President Joe Biden participates in a welcome ceremony with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi at Chigi Palace in Rome, Friday, October 29, 2021. Photo credit: Official White House Photo by Erin Scott

‘Diplomacy, deterrence, and defense efforts’ center U.S. discussion with European allies as Ukraine-Russia dispute intensifies

The pieces on the chessboard of world affairs have moved quickly regarding Russia’s threat to invade Ukraine. 

President Biden has been in ongoing talks with European leaders who have “shared concerns over Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s borders,” Secretary Jen Psaki informed at a press conference on Monday.

There is said to be an overarching “desire for a diplomatic resolution,” in a previous statement, Yet, Sec’y Psaki affirmed that “President Biden has been clear with the Russian President: If any Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border, that’s a renewed invasion, and it will be met with a swift, severe, and united response from the United States and our Allies.” 

For several months, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has deployed 100,000 troops along the Ukraine-Russia border and neighboring Belarus. An aggressive strategy suggesting Russia’s positioning to invade the sovereign nation, the military encroachment threatens Ukraine’s ability to function independently in political affairs such as becoming a member of the European Union and NATO. “Putin views Ukraine as part of Russia’s “sphere of influence” – a territory, rather than an independent state,” explained Tatsiana Kulakevich, Assistant Professor of instruction at the School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies.

It took Ukraine over 70 years to gain its independence. In 1918, Ukraine withdrew from the federation of Russia, but could not maintain nationhood against the latter’s military aggression. By 1922, Ukraine found itself under the protectorate of the newly formed Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.). However, Ukraine won back its sovereignty in 1991 when the U.S.S.R. fell, which now hangs in the balance.

To ratchet up tensions, Russia’s alleged cyberattacks and interference with the U.S. 2020 elections added fuel to the fire. Specifically, the U.S. has placed 8,500 troops on alert to be deployed to the territory of an Eastern European ally in response to the largest country in the world’s attempts to assert control over Ukraine.

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Just a day before, the State Department directed family members of American personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine to leave in fear that the region was “unpredictable and can deteriorate with little notice.” Shortly after, the U.K. followed suit by extracting staff and families from the region.

Yet, Russia says that it has no plans to invade or remove Ukraine’s current president. “The disinformation spread by the British Foreign Office is more evidence that it is the NATO countries, led by the Anglo-Saxons, who are escalating tensions around Ukraine,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on the Telegram messaging app captured by AP News. They claim that the British Foreign Office needs to “stop spreading nonsense.”

President Biden amongst others are not convinced. “President Biden also knows from long experience that the Russians have an extensive playbook of aggression short of military action, including cyber attacks and paramilitary tactics,” commented Sec’y Psaki.

Even citizens have stepped in to thwart efforts. AP News reported a Belarusian hacktivist group named Belarusian Cyber Partisans announced that they already started to disrupt transportation services in the country.

“Mostly commercial (freight) trains are affected,” Yuliana Shemetovets, New York-based spokeswoman for the Cyber Partisans, explained of the sabotage effort. “We hope it will indirectly affect Russian troops as well but we can’t know for sure. … At this point it’s too early to say.”

Meanwhile, officials from Moscow and Kiev announced that they will be meeting with France’s President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday to talk about a “path to de-escalation.”

. . . .

Ukraine is such a sore spot for President Biden for personal reasons. Hunter Biden, the son of POTUS, once served on the board of Ukrainian company, Burisma Holdings. The latter Biden, who also deals with addiction issues, was questioned about his work in the country during the previous Trump Administration. After a congressional inquiry by the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee, he was cleared. 

Yet and still, Trump attempted to get more information about theBidens as he geared up for 2020 elections. A memo releasing some of the phone transcripts, shows Trump asking Ukraine’s newly elected head-of-state, Volodymyr Zelensky, for assistance in several things: to provide intelligence on the CrowdStrike company, a US cybersecurity organization whose findings concluded that Russian intelligence hacked into the Democratic National Elections in the 2016 run; investigate former US vice-president turned presidential hopeful, Joe Biden; and re-open an investigation of Biden’s son, Hunter.

Trump’s strong-arm tactics resulted in an impeachment trial. On September 17, 2019, the Inspector General of the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, alerted members of Congress that the Trump Administration forbade him to report a whistleblower who filed a complaint against Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president.

Circling back to the Ukraine-Russia tension, Trump’s chummy relationship with President Putin adds fuel to the fire for Biden to score a huge win by uniting NATO and forcing Russia to step down. If not, the U.S indicated it would place embargoes on them. But, with Russia controlling about 40 percent of gas supply to all of Europe, and in the midst of a winter energy crisis, those sanctions might just be a political paper cut.

Kaia Shivers covers news, features and the diaspora.

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