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Only Russian Military Warnings Get Attention in Ukraine

Nov. 22, 2021 (EIRNS)—Carnegie Moscow Center head Dmitri Trenin begins his article on U.S.-Russia relations with on twist on a popular Russian joke, “Those who do not want to listen to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will have to deal with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.” Trenin is deadly serious.

After President Vladimir Putin’s speech at the Valdai Club meeting on Oct. 21, Putin followed it on Nov. 13 with a wide-ranging interview on Russian TV, where he discussed Ukraine, Belarus, NATO and the United States, Trenin reports. Putin appeared Nov. 18 at an expanded gathering of Russian Foreign Ministry senior officials, and also held more private, confidential discussions. But in President Putin’s public remarks, Trenin identifies that he reportedly made several important new points. The most interesting and intriguing concerned Russia’s adversaries: The United States; its NATO allies, and clients such as Ukraine. Trenin reports that Putin said: “Our recent warnings have had a certain effect: Tensions have arisen there, anyway.... It is important for them to remain in this state for as long as possible, so that it does not occur to them to stage some kind of conflict ... we do not need a new conflict.”

Putin did not mean diplomatic warnings, Trenin writes. Diplomacy is de facto paralyzed in Russia’s relations with Ukraine, NATO, the European Union’s leading powers, such as Germany and France, and with the United States, as far as Ukraine is concerned. Trenin adds, “The Kremlin has at this point completely written off Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a negotiating partner.”

Exasperated with the Europeans’ de facto siding with Kyiv against Moscow on the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, the Foreign Ministry published diplomatic correspondence between its head, Sergey Lavrov, and his counterparts in Paris and Berlin; according to Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, recent exchanges on Ukraine with visiting U.S. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland produced zero results and zero understanding in Washington of Moscow’s arguments. The Kremlin also responded to NATO’s expulsion of Russian officers attached to Moscow’s mission to Brussels by severing all ties with NATO.

In early 2021, the Russian Defense Ministry held a massive exercise along the entire length of its border with Ukraine. Russian movements were visible, and clearly conveyed it might not be a drill. Dmitry Kozak, Kremlin point man on Donbas and Kyiv relations repeated Putin’s earlier warning that a Ukrainian attempt to retake the breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk regions—as then-Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s failed adventure in South Ossetia in 2008—would mean the end of the present Ukrainian state. U.S. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, engaged in direct consultations with Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff. Finally President Biden invited Putin to a meeting in Geneva, which agreed to resumption of U.S.-Russian strategic stability talks.

Yet, no de-escalation occurred with regard to Ukraine, the Black Sea region, and Eastern Europe. Trenin observes that Russia has recently stopped exporting coal to Ukraine, extended economic preferences to the Donbas region, and allowed “half a million of its newly acquired citizens in Donbas to vote in the September elections to the State Duma.”

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