It has never been Russia’s intention to invade Ukraine: this has been clear to the objective analysts of Western professional military institutions.
In 2014-2015, when a major western propaganda drive against Russia was in full swing, there were many studies by U.S. and European military forces and their various professional colleges about the situation in Ukraine, where a U.S.-sponsored uprising had resulted in the overthrow of president Yanukovych.
A main player in the coup was Victoria Nuland, the then U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs who is about to be appointed President Biden’s undersecretary of state for political affairs, which is a strong signal that the White House has no intention of relaxing its confrontational posture vis-a-vis Russia. In an open example of coup-supporting this official representative of the U.S. Administration, accompanied by the ambassador, handed out cookies to demonstrators in Kiev and expressed support for their cause. (Which makes you wonder what U.S. reaction would have been if the Russian ambassador in Washington had distributed goodies to members of the mob that stormed the Capitol building on January 6.)
As described by Ted Galen Carpenter of the Cato Institute, “the extent of the Obama administration’s meddling in Ukraine’s politics was breathtaking. Russian intelligence intercepted and leaked to the international media a Nuland telephone call in which she and U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt discussed in detail their preferences for specific personnel in a post‐Yanukovych government. The U.S.-favoured candidates included Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the man who became prime minister once Yanukovych was ousted from power. During the telephone call, Nuland stated enthusiastically that ‘Yats is the guy’ who would do the best job.” The whole thing was a sleazy charade.
What wasn’t farcical, however, was the intense study in the West of what Russia might or might not do in the face of this well-engineered overthrow of a democratically-elected national representative. (The fact that he was an unpleasant, self-promoting, dishonest blot is irrelevant : look at Trump and the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and some other U.S. allies.) Most of the western studies were carried out by military experts without any axes to grind. They were required to provide objective analyses of possible Russian action, and came overwhelmingly to the conclusion that while Moscow would indeed support citizens of Russian culture and persuasion who were (and are) resident in the far east of Ukraine, there was no question of an invasion. And the arguments, findings and conclusions were intriguing.
So far as can be determined, none of these impartial assessments concluded that Russia would invade Ukraine, and the most interesting finding was that Russia could have done this without too much of a problem. It was calculated by at least two western professional institutions that Russian forces, once committed to invade Ukraine, could have taken over the country in about three weeks. The appraisal included examination of likely post-invasion developments and circumstances, and it was here that it became blindingly obvious that an invasion would be most unwise.
The analysts pointed out that once the invading forces completed their operations, there would be massive unrest in much of the country. They considered it certain that the internal security situation would become a crisis. So far as can be seen, there was no mention of U.S. involvement in this; it was postulated that the Ukrainian people would themselves rise up and fight against the conquerors and that although the victorious troops would be able to physically resist such actions, the adverse political, economic and international effects would far outweigh any benefits that might accrue from occupation.
It would be most surprising if comparable analyses had not been undertaken in Russia, and also strange if they had not reached the same conclusions, although perhaps there might have been different emphasis on which effects could be more undesirable than others. But no matter the details, the fact is that it would be most inadvisable and even disastrous for Russia to invade Ukraine and it has been obvious for many years that it wasn’t and isn’t going to do so. Naturally there is concern in Moscow about the continuing build-up of U.S.-Nato forces all along Russia’s borders, and about the increasingly aggressive military manoeuvres intended to provoke Russian reaction. Indeed President Putin gave fair warning about this in his address to the nation of 21 April when he said that the U.S.-Nato military grouping should not cross the red line because that would force Russia to retaliate in a robust fashion.
On April 13 the U.S. Director of National Intelligence published an unclassified version of the 2021 Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community. Russia figures prominently in one of the most remarkable public documents recently produced by the Washington administration.
According to U.S. Intelligence experts, Russia is going to “undermine U.S. influence, develop new international norms and partnerships, divide Western countries and weaken Western alliances, and demonstrate Russia’s ability to shape global events as a major player in a new multipolar international order.” This is regarded as shocking, and the threat from Russia is held to be enormous — although the DNI had to acknowledge that in spite of all Russia’s supposed muscle-flexing, the U.S. Intelligence Community assesses that there is “flat or even declining defence spending.”
The DNI paper doesn’t mention that in 2020 the U.S. spent 750 billion dollars on its military while Russia’s budget was $48 billion which is less than that of Britain or Germany or France, and it is fatuous — and deliberately tension-feeding — for the U.S. Intelligence Community to claim that “We expect Moscow’s military posture and behaviour — including military modernization, use of military force, and the integration of information warfare — to challenge the interests of the United States and its allies.”
In an inept and bumbling attempt to toe the Washington line, the head of foreign affairs for the European Union, Josep Borrell, declared on April 19 that over 150,000 Russian troops were “massed” at its border with Ukraine. He warned that it will only take “a spark” to set off a confrontation, and that “a spark can jump here or there”.
Certainly there were extensive military exercises being conducted within Russia’s sovereign territory (which had been notified internationally : there was no secret about these training manoeuvres), but it was rubbish to claim that there were 150,000 troops involved. Then, belatedly and quietly the figure of 150,000 became 100,000 — but the aim had been achieved and few in the West now believe there was anything other than a monster Russian threat that was repealed by the resolute stance of the U.S.-Nato military alliance, backed by the European Union and valiant Ukraine.
It has never been Russia’s intention to invade Ukraine, and this has been apparent to the objective analysts of Western professional military institutions. But it has been decided by Washington’s establishment that such a course of action can be sold as being a credible threat, because “We expect Moscow’s military posture and behaviour . . . to challenge the interests of the United States and its allies.”
The sparks are still flying while the U.S.-Nato war drums are being beaten, and it seems that the West, led by Washington, wants to keep pushing against Russia’s “red line”. It would be advisable to stop these sparks jumping, as Mr Borrell put it, or, as warned by President Putin, there might be vigorous reaction.