Russia Awaits Biden Administration’s Next Play

by H. Haverstock, The Chicago Times

December 10, 2021

MOSCOW — Russia maintained a barrage of hostile rhetoric against Ukraine on Thursday, comparing the crisis there to the most dangerous period of the Cold War, as it awaits the Biden administration’s next move via NATO.

The Russian Foreign Ministry accused Ukraine of deploying heavy artillery to the front lines of fighting with pro-Russian separatists in the former Soviet republic’s east while failing to engage in a peace process.

The events in the Donbass, or conflict zone in eastern Ukraine, now “resemble genocide,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday, according to the TASS state news agency.

The FSB, Russian intelligence service, said earlier on Thursday that a Ukrainian warship was heading towards the Kerch Strait, which separates Russia and its annexed peninsula of Crimea, and did not respond to a Russian request to change its course.

According to Ukraine’s defense minister, the ship was a search-and-rescue vessel with no weapons on board.

“Negotiations on a peaceful settlement have practically come to a halt,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told reporters, referring to the seven-year conflict in the eastern Donbass region between Ukrainian and separatist forces.

According to the ministry’s Twitter feed, quoting Zakharova, “Kiev’s building up its contingent on the line of contact in Donbass with the support of NATO countries pumping the country with weapons.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov agreed with a reporter who suggested that East-West tensions over Ukraine could rekindle the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, in which the US and the Soviet Union were on the verge of nuclear war.

The remarks came two days after Biden and Putin held a video call to try to defuse the Ukraine crisis.  They suggested that Moscow wants to keep tensions high while waiting for Biden’s next move, which has stated that he intends to hold follow-up talks with Russia and NATO countries.

Ukraine, which wants to join NATO, says it is worried about an invasion by tens of thousands of Russian troops stationed near its border.  Moscow claims that its stance is solely defensive.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stated that Kiev expects to be supported by Western military allies even if the US does not send troops.

On Thursday, Ukraine’s military accused Russian-backed separatists in the country’s east of six new violations of a stalled 2020 ceasefire, three of which involved weapons prohibited under previous peace treaties that Moscow and Kiev say they are attempting to resurrect.

Biden said on Wednesday that he hoped to announce high-level meetings with Russia and major NATO allies by Friday to discuss Moscow’s concerns and the possibility of “lowering the temperature along the eastern front.”

According to Russia’s Ryabkov, this was a “unilateral” statement, implying that the US had not discussed it with Moscow.

When asked if Russia would object to other NATO members participating, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded, “We cannot say because there is no understanding of how all of this will be arranged.”