The Ukrainian Prime Minister calls for NATO aid against Russia – POLITICO
Press Play to listen to this article
In light of the renewed massive mobilization of Russian troops threatening Ukraine and warnings from US intelligence services of a possible invasion, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal called on NATO on Thursday to send warships into the Black Sea and step up reconnaissance flights along Russian borders .
“Ensuring the permanent presence of maritime warships of the NATO alliance in the Black Sea would be a very strong signal,” said Shmyhal in an interview with POLITICO via video conference from his office in Kiev.
“In the same way, a very strong signal would be the increase in reconnaissance and reconnaissance flights over the Russian border, particularly in the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea,” he said.
Shmyhal’s question followed on from proposals made by Polish President Andrzej Duda at a meeting with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday at NATO headquarters in Brussels. Duda also called for increased use of Allied troops in Poland and the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
After Russia invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014, NATO deployed multinational combat-ready combat groups in each of these four countries, led by the United States, Great Britain, Canada and Germany.
“We are constantly receiving information about the Russian armament, perhaps an aggressive armament in the immediate vicinity of the Ukrainian border,” said Duda.
In the interview with POLITICO, Shmyhal said that Ukraine agrees with US intelligence assessments that the number of Russian forces on the border has increased significantly – not just along the border with the Donetsk region, which is largely occupied by Russian-backed separatists , but also in Crimea and Belarus – there are now almost 100,000 soldiers.
Ukrainian officials said thousands of Russian troops remained in Belarus after joint military exercises earlier this autumn, and Russia, with the consent of the authoritarian leader of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, has set up and stationed new units of military intelligence along the Belarus-Ukraine border.
Some analysts believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to occupy more of Ukrainian territory, in part to build a land bridge between Russia and Crimea.
But while US officials have briefed NATO allies of the threat of a Russian invasion, Ukrainian officials, including Shmyhal said they believe the Kremlin is most directly geared towards broader efforts to destabilize the EU and NATO countries.
They said the destabilization efforts include taking advantage of a surge in global gas prices and restricting supply, which is raising concerns about enough fuel for the winter in some European countries and among politicians who are concerned that citizens are worried about higher heating bills are angry at home.
The Russian government and state-controlled gas company Gazprom are also excited about the regulatory approval that would allow the operation of the newly built Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, and some Western officials believe the Kremlin is trying to use high prices and delivery worries as pressure to to gain faster approval.
Schmyhal said the Russian threats were also intended to thwart Ukraine’s efforts for closer economic and political integration with the EU and its security partnerships with NATO.
“Moscow regularly demonstrates its military potential and aims and definitely wants to disrupt our Euro-Atlantic aspirations and our move towards the Euro-Atlantic direction,” Shmyhal said in the interview. “And so that the tense situation can be maintained with the necessary nervousness, the Russian Federation regularly groups its troops along the border with Ukraine.”
Russia carried out a similar military mobilization last spring, which caused tension in the run-up to Putin’s annual speech to the Russian Federal Assembly and sparked speculation about using the speech to make a dramatic announcement. No one came, and shortly after the speech, forces were withdrawn from their frontier positions.
Officials from several allied nations said U.S. intelligence analysts indicated there were alarming differences in the current lineup but failed to provide specific details. An EU official said current intelligence agencies had found evidence of the construction of field hospitals and other support facilities not normally seen in previous Russian troop and weapons mobilizations, including tanks.
NATO ships carried out several exercises in the Black Sea in the past year.
In a recent testimony to the US Congress, Alina Polyakova, president of the Center for European Policy Analysis, a think tank in Washington, called the urgent need for NATO allies to devote more resources and attention to the Black Sea Region (BSR) precisely because the Threat from Russia.
“The BSR is of vital importance to the US strategic interests of deterring Russian aggression against allies, ensuring European stability and protecting the freedom of navigation,” said Polyakova. “Insufficient resources and attention have undermined the ability of the US and its allies to effectively pursue these goals, while Russia intensifies its aggression and China strengthens its position in the region.”
She added: “The BSR is the site of the Kremlin’s tests of the alliance’s credibility and determination, which have escalated over the past two decades in both conventional and non-conventional areas: from the 2008 invasion of Georgia to the illegal and unlawful annexation of the Crimea in 2014. and invasion of eastern Ukraine to cyberattacks and information manipulation operations. “
Schmyhal said that in addition to troop building, Russia is constantly using hybrid tactics against Ukraine and the West, including cyberattacks and disinformation.
In addition to expanding NATO’s naval and air operations, he said it would be helpful if NATO allies expanded their military training missions in Ukraine.
“To improve training both in terms of the size and the regularity of the troops taking part in such training on the territory of Ukraine,” he said. “That could also be another strong signal.”