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Putin’s red line

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On April 21, Vladimir Putin addressed the two chambers of parliament with an annual message on the state of the Russian Federation. In the final part of his speech, Putin devoted about ten minutes to the international situation and Russia’s security. Western governments are certainly following these protocols with particular attention. Moreover, since then, starting in March, large military movements have been deployed in the regions of Russia adjacent to the border with Ukraine. Only the day after the speech will it become known that the accumulation of more than one hundred thousand military personnel in these regions, many of whom are elite troops from distant places, will be canceled, and many military personnel will return to their original bases. Most likely, a lot of heavy military equipment will remain close to the border, available in the future for a possible large-scale military mission on the territory of Ukraine.

Let’s go back to Putin’s words. Against the background of the traditional expression of Russia’s desire to establish harmonious international relations based on mutual respect of sovereign states, a threat arose: “We really do not want to burn bridges. But if someone confuses our good intentions with indifference or weakness and wants to burn these bridges, he should know that Russia’s response will be asymmetrical, swift and harsh. Those behind provocations that threaten our fundamental security interests will regret what they have done in a way that they have not done for a long time. ” There are more harsh words that suggest the field of activity of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu than about the field of activity of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Making sure that no action would be taken thoughtlessly, Putin insisted: “But I hope that no one will think of crossing the ‘red line’ with Russia. We ourselves will determine in each specific case where this line will be drawn ”. Immediately, as if to ensure the quality of the steel on the spear-tip he used to scrape the ground, Putin touched on a recurring theme in the same posts in recent years: the modernization of Russian military equipment that will surpass three. a quarter of the world’s 88% in the case of strategic nuclear weapons. In the same vein, he then explained various modern warfare systems, some of which are already in operation, others are in the installation phase.

How should such statements be interpreted? Everything suggests that they will be taken seriously. Indeed, a combination of facts in the first quarter of 2021 could have prompted the Russian military-political leadership to increase its position and draw red lines, some more clear than others – what is lost in clarity is achieved through flexibility. However, one of them was carefully prepared a few weeks ago as a result of the above-mentioned military maneuvers. Indeed, the Ukrainian issue is of paramount importance to Russia, a vital security issue that may be just a few steps away from becoming a casus belli. The Russian authorities without further ado announced a possible military intervention in the neighboring territory through threats, more or less veiled by the very continuity of the Ukrainian state. Then a question arose, a question that seems to have immediately received a negative answer from the Western powers: is the protection of the territorial integrity of Ukraine a casus fœderis for the last powers?

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However, responses are temporary, changeable and dynamically obey more or less reflected actions. Much can happen within a month, as the tragedy of July 1914 demonstrated just over a century ago. Of course, you don’t have to think about one of the next few months. But not necessarily in the distant future, an unfavorable combination can accelerate events.

And the regional dynamics are far from stable. The central stage is Ukraine, the largest country in Europe after Russia itself. About a thousand kilometers separate Lviv, the capital of Galicia, a region in the west that is definitely irrevocable for Russian orbit, from Donetsk, in the Donbass, near the border with Russia and currently under the control of rebel forces. In the north, Belarus remains in limbo, which is unlikely to last long. It was through this territory, speaking Minsk towards Smolensk, that the troops of Napoleon (in 1812), Wilhelm II (1918), Pilsudski (1919-1920) And Hitler (1941) reached Moscow. How could Russia thus not know about the future of this Slavic country? Not far from Romania, Transnistria is a veritable Russian citadel, built into Moldova, which oscillates between the attractiveness of the West and the Slavic world. To the south, on the Black Sea coast, the Montreux Convention (1936) defines the movement and conscription of the navies of countries outside the river. But now, the opening of a new canal near the Bosphorus could make this convention obsolete with obvious geostrategic consequences. It should be remembered that the owner of the keys to access this closed sea is none other than Recep Erdogan, for whom masking the growing neo-Ottoman design is no longer a big problem. On the eastern shore of this sea rises the Caucasian chain, in the depths of which ancient and insurmountable hatreds boil, from which Russia cannot escape. Farther south, in tortured Syria, a half-burnt fuse separates Russian troops from American troops several kilometers away. In the east, not too distant Iran is under constant Israeli surveillance, and a possible change of regime in favor of the West will have consequences that are difficult to calculate, but certainly alarming for Russia, if allowed to “unblock” access from the south to the Caspian Sea and Central Asia. … The danger of initiating mega-massism in this vast area cannot be ruled out, given the many geostrategic tectonic plates in motion and which create increasing tensions.

But even in the northernmost regions, Russia is not spared from anxiety: from the towers of St. Petersburg, the Narva River can be guessed a hundred and a half kilometers away. On the western bank of this river is a city of the same name, the third most important in Estonia – hence NATO territory – and where the Russian population lives almost entirely by nationality and language.

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But what happened in the first months of 2021 against the alarming background for Russia, which was mentioned above, what could have compelled the Kremlin to act? The Biden administration came to power with the promise of strengthening the American stance towards Russia. There followed a free insult to Joe Biden against the President of the Russian Federation. Answering the interviewer’s question “Do you think Putin is a killer?”, Biden replies: “Mmmm, I believe.” By stating shortly before that in the same interview that he did not see the soul in Putin’s eyes, Biden turned the Russian president into a “soulless killer.” The reflection that this insult may have sparked in Putin’s mind is incomprehensible, but he probably felt that anyone who categorizes him in this way does not hesitate to see his face on a white background with two black stripes or partially erased on the cover of Time. , thus continuing the long tradition of decades in this magazine, which began with the face of Hitler in 1945 and continued into this century with the images of Saddam and Gaddafi. The persistent attempts of the Western press to reach out to Alexei Navalny as a rival of Putin, when Navalny, despite being widely known in the Russian blogosphere, does not exceed a few percent as the electorate’s choice of the head of state, suggests an impatient desire of the West to promote a political replacement in the Kremlin. Perhaps even more decisive are the recent moves by Ukrainian President Zelenskiy to sever ties with the Russian world. Mention should be made of the termination of the broadcast of Russian-language channels controlled by Viktor Medvedchuk, a friend of Putin’s, an influential oligarch and the figurehead of a pro-Russian party. As early as May of this year, Medvedchuk was accused of high treason and is currently under house arrest, which can only be seen as a personal insult to Putin: this recent Kiev initiative will almost certainly accelerate the deterioration of relations with the Kremlin. In addition, the strengthening of the conventionality of the use of the Russian language in public space could not please the Russian-speaking population – even at the height of the political struggle in 2014, radical measures in this direction were ultimately canceled by the Ukrainian authorities. And the convincing 73% of the votes received by Zelensky two years ago covered the Russian-speaking population of the south and east of Ukraine, satisfied with the candidate’s promises to expand relations with Russia. Seriously though, perhaps Zelenskiy is promoting a platform for planning Ukraine’s restoration of Crimea’s sovereignty. However, such a design will only be possible on the political or physical corpse of Putin and is likely to be associated with a world war. Finally, the nerves of steel around Putin seem to have been hit, and the consensus that the consensus that it is time to draw red lines on the western marks of the disputed Eurasian space may have arisen within the circle of power. Security Council of Russia. If so, then, as can be seen from everything, Putin’s words should be taken seriously.

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In conclusion, let’s go back to the century and get some historical perspective. There is no doubt that Russia – “an enigma shrouded in mystery within a mystery,” according to Churchill’s idiosyncratic formula, was pleased with the disorientation of analysts: from the disappointed “skating rink” launched towards the German and Austro-Hungarian empires in 1914. In 1916 he became a “giant with feet of clay”, in 1917-1918. Russia was then subordinated by the Germans to the Carthaginian Peace Treaty of the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty (March 1918) and the intervention of the Western powers in the near future. period and for several years (until 1922). In 1941, when creating Barbarossa, Hitler argued that a strong blow would destroy the improvised Soviet structure, which would be nothing more than a crude Potemkin scenario. The best Anglo-Saxon analysts agreed, predicting weeks of Soviet military resistance that fateful summer of 1941. Unfortunately, they were wrong, and four years later, when Soviet troops were hundreds of meters from their bunker, Hitler committed suicide. Then Stalin received strategic space for the Soviet Union in Central and Eastern Europe. Due to imperial fatigue and the decline of the ideological and economic system, in addition to the military and political actions of its opponents, the clay feet of the colossus again gave way in 1989-1991.
Contrary to all that might be expected, the Kremlin’s losses were not limited to the aforementioned cordon sanitaire: the dividing lines between the Soviet republics, easily drawn seven decades earlier against the backdrop of universalist ideology, left Russia outside its borders. unknown since the seventeenth century. According to historical tradition, such amputation follows the final defeat in a hot war. Surprisingly, this amputation followed the Cold War, in which Russia never exchanged shots with its Western rivals. Putin, who methodically intended to restore the colossus of the chaotic years of Yeltsin’s presidency on less fragile foundations, did not fail to admit, to the scandal of many, that he witnessed the defeat of his country “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.” “During that century, imposing political buildings collapsed: the Russian, German, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires in 1917-1918, the Third French Republic in 1940, Nazi Germany five years later. or less harsh and humiliating conditions, in some cases more just than in others.

Now, the fact that Russia remained a nuclear superpower during its nadir only reinforces the unusual situation and the perception that it lost in an ideological and economic war, besides the military one, continues to shape the country’s attitude. Thus, in accepting Putin’s words of April 21, it would be prudent to be aware of the delicate change in his tone. “A riddle shrouded in mystery inside a riddle” – remember the fate of those who did not have an answer to the riddle of the sphinx from Greek mythology.

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Vladimir Putin has delayed the invasion of Ukraine at least three times.

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Putin has repeatedly consulted with Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu about the invasion, Europa Press told Ukraine’s chief intelligence director Vadim Skibitsky.

According to Skibitsky, it was the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), which is responsible for counterintelligence and espionage work, that put pressure on Gerasimov and other military agencies to agree to launch an offensive. .

However, according to the Ukrainian intelligence services, the FSB considered that by the end of February sufficient preparations had already been made to guarantee the success of the Russian Armed Forces in a lightning invasion.

However, according to Kyiv, the Russian General Staff provided the Russian troops with supplies and ammunition for only three days, hoping that the offensive would be swift and immediately successful.

The head of Ukrainian intelligence also emphasized the cooperation of local residents, who always provided the Ukrainian authorities with up-to-date information about the Russian army, such as the number of soldiers or the exact location of troops.

The military offensive launched on February 24 by Russia in Ukraine caused at least 6.5 million internally displaced persons and more than 7.8 million refugees to European countries, which is why the UN classifies this migration crisis as the worst in Europe since World War II (1939-1945). gg.). ).

At the moment, 17.7 million Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 9.3 million are in need of food aid and housing.

The UN has presented as confirmed 6,755 civilian deaths and 10,607 wounded since the beginning of the war, stressing that these figures are much lower than the real ones.

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Life sentence for former Swedish official for spying for Russia

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A Stockholm court on Monday sentenced a former Swedish intelligence officer to life in prison for spying for Russia, and his brother to at least 12 years in prison. In what is considered one of the most serious cases in Swedish counterintelligence history, much of the trial took place behind closed doors in the name of national security.

According to the prosecution, it was Russian military intelligence, the GRU, who took advantage of the information provided by the two brothers between 2011 and their arrest at the end of 2021.

Peyman Kia, 42, has held many senior positions in the Swedish security apparatus, including the army and his country’s intelligence services (Säpo). His younger brother, Payam, 35, is accused of “participating in the planning” of the plot and of “managing contacts with Russia and the GRU, including passing on information and receiving financial rewards.”

Both men deny the charges, and their lawyers have demanded an acquittal on charges of “aggravated espionage,” according to the Swedish news agency TT.

The trial coincides with another case of alleged Russian espionage, with the arrest of the Russian-born couple in late November in a suburb of Stockholm by a police team arriving at dawn in a Blackhawk helicopter.

Research website Bellingcat identified them as Sergei Skvortsov and Elena Kulkova. The couple allegedly acted as sleeper agents for Moscow, having moved to Sweden in the late 1990s.

According to Swedish press reports, the couple ran companies specializing in the import and export of electronic components and industrial technology.

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The man was again detained at the end of November for “illegal intelligence activities.” His partner, suspected of being an accomplice, has been released but remains under investigation.

According to Swedish authorities, the arrests are not related to the trial of the Kia brothers.

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Ukraine admitted that Russia may announce a general mobilization

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“They can strengthen their positions. We understand that this can happen. At the same time, we do not rule out that they will announce a general mobilization,” Danilov said in an interview with the Ukrainska Pravda online publication.

Danilov believed that this mobilization would also be convened “to exterminate as many as possible” of Russian citizens, so that “they would no longer have any problems on their territory.”

In this sense, Danilov also reminded that Russia has not given up on securing control over Kyiv or the idea of ​​the complete “destruction” of Ukraine. “We have to be ready for anything,” he said.

“I want everyone to understand that [os russos] they have not given up on the idea of ​​destroying our nation. If they don’t have Kyiv in their hands, they won’t have anything in their hands, we must understand this,” continued Danilov, who also did not rule out that a new Russian offensive would come from “Belarus and other territories.” .

As such, Danilov praised the decision of many of its residents who chose to stay in the Ukrainian capital when the war broke out in order to defend the city.

“They expected that there would be panic, that people would run, that there would be nothing to protect Kyiv,” he added, referring to President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The military offensive launched on February 24 by Russia in Ukraine caused at least 6.5 million internally displaced persons and more than 7.8 million refugees to European countries, which is why the UN classifies this migration crisis as the worst in Europe since World War II (1939-1945). gg.). ).

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At the moment, 17.7 million Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 9.3 million are in need of food aid and housing.

The Russian invasion, justified by Russian President Vladimir Putin on the need to “denazify” and demilitarize Ukraine for Russia’s security, was condemned by the international community at large, which responded by sending weapons to Ukraine and imposing political and economic sanctions on Russia.

The UN has presented as confirmed 6,755 civilian deaths and 10,607 wounded since the beginning of the war, stressing that these figures are much lower than the real ones.

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