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Ukraine conflict between diplomacy, military showdown

Report by Mohammad Al-Jaabiri KUWAIT, Jan 27 (KUNA) -- Tensions between Russia on one side and several Western countries on the other regarding Ukraine have been soaring particularly after the US and Britain decided to withdraw families of their diplomats in Kiev fearing what they believe is an imminent Russian offensive.
Despite Ukraine's attempts to soothe fears that Russia was not planning any military action, tension continued to grow and NATO decided to deploy further troops in eastern Europe as a precautionary measure in the face of possible imminent Russian aggression against Ukraine.
The Pentagon, further, announced some 8,500 troops were ready to be deployed to eastern Europe. Moscow said the measure would fuel security tension in the region.
The US, which always called for a diplomatic solution to the conflict over Ukraine, said it would not hesitate to slap Russia with economic sanctions if it invaded Ukraine, while supplying Kiev with USD millions worth of weapons to defend itself.
Experts have ruled out a full-scale, or even limited war in Europe, because the costs would be high not only on the border areas between Russia and Ukraine but beyond.
They said it was crucially important to reach a common ground between NATO's open-door policy for countries to join the alliance and Moscow's demands to block membership of Ukraine and Georgia in the alliance.
Russia insisted it was not planning to invaded Ukraine but has the right to deploy forces on any part of its territories. Ukraine, according to Russian sources, desployed around 120,000 troops at the border region.
Russia wants its security concerns, specially with Washington, to be addressed or it could go as far as deploying missile systems in Cuba and Venezuala - America's adversaries.
Moscow is still however waiting for security guarantees, in writing, from the US regarding the situation in Ukraine. Otherwise, it threatened to take "military and technological steps to preserve its security in case it did not get these assurances." The US, led by President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, were exploring all venues to end this crisis diplomatically.
Blinken and his deputy Wendy Sherman conducted a flurry of meetings with European and Russian officials, the last was with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in yet another attempt to address Moscow's concerns as well as to see how to tackle Russian military build-up at borders with Ukraine.
The Europeans were acting on another front with Russia, talking tough on Ukraine but hoping for a diplomatic breakthrough.
"We face the risk of a major military conflict on our continent. Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops and heavy equipment at the Ukrainian border. It is making open threats to use force unless its demands are met. At stake are the fate of Ukraine but also the wider principles of European security," EU High Representative Josep Borrell said.
But at the same time, the EU is urging Russia to de-escalate tensions caused by its military build-up and aggressive rhetoric.
"We stand ready to prioritise diplomatic engagements as the only viable and sustainable path towards de-escalation," said Borrell in a recent statement.
The EU is stressing that there is no security in Europe without the security of Ukraine and any discussions on European and Ukrainian security must include the European Union and Ukraine.
Western analysts and media opine that Russia has massed troops around Ukraine to occupy the Donetsk and the Lugansk regions which have declared independence in eastern Ukraine.
Brussels has also strongly expressed its unwavering support to Ukraineآ’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.
On Monday, the European Commission proposed more than USD one billion in new funding for Ukraine, in a show of support for Kiev.
Western analysts opine that a diplomatic solution with Russia is within reach.
Edward Hunter, US diplomat and former representative to NATO in an article published, in the Financial Times said "the outcome will recognise that Ukraine will not join NATO and that countries will still be allowed to apply (although there are no serious countries left on the list of potential new members).
"Additionally, the two sides will agree to confidence-building measures. These are already on the table, and the NATO-Russia Council has been resuscitated," he noted.
Russia's 2008 war against Georgia led to a temporary crisis in relations between Brussels and Moscow. However, Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea caused a deep rupture in their relations.
Energy security for the EU is another big problem, given that Russia is the EU's main supplier of oil and gas.
In several EU countries a third or more of total energy consumption comes from Russian gas. A large part of this is delivered via pipelines crossing Ukraine, raising the possibility that Europe's gas supplies could be held hostage to geopolitical tensions.
The US is in talks with major energy-producing countries and companies around the world over a potential diversion of supplies to Europe if Russia invades Ukraine.
Although the threat of an armed conflict remains, some European media reports do no think that war will break out over Ukraine.
"While the threat of large-scale war is credible, the expectation is, however, that Russian forces on the ground 'wonآ’t do the trick' for an invasion," commented the Brussels-based publication EurActiv. (end) mj