Ukraine Crisis: Efforts to Save Peace in Europe

Accompanied by great concerns about security in Europe, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) will meet US President Joe Biden in Washington on Monday. At the same time, the French head of state is trying to reduce tensions with Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. Several foreign ministers are also busy

In Ukraine – a former Soviet republic – there are great fears of a Russian invasion. Moscow denies such plans. There will be a series of talks over the next few days. The meeting between Scholz and Biden is expected to send another signal that the West is in agreement. Putin and Macron had already had crisis talks on the phone three times in the past few days.

German Foreign Minister in Kiev

Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) is also expected in Kiev on Monday. Ukraine hopes for arms deliveries from Germany. Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg (ÖVP) will also visit the disputed region in the east of the country and the capital Kiev on Monday and Tuesday as part of a trip to Ukraine with his counterparts from Slovakia (Ivan Korcok) and the Czech Republic (Jan Lipavsky), where talks with the President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba are planned.

Before that, however, Russia had once again reinforced its troops in the vicinity of Ukraine, and the first additional US soldiers for Europe took up positions. Russia, which is demanding a new security architecture for Europe from the US and NATO, continued to move troops to neighboring Belarus – to the Brest region near the borders with Poland and Ukraine. A large military maneuver begins there on Thursday. Sukhoi Su-25SM fighter jets were also deployed. In addition, two Tu-22M3 fighter-bombers rose to patrol flights. The military stressed that the exercises pose no threat to anyone and are in accordance with international law.

Russia does not want any further expansion of NATO

From Moscow’s point of view, the deployment near Ukraine is seen as a threat to obtain security concessions from the West. As a reaction, the first of 2,000 additional US soldiers that had been announced landed in Germany and Poland at the weekend. According to the US Army, 300 soldiers were sent to Wiesbaden. In turn, 1,000 US soldiers are to be transferred from Germany to Romania. The declared goal is to strengthen NATO’s eastern flank.

At his meeting with Macron, Putin is likely to make it clear once again that Russia will not accept a further expansion of NATO without resistance – in particular, Ukraine’s admission to the western military alliance. Russia’s demands for Western guarantees for its own security have meanwhile triggered a broad debate in Europe.

In the newspaper “Journal du Dimanche”, Macron stated that the aim of his visit was “to develop answers to the emergency and to move towards a new order that Europe urgently needs and which is based on the fundamental principle of equality and sovereignty of the states”. It is “legitimate” for Russia to raise the question of its own security. After the appointment in the Kremlin, Macron wants to travel to Ukraine on Tuesday and then to Berlin.

Scholz first in Kiev, then in Moscow

Scholz, on the other hand, is expected in Kiev next week after returning from the USA and then in the Kremlin. The chancellor has been accused by Eastern European NATO partners – but also by the USA – of not putting enough pressure on Russia. In Ukraine and among eastern NATO partners, he is resented for Berlin’s refusal to deliver arms to Ukraine. The US Department of Defense said Russia was being shown a path away from the crisis towards more security. “There is still time and room for diplomacy,” Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin tweeted.

In the Ukraine, the military is now also practicing house-to-house combat in the radioactively contaminated zone around the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant. As one of the scenarios, an invasion from northern Belarus through the radioactive area around the nuclear power plant that was damaged in 1986 is repeatedly mentioned. The Ukrainian capital of Kiev is just under 70 kilometers from the exclusion zone and just over 80 kilometers from the Belarusian border.

According to a media report, representatives of the US government assume that there will be high casualties in the event of an invasion. Between 25,000 and 50,000 people could die among the Ukrainian civilian population alone, the New York Times reported, citing unnamed US government officials. Russian politicians, on the other hand, accused the West of holding a competition in the production of endless loops of fake news. A US media report that an invasion had already begun caused outrage in Moscow. The US medium apologized and spoke of an accident.

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