November 21, 2021

Putin Warns the West to Heed Russia’s Redlines in Donbass

Featuring Michael Kofman

Source: The National Interest

Journalist Mark Episkopos

“Ukraine’s internal crisis is among the most pressing and sensitive issues for us, which has so far remained unresolved,” the Russian President said on Thursday in an address delivered during a meeting of the Foreign Ministry Board. Putin accused Kiev of failing to implement the Minsk agreements, an embattled diplomatic framework for the reincorporation of the breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples’ Republics back into Ukraine. “Our Western partners are exacerbating the situation by supplying Kiev with modern lethal weapons, conducting provocative military exercises in the Black Sea and other regions close to our borders. With regard to the Black Sea, this even goes beyond certain limits since strategic bombers, which carry very serious weapons, fly at a distance of only twenty kilometres from our state border,” Putin added. “Indeed, we constantly express our concerns about these matters and talk about red lines, but of course, we understand that our partners are peculiar in the sense that they have a very—how to put it mildly—superficial approach to our warnings about red lines.”

The Kremlin’s sharpened rhetoric is accompanied by what some experts believe to be the early signs of Russia’s growing preparedness to escalate the military conflict in eastern Ukraine. Michael Kofman, director of the Russia Studies Program at the Center for Naval Analysis and a fellow at the Kennan Institute in Washington, DC, drew a direct link between Russia’s massive military buildup on Ukraine’s eastern borders earlier this year and recent Russian military activity in the same region. “These are actually not two different and distinct events,” explained Kofman at a Center For the National Interest event on Friday. “They are one series of events that’s been unfolding since the very beginning of the year.” Russia’s movements, notes Kofman, are out of cycle and not premised on any concrete military threats emanating from Kiev. He rejected the explanation, frequently cited during previous flare-ups in eastern Ukraine, that Moscow is simply trying to deter Kiev from mounting a military offensive against Russian-backed separatists in the Donbass region. Rather, notes Kofman, these movements are part of a larger trend in Russian strategic thinking on the Ukraine conflict and Kiev’s relationship with the West. Kofman clarified that a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine does not appear to be imminent but added that “something could happen in the coming months” as Russian military units continue to linger in the region. “It does appear that over the course of the year, the Russian military has been told to prepare for a large-scale military contingency with Ukraine—to position itself such that it could execute this type of contingency.”

Read the full story and more from The National Interest.

Authors

  • Michael Kofman

    Adjunct Senior Fellow, Transatlantic Security Program

    Michael Kofman serves as a Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses' Russia Studies Program, and a Fellow at the Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson Internation...