Increased Eastern Tension: Russian Troop Build-Up and NATO Demands

Increased Eastern Tension: Russian Troop Build-Up and NATO Demands

By Gray Pollack '22; Satellite image by Maxar Technologies 

On December 20, 2021, Poland and Lithuania began to back Ukraine’s call for increased western sanctions against Russia’s troop build-up on Ukraine borders. Tensions between Ukraine and Russia have been volatile since Ukraine’s establishment in 1991, however increased in 2008 when Russia invaded Georgia and in 2014 when they annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. According to BBC News, US intelligence stated that Russia has accumulated around 70,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders and demands explanation. The Polish, Lithuanian, and Ukrainian presidents have met and announced support against Russian pressure and aggression calling for increased international aid to proactively resolve any conflict. On December 22, 2021 Joe Biden warned Vladimir Putin against any attacks made by Moscow stating it would be met with ‘severe consequences’. Russia thus far has denied any allegations that they are plotting to invade Ukraine, and actually adamantly demand NATO to roll back its eastward expansion.

Putin has specifically laid out certain ‘red lines’ in regards to NATO exclusion and border control, and states that the west has taken Russia’s demands too lightly hindering any chances of dialogue with Moscow. During a four hour press conference, Putin strategically expressed very little about his intentions for building up troops along Ukraine’s border, however continuously demanded that NATO withdraws from eastern territories, going back to how it was in 1997. However, since then countries such as Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania have joined the defensive military alliance becoming members of NATO. Russia insists that this is reversed, and that Ukraine and Georgia become banned from joining the organization. According to Lithuanian president Gitanas Nauseda, tensions in the east are the most dangerous they have been in years, where Russia has deployed troops in Pogonovo and Yelnya, as well as Novoozernoye in Crimea. Both US and NATO state that they are eager to start dialogue with Putin, however have opted to decline to respond to Russia’s NATO demands. NATO has stated that membership in the alliance is strictly between the country and NATO, and that it is unlike Russian demands will be met. Moscow has since accused NATO of destablishing eastern relationships, even though Ukraine is merely an ally with NATO, not yet a member. Putin exclaims that military responses may need to be enforced if NATO continues to train and arm Ukraine, where if missiles backed by NATO can reach Russia in a couple minutes, it could warrant a similar response from Russia.

This volatility between eastern states can produce massive military responses, and it seems that Putin, NATO, and the US have firm stances. Dialogue is necessary for solving this conflict peacefully, and international intervention has increasingly backed Ukraine. If Russia continues to denounce allegations of invasion while building up troops, it could become a violent international conflict. It seems that Russia will not budge in expressing its intentions nor removing its military presence without confirmation of demands from NATO, however these demands seem unlikely. Will dialogue be enough for a peaceful resolution, or will it advance the unwavering stances leading to violent conflict? Will dialogue even occur without concessions from NATO rolling back its eastward expansion? How does international dialogue surpass divergent and contending political agendas during such a militaristic and volatile time without forms of compromises made? It is important to understand the impact of dialogue within such an international conflict and how dialogue can better advance peaceful resolutions in order to perpetuate peaceful international relations.

Mcleary, Paul. “Russian Buildup near Ukraine Gains Steam, New Satellite Images Show.” POLITICO, Accessed 24 Dec. 2021.
News, A. B. C. “Poland, Lithuania Back Ukraine, Urge Russia Sanctions.” ABC News, Accessed 24 Dec. 2021.
Putin Accuses the West of Taking Russia’s ‘Red Lines’ Too Lightly. Accessed 24 Dec. 2021.
Russia Still “Escalating” Troop Buildup on Ukraine Border – U.S. – The Moscow Times. Accessed 24 Dec. 2021.
Satellite Images Reveal Russian Military Buildup Along Ukraine Border. Accessed 24 Dec. 2021.
“US and Russia Agree to Talk as Putin Hits out on Ukraine.” BBC News, 23 Dec. 2021.

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