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Ukraine's Dilemma: How US & NATO Are Beating the Drums For a War They Are Unwilling to Fight In

© AP Photo / Andriy DubchakUkrainian soldiers walks at the line of separation near Katerinivka, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Tuesday, Dec 7, 2021.
Ukrainian soldiers walks at the line of separation near Katerinivka, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Tuesday, Dec 7, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.01.2022
Despite fanning inflammatory rhetoric about an "imminent Russian invasion", neither the US nor NATO are ready to fight Moscow, thus leaving Kiev to reap the whirlwind of potential dangerous miscalculations all alone, according to international observers.
"It looks like the US is not ready to start a real conflict [and] to use lethal force in a confrontation with Russia", says Dr Marco Marsili, associate fellow at the Centre for Strategic Research and Analysis and former public official and election observer for the OSCE/ODIHR.
Washington's decision to send 8,500 troops to Ukraine is nothing but a political move, Marsili says, adding that this military force is by no means enough to withstand a hypothetical invasion.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the press on Friday that Western countries are fanning hysteria over Moscow's alleged plans to "invade" Ukraine by evacuating their embassies and delivering lethal weapons to Kiev. He reiterated that Moscow "does not want war". "If it's up to Russia, there will be no war", the foreign minister said.
Later in the day, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin stated that "conflict is not inevitable" and that the US Department of Defence "will continue to support… diplomatic efforts".
US Secretary of State for Defence Lloyd Austin addresses media representatives on the second day of a NATO Defence Ministers meeting in Brussels on October 22, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.01.2022
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For his part, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told a Washington-based think tank's virtual forum on 28 January that the alliance is "not planning to deploy NATO combat troops to Ukraine". Stoltenberg stated that "there is no certainty about the Russian plans" with regard to its Eastern European neighbour. The NATO chief also admitted that there are "disagreements" among the bloc's allies about "what kind of support" should be provided to Ukraine, as some allies oppose delivering lethal military equipment to Kiev.

"The [Western] camp is more fragmented than the West implies", notes Dr Zeno Leoni, a teaching fellow in "Challenges to the International Order" at the Defence Studies Department of King’s College London. "I doubt Russia will enter into a diplomatic crisis with every single member of the West, because the West itself is not on the same page when it comes to Russia".

Meanwhile, Kiev is warning the West against aggravating the situation and complaining that the talk of "imminent war" is harmful for the Ukrainian economy.
A Ukrainian official cited by CNN revealed that a Thursday phone talk between Presidents Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelensky "did not go well". While the US president insisted that a Russian "invasion" of Ukraine was now virtually certain, his Ukrainian counterpart maintains that it is not clear that an attack will take place.
At the same time, Kiev understands that the US will not protect Ukraine militarily if the US-fanned hysteria translates into a real conflict, according to Marco Marsili.

"Nobody is talking about a military move, but both the US and the European Union are talking about the diplomatic and economic retaliations", says Marsili. "That is why Zelensky was so annoyed by President Biden's declaration. Because in some way, Biden said the US is not available to defend Ukrainian integrity and Ukrainian sovereignty".

US and Ukrainian soldiers attend an opening ceremony of the joint Ukrainian-US military exercise 'Fearless Guardian' at the Yavoriv training ground - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.01.2022
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Growing Tensions May Trigger Military Confrontation

Simmering tensions between the US-NATO bloc and Russia over Ukraine are indeed fraught with risks, warns Hall Gardner, professor of international politics at the American University of Paris.
According to him, the US, NATO, and Russia have entered what one could call an "insecurity-security dialectic" in which "the display of military actions of one side produces a military counter-reaction in the other". Gardner insists that "such a spiralling of tensions needs to be calmed as soon as possible by diplomacy before it generates direct conflict".

"The more NATO approaches the Russian borders, the more Russia feels constrained and encircled and therefore endangered. Russia has the right to feel that way and to reply 'we do not like it'", says Paolo Raffone, a strategic analyst and director of the CIPI Foundation in Brussels.

National flag of Ukraine and the NATO flag - Sputnik International, 1920, 18.01.2022
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Meanwhile, nothing prevents the US and NATO from soothing Russia's concerns and making Ukraine a permanently neutral and non-aligned state, according Gardner. Furthermore, a number of European and American observers earlier noted that it is highly improbable that all 30 members of NATO would unanimously vote for Ukraine's membership, given that Germany and France have repeatedly opposed such a scenario.

"What is keeping the US from backing a neutral, decentralised and non-nuclear Ukraine is really hubris", says Gardner. "The US and NATO could approach Ukraine much as the US, Soviet Union, France and the UK did in making Austria a formally neutral country in 1955".

For its part, the Ukrainian government may also show political will and partly defuse simmering tensions by granting autonomy to the Donbass region under the Minsk agreements, according to Marco Marsili. What’s more, Kiev could solve this issue without Washington or the EU's involvement, he adds.
"I think that it's a slow process because they have to deliver a proposal into the parliament, the parliament has to work and to accept a proposal for a change in the Constitution, because it passes through the changes of the Ukrainian Constitution", says Marsili. "It's not so easy. It's a political issue that is an internal issue of Ukraine. So firstly, before being an international affair it's an internal issue".
The researcher has also drawn attention to the fact that Russia remains open to Kiev's implementation of the Minsk agreements in good faith.

"Russia could have invaded Donbass under the acquisition of protecting the Russian nationals that live there. But it didn't happen", Marsili stresses. "So there is a real will from the Russian government to maintain the integrity of Ukraine".

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