The ceasefire between the Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian troops may soon come to an end if the reports coming out of Ukraine are genuine. There are accounts of military build-ups from the both sides: Ukrainian troops are seen moving heavy artillery and military tanks towards the borders that divide them and the separatists. On the other side, Russia-backed separatists are aggressively calling up rebels that are currently vacationing to show up for combat.
The saddest thing about the latest development is that it stands to threaten Minsk II Agreement signed earlier this year aimed at finding a conclusive end to the crisis that has raged on for years. Sporadic fighting has broken out since the news of the military pile-ups by the two warring sides first came out. A prominent separatist leader, Denis Pushilin, warned that an all-out war “can be resumed at any moment.” His sharp tone revealed how delicate the situation in that part of the country has become.
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Things are normalized in the remaining parts of Ukraine as people go about their daily activities in peace. The Ukrainian troops stationed in these places can be seen carrying out their regular drills and training sessions peacefully. The troops are from the National Guard managed by the Interior Ministry. And they have been put under the supervision of the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne and trainers from Canada and the United Kingdom.
The primary role of the U.S. Army in Ukraine is to help modernize and upgrade Ukrainian military and security forces in an operation tagged “Operation Fearless Guardian.” It involves a set of intensive military drills and courses on logistics, tactics and battlefield medicine. Emphasis is laid on defensive tactics, which the Ukrainian forces need to understand in order to successfully defend their country against the separatists.
Russia denied its involvement in the Ukrainian crisis
Russian president Vladimir Putin and his generals do not consider “Operation Fearless Guardian” favorably. Even though Russia has often denied its direct involvement in the crisis, the U.S. Army has been able to learn a lot about some Russian weapons. The Ukrainian troops talked excitedly about discovering Russian tanks and weapons used by the separatists. Not only that, they have found out how the Russian tanks were operated, an action that furnished them with Russian military secrets. They willingly passed those secrets on to the U.S. Army and NATO.
According to Captain Dana Gingrich, a company commander from the 173rd Airborne, the Ukrainians are also excited about the military exercises. “They are asking for more and more training, which is a good sign, and what we ask them to do will get tougher and tougher.” Talking about their motivation, platoon leader William Dillon remarked, “They see their buddies coming back injured from the frontline, or they hear their war stories, and they are hungry for training,” he said.
The question everyone has been asking, and which the Kremlin has always avoided answering, is: What is Russia looking for in Ukraine? In fact, the official statement of the Russian government often refutes the allegations that Russian troops are on the ground in Ukraine. While it is apparently impossible to disprove this, some undeniable evidence on the conflict scenes has made Russian’s stand on the issue seem misleading and childish. How did the separatists get the heavy Russian artillery they are using? Do they have enough money to purchase the not-so-cheap ammunition? Or are some invisible sponsors behind the separatists’ activities? Inasmuch as the Russian government has no interest in revealing to the entire world their purpose for going into Ukraine, we may only resort to guesswork.
The far-reaching effect of Russia’s incursion into Ukraine is now spreading into Europe, where countries like Poland, Sweden, Finland and Germany are surreptitiously bracing for Russian attack. Experts believe that if the Russian economy is absolutely broken and in a state of total disrepair, Russia may want to punish Europe for standing firmly by the United States. And there is no other way Russia can retaliate on the European economy than by launching preemptive strikes on some important European countries.
Putin’s plans to destroy the European economy
Responding to the expectations that President Vladimir Putin may want to destroy Europe’s economy through preemptive strikes, the United States has deployed its top line F-22 bombers to its bases in Europe. The U.S. and NATO are holding military drills in Europe in preparation for a Russian onslaught. No one is going to sit down there without mapping out a defensive strategy. Germany and France recently upgraded their warships and artillery. Also the United States is always willing to deter Russian attacks against its European allies from all its bases on the continent. U.S. bases in Asia can also be used to coordinate strong deterrence against Russian aggression in Europe. Poland still operates a defensive missile program with the United States, and Sweden and Finland are instructing their armies to be on alert to ward off any attack from Russia. The tension in the world now is not only in Ukraine, but everywhere. And Russia is the one to be blamed for it.
The Ukrainian crisis helps American forces gain more knowledge of counter-insurgencies through investigations of the new type of warfare waged by the separatists, which had regular troops supported by tanks and diverse artillery systems. This system provides important anti-air strength. The United States has not had the chance to focus on this form of warfare for years, since the end of the Cold War when the threat of a huge Soviet tank attack through central Europe came to an end. Ukraine’s crisis opened the eyes of world leaders to the fact that Russia’s plan is beyond Ukraine and that the Kremlin may be secretly planning to attack the Baltics. NATO would be called in to defend member states there if any crisis erupts.
No serious signs of war yet, but both Russia and NATO countries have carried out military drills this year. Russia’s short exercise in March involved over 80,000 troops mobilized for the purpose of engaging in long-range deployments and combat operations. NATO’s military drills saw 15,000 troops called up for exercises in June. NATO debuted its rapid-deployment Very High Readiness Taskforce to show off its strength. It is a simulation of a similar response in case Eastern Ukraine was attacked by the Russia-backed separatists.
The current tension caused by Russia’s ambivalence has truly strained NATO-Russia relations. This hostile relationship will only get worse if Russia fails to stop its provocations in the air and come clean about its involvement in Ukraine’s problems. Russia’s land-grabbing propensity has brought up its fight with Georgia, and there are believable claims that president Putin believes Russia owns some areas in the Arctic territory. So apparently Crimea isn’t enough, and Russia is now becoming a monster hungry for land. It also hasn’t resolved its dispute with Japan concerning some islands in East Japan Sea. All these actions are making many experts at the Pentagon worried about what Russia will do next. Could it lay claim to Alaska?
These worries make the battlefield knowledge American forces are learning in Ukraine worthwhile. It is only the latest chance to study the Russian military firsthand. With the significant intelligence-gathering opportunity in mind, both the United States and the U.K. are hoping to expand their training missions in Ukraine.