Rarely has a military attack been so predictable: since November, satellites have shown in great detail the tens of thousands of Russian soldiers who have, little by little, amassed on the borders of Ukraine. Vladimir Putin has never hidden his intentions towards the Ukrainian government, guilty according to him of a “genocide” in the Donbass, however non-existent. But, while the Kremlin has just recognized the independence of two Ukrainian regions held by pro-Russian separatists and is sending its army to Ukrainian territory, the West seems speechless.
The hope of avoiding, again and again, “escalation”
Admittedly, the condemnation is unanimous and Western unity holds firm. Washington will announce its sanctions on Tuesday and the Europeans are meeting urgently in Brussels to confirm theirs, which will however be “targeted at those involved in this illegal act”… “We are making sure to remain in a position of credible and robust deterrence with regard to Russia, in order to prevent as much as possible an escalation or new Russian initiatives which would directly or indirectly violate the sovereignty of Ukraine”, explains an adviser to Emmanuel Macron. In short, the West is holding its punches waiting for Putin’s next move.
In Washington, as in Brussels and Paris, people continue to fear “escalation” in Ukraine, while Russia is now de facto occupying Ukrainian territories. In a mind-blowing one-hour speech on Monday evening, the Russian president questioned the very existence of Ukraine and called the independence of the Baltic countries or Poland a “historic” error. At no time does he hide his intentions and his ambition to take back the historic territory of the Soviet Union. “We are in a serious crisis situation and still on a peak path because, beyond what Putin has already announced, very serious things can still happen,” sighs a French diplomat.
The Kremlin’s decisions show that previous Western efforts, both at diplomacy and at threats of sanctions, will have been in vain. From the start of the crisis, the United States announced that they would not send any soldiers to Ukraine and they are the first to have evacuated all their diplomatic personnel to Poland. This desertion leaves the field open to Russian troops, and Putin has had years to prepare for economic sanctions. “Faced with the Russians, Ukraine will unfortunately be on its own,” underlines Jean-Dominique Giuliani, president of the Robert Schuman Foundation and author of European without complex (Edited by Marie B., January 2022). But this is not the case with the countries of the European Union: if Russia touches an EU member, it is war with all the European countries and it is not certain that Putin has it. well understood.”
In the meantime, the master of the Kremlin keeps, as usual, his hand on the sequence of events. And the West, as usual, condemns itself to waiting for its next move.