauguration pledges, President Joe Biden has established a Russia policy centered on appeasement. © Provided by Washington Examiner The facts are clear. Biden excuses Russian state-colluded ransomware attacks on U.S. critical infrastructure. He enables Russian energy blackmail against Central and Eastern Europe. He responds to Russia's jeopardizing of near-Earth space operations with inane State Department condemnations. He prevaricates on providing Ukraine with more weaponry in the face of Russia's massive military buildup. Vladimir Putin is taking advantage.
© Reuters Russia has been angered by Ukraine's use of Bayraktar drones
There's also concern that the so-called Minsk agreements, a framework for ending Ukraine's seven-year-old conflict that's too contentious to actually implement, could be jettisoned for something more favourable to Kyiv.
'Signal Putin wants to send'
In April, Russia found that demonstrative military deployment worked well so it's repeating the trick.
"Our recent warnings have indeed been heard and the effect is noticeable: tensions have risen," President Putin told Russian diplomats last week. He argued that tension needed sustaining to force the West to reckon with Russia, not ignore it.
"If the military movements [close to Ukraine] are explicit, then this is not about direct military action - it's about a signal Putin wants to send," Andrei Kortunov, head of the RIAC think-tank in Moscow, told the BBC.
EXPLAINER: Is Russia going to invade Ukraine?
MOSCOW (AP) — Ukrainian and Western officials are worried that a Russian military buildup near Ukraine could signal plans by Moscow to invade its ex-Soviet neighbor. The Kremlin insists it has no such intention and has accused Ukraine and its Western backers of making the claims to cover up their own allegedly aggressive designs. It’s unclear whether the Russian troop concentration heralds an imminent attack or represents an attempt by Russian President Vladimir Putin to persuade the U.S. and its NATO allies to refrain from sending soldiers and weapons to Ukraine, and drop plans for its eventual integration into NATO.
The signal to Ukraine is not to try anything rash, he believes, like seizing back control of the Donbas. © BBC
For the West, Mr Kortunov says Russia's message is to stop its "infiltration" of Ukraine with Nato infrastructure, including new kinds of weapons.
"That's definitely a matter of concern for Moscow," he argues.
This week, Russia's external intelligence agency, the SVR, evoked the 2008 Georgia war, in a statement on Ukraine.
It recalled the "high price" paid by then Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who sparked all-out conflict with Russia by attempting to regain control of the separatist region of South Ossetia, which is backed by Moscow. © Getty Images Russian troops invaded Georgia in 2008 when it tried to recapture a breakaway region
"The Georgian scenario is on the table and could be used in Ukraine," Tatiana Stanovaya argues. "That doesn't mean Russia is preparing it; that there's no way back. I think it's just an option for now, not a decision," she says.
'We're not invading'
Ukraine itself at first dismissed US talk of an unusual troop build-up, though it has since joined the chorus of concern.
What is happening at Ukraine's border? Putin's buildup of Russian troops sparks concern
A previous build-up of Russian forces on the border preceded Moscow's annexation of Crimea. President Vladimir Putin is threatening Ukraine again.Ukraine has been on edge in recent weeks amid a fresh build-up of Russian troops on the nation's eastern border, near where Moscow and Kyiv have been enmeshed in a simmering conflict for the last seven years that's killed more than 14,000 people.
According to its head of military intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, around 90,000 Russian troops are now deployed in the vicinity of Ukraine - fewer than during similar tensions last spring.
He believes they could launch an attack from several directions early next year.
On Friday, Ukraine's president made clear his country had no plans for an incursion into the Donbas. © Provided by BBC News
Others are sceptical.
"Russia would definitely like to send the signal that if forced to fight, it will fight," Mr Kortunov reasons. "But I don't see what can be accomplished by a direct military offensive against Ukraine."
"No matter how it goes, the collateral damage will be much more significant than any possible gain."
So it's possible Mr Putin is hedging his bets.
"My suspicion is that this is contingency planning," was security expert Mark Galeotti's conclusion in his podcast In Moscow's Shadow.
He suggests the Kremlin is "creating all sorts of opportunities", and no firm decision has been taken.
But he too doubts that Moscow wants open conflict, bringing more sanctions and a total rupture in relations with the West.
"A vicious war in Ukraine could shatter the unity and legitimacy of the Russian regime," warns Mark Galeotti. "The good news is that I suspect the regime… understands that."
Russia's Military Buildup Next to Ukraine May Force Joe Biden's Hand
NATO has asked Russia to "reduce tensions and de-escalate" as Kyiv increases its calls to join the U.S-led alliance to counter the threat from Moscow.With Russian tanks moving west towards Ukraine months after a similar buildup caused outrage, NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned Moscow on Friday of the risk of "miscalculation.
On balance, he believes the Kremlin will find reasons not to escalate the situation.
Tanks for talks
There are also signs that, once again, what Moscow really wants to achieve with its tanks are more talks with the US: another summit of the two presidents.
It's a risky way of conducting diplomacy, but for Mr Putin the stakes are high. © Reuters The two leaders met in Geneva in June
"At a meeting between Putin and Biden, neither will give clear commitments but there may be some tacit understanding on how far the US is ready to go in increasing its military support to Ukraine," Mr Kortunov argues. "That's not impossible."
Russian sources say such talks could happen in the coming weeks, perhaps remotely at first. The White House hasn't yet confirmed that.
"Whilst Putin has a flicker of hope that he can do a deal with Biden, he won't take any rash steps. But if he thinks it's all doomed, he could do the worst things we can imagine," Tatiana Stanovaya warns.
As long as the Russian leader has that hope, then she believes "things won't be so awful".
Sarah Rainsford was expelled as BBC Moscow correspondent at the end of August after being designated a security threat.
Biden and Putin to hold call amid Ukraine tensions .
The US and Russian leaders will discuss Ukraine amid mounting concerns about a possible Russian invasion.It comes after Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US had evidence that Russia had made plans for a "large scale" attack on Ukraine.