The west must find a way to stop a Russian invasion of Ukraine

Editorial: Expectations from the talks in Geneva between Russia and the US have been played down by both sides – however, that is not to say that an outline of an agreement cannot be envisaged

Friday 21 January 2022 21:30
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<p>Russian president Vladimir Putin has been warned the Kremlin will face ‘a package of sweeping measures’ if he acts against Ukraine</p>

Russian president Vladimir Putin has been warned the Kremlin will face ‘a package of sweeping measures’ if he acts against Ukraine

Far from being a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, Russia’s intentions are rather obvious nowadays. It wants the west, specifically Nato, out of eastern Europe and out of the now independent states that once made up the western flank of the Soviet empire. The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, has openly said as much. It also wants guarantees that neither Georgia nor Ukraine will be permitted to join Nato, and that American nuclear weapons will not be deployed in eastern Europe.

Expectations surrounding the talks in Geneva between Mr Lavrov and his American counterpart, Antony Blinken, have been played down by both sides, as well they might: a series of demands made by Russia that cannot be met by the United States and its allies would seem to be a recipe for failure. Indeed, it is as if the Russians actually want the talks to collapse, because that would serve them well. Such an outcome would make the west appear intransigent and set on encircling Russia – a potent image ready to be presented to the Russian people, and exploited in full, by the Putin government.

The obvious danger then is that the Russians would take the supposed rebuff as justification for taking action against Ukraine. A full-scale invasion, something that seemed unthinkable a decade ago, is starting to feel inevitable. They did, after all, annex Crimea seven years ago, and Russian proxies occupy the eastern section of Ukraine – all moves unchallenged by the west beyond some economic sanctions.

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