Edinburgh is twinned with Ukraine's capital Kiev. Is Russia about to invade? – Steve Cardownie

Back in 1989, Edinburgh twinned with the city of Kiev, then in the former Soviet Union but now in the independent country of Ukraine.

Wednesday, 8th December 2021, 4:55 am
Ukrainian armed forces take part in military exercises with Nato countries nor far from Lviv as tensions with Russia remain high (Picture: Yuriy Dyachyshyn/AFP via Getty Images)

Now, as Russian troops mass on the border with Ukraine, the fear is growing is that these military manoeuvres are a forerunner of a full-scale invasion.

Such is the concern that earlier this week the US President, Joe Biden, spoke with the leaders of the UK, France, Germany and Italy who agreed to “use all the tools at their disposal” to prevent aggression.

Moscow has, in turn, accused Western nations of provocation, saying that it has no plans to invade Ukraine. But, according to the White House, western leaders “shared their concern about the Russian military build-up” and have also formed a joint strategy “to impose significant and severe harm on the Russian economy” if matters escalate to an invasion.

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Against this backdrop, there is a significant school of thought that although Russian tanks have been moving towards Ukraine, there is no rationale for Russia to raise the stakes by escalating the current conflict in the Donbass region, where it supports separatist forces, while denying that it is directly involved.

Although Ukraine’s chief of military intelligence Kyrylo Budanov has stated that around 90,000 Russian troops are now deployed near the border and that an attack could be launched early next year, some analysts believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin is sending a signal to the US that he will not tolerate the establishment of Nato bases in what he regards as Russia’s backyard, Ukraine.

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Some experts contend that Russia was angered by the use of Turkish “Bayraktar” drones by the Ukrainian military in the current conflict on its eastern border.

Ukraine’s wish to join Nato is well known – as is Russia’s insistence that it will not tolerate such a move – so the military build-up may be no more than Putin sending a signal to the West that it had better halt its “infiltration” of Ukraine with Nato infrastructure, including the supply of new kinds of weapons.

There is doubt that Russia would want to provoke the West into introducing more punitive sanctions by initiating an all-out war with Ukraine. What is more likely, some analysts argue, is that what Putin really desires is another summit meeting with Joe Biden.

Any subsequent discussion that might develop about Nato’s and Russia’s intentions towards Ukraine might lead to a greater understanding of the positions of both parties which, hopefully, might lead to a significant de-escalation.

As is usually the case in such matters, there is a great deal of speculation as to what the next move might be – but second-guessing Putin is not an easy task.

It is little wonder then that recent events have brought about an atmosphere of increased nervous tension in the corridors of power in Kiev.

Presidents Biden and Putin spoke by telephone yesterday – it is to be hoped that a diplomatic solution to the current crisis was found on the call.

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