Post by JustJohn or JJ on Dec 9, 2021 6:48:53 GMT -7
Czechs to deploy troops in Poland to guard Belarus border • Associated Press • December 8, 2021
PRAGUE — The Czech government approved a plan Wednesday to deploy 150 service members in Poland to help guard the border with Belarus.
Defense Minister Lubomir Metnar said they will have a mandate to stay in Poland for 180 days.
Both houses of Czech Parliament still have to approve the deployment. That is expected to happen by the end of next week. The Czechs would join the similar numbers of troops deployed in Poland by Britain and Estonia.
Poland's government and the European Union have accused authorities in Belarus of directing thousands of migrants and refugees from the Middle East to its border and using them as pawns, tricking them into trying to enter Poland, Lithuania and Latvia to destabilize the entire 27-nation EU.
"The European Union cannot tolerate that," Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek said, adding that more sanctions against Belarus can't be ruled out.
Last week, the EU imposed further sanctions against Belarus, aiming at those accused of participating in a "hybrid attack" on the bloc using migrants. The United States, Britain and Canada slapped simultaneous sanctions Thursday on officials, organizations and companies in Belarus.
I no longer listen to what people say, I just watch what they do. Behavior never lies. Winston Churchill
“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.” Aldous Huxley
Seems old conflict zones and tense borders or erected again. The Old tension, conflict and different interests between the West and East in Europe. Western-Europe and Central-Europe on one side and Eastern-Europe and Asia on the other side. In the sense that Russia is an Eurasian nation. The US has a conflict on many fronts now. With Russia In Central- and Eastern-Europe and the Middle East (the huge presence of the Russian army, Navy, Airforce, special forces and mercenaries in Syria), with China in the Pacific Ocean region and Eastern Asia, with Iran in the Middle East, North Korea in the Far East, Pakistan & Afghanistan in South-Asia.
Difficult is the fact that Russia has good ties with Hungary, Slovakia, Serbia and Greece in Central-Europe and South-Eastern-Europe. Despite the good Polish-Hungarian bilateral relationship and the close ties between the nations in the Visegrád Group (Visegrád Four, V4, or European Quartet, the cultural and political alliance of four countries of Central Europe; Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia), the close Russian-Hungarian relationship is a problem in the EU, NATO and the Visegrád Group. Poland considers the Belarussian/Russian threat is the number one threat today.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin hold a joint news conference after their talks in the Kremlin in Moscow on September 18. 2018
Since 1991, Hungarian-Russian relations have improved constantly. This improvement has increased in part due to the election of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in 2010 and the announcement of his foreign relations plan, the "Eastern Opening Policy." Created in opposition to Hungary's Western coalitions such as the European Union, NATO, and the United Nations, the Eastern Opening plan heavily prioritized Russia as a viable ally, and efforts were taken to secure that tight relationship throughout 2013–2014. One major proof of this is the bilateral agreement signed by the two nations over the nuclear plant Paks in Hungary, which calls into the question the risk of Hungary becoming financially dependent on Russia for more than a few decades.
When Orbán announced his “Eastern opening” policy he started to meet bilaterally with Russian president Vladimir Putin more often than almost any other European leader. The question of how close Hungary and Russia are in terms of domestic politics and foreign policy has been debated ever since.
Following the Russian military intervention in Ukraine in 2014, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán rejected the Russian sanctions despite European Union pressure. This has led outside officials in the EU and NATO to accuse Hungary as a "Trojan Horse", acting ultimately in the interests of Russia.The PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) delegations of both countries voiced a protest against Ukraine's "Indigenous law"(Russian delegation to PACE voices protest over Ukraine law on indigenous peoples, 2021).
In 2017, Vladimir Putin visited Budapest to meet with Orbán to discuss bilateral ties. As a response to the reaction to the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the United Kingdom, in April 2018, one Hungarian embassy staffer was expelled from Russia. In May 2019, concerned over the tightening relations between Hungary, Russia, and also China, the Trump administration hosted Orbán in D.C, raising criticism from the EU and UN.
Russian President Vladimir Putin in Budapest with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in 2015
Both the Russian president Vladimir Putin and the Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán are nationalistic strongmen with a dislike for western liberalism. But the ties between the two are both deeper and more complicated.
According to Orban, who boasts a close relationship with the Russian president, the EU officials depict Vladimir Putin "with hooves and horns," and ignore the fact that he "rules a great and ancient empire." "In the past, we Hungarians have suffered a lot under Russia," he told the paper. "Nevertheless, it needs to be recognized that Putin has made his country great again and that Russia is once again a player on the world stage."
The same EU officials who dislike Putin are usually less than thrilled by Orban himself. Since returning to power in 2010, the Hungarian strongman has transformed his country in a way reminiscent of Russia, claiming control of all major media outlets and forming a clique of loyal oligarchs around his conservative Fidesz party. Internationally, Orban has strongly criticized EU sanctions against Russia, but stopped short of vetoing them in Brussels.
Even more jarringly for the EU diplomats, Orban repeatedly broke Russia's diplomatic isolation by welcoming Putin in Budapest after the 2014 annexation of Crimea.
There are indeed certain similarities in how the Russian and Hugarian political systems operate. Like Putin, Orbán has dismantled the system of checks and balances that limited his power, replacing many independent officials with loyalists. Through oligarchs loyal to him, Orbán controls large segments of Hungary’s media scene. The ruling party operates a sophisticated system of coordinated political trolling on the internet that is similar to Russia’s “troll factories.” All of this distorts the electoral environment. Hungary’s most recent parliamentary elections in 2018 were still free, but no longer fair, and there is no reason to believe that the parliamentary elections upcoming in 2022 will be any better.
Ideologically, Orban listed Russia among positive examples of successful "illiberal" societies while launching his theory of "illiberal democracy" in 2014. Similar to Putin, Orban offered traditional, "Christian" values in contrast to modern liberalism and focused heavily on restoring national pride in his country. Both Russia and Hungary claim to be under attack by sinister forces from the West and both have moved against foreign-funded activists.
“Budapest is one of the few EU capitals where President Putin can feel at ease, meeting with someone who shares elements of his own worldview," said Dmitri Trenin, director of the Moscow Carnegie Center. "Such reception allows Moscow to claim that not all Europeans follow policies shunning Russia's leadership."
Orbán has worked to boost ties with the Kremlin since coming to power in 2010.
The world, according to Orbán, is entering a “new paradigm” of “multiple centers of power.” For the prime minister, this new paradigm means that European countries are free to pursue their own paths when it comes to relations with Moscow. It is “unreasonable — and particularly unreasonable in Europe — to ignore the power and the opportunity that Russia represents,” he said.
Hungary’s neighbors, meanwhile, are watching Budapest’s friendly gestures and Russia’s moves in the region closely. Hungary’s eastern neighbor Ukraine, which has the most to lose from a rapprochement between the U.S. and Russia and the breakdown of the Western sanctions regime, is particularly concerned.
“We hope that bilateral dialogue between Hungary and Russia will not blind leaders of our neighboring friendly state Hungary from making sure that the aggressor against Ukraine is being kept responsible for its actions,” said Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration. “Values should not be traded for business and economic interests in these relationships,” she added.
Troops transport trucks on a pontoon bridge across a river during joint military exercises held by Russia and Belarus in September.
Russia–Slovakia relations (Russian: Российско-словацкие отношения, Slovak: Rusko-slovenské vzťahy) date back to when diplomatic relations were established upon Slovakia gaining its independence on January 1, 1993. Russia opened its embassy in Bratislava in 1993. Slovakia also has an embassy in Moscow. Unlike Slovakia's neighbour and close ally Czech Republic, which has some negative view over Russia due to the past, Slovakia tends to have better relations with Russia. Both countries are opposed to and do not recognise the independence of Kosovo and both Slovakia and Russia have refused to establish diplomatic relations with the republic.
Czech Republic–Russia relations
The bilateral foreign relations between the Czech Republic and the Russian Federation have substantially deteriorated in recent years due to events such as the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in 2018.
On 17 April 2021, the Czech prime minister Andrej Babiš announced that the Czech Republic was expelling 18 Russian diplomats it had identified as GRU and SVR spies — after the Czech intelligence agencies had concluded that Russian military intelligence officers, namely members of Russian military intelligence GRU's unit 29155, were involved in two massive ammunition depot explosions in Vrbětice (part of Vlachovice), near the Czech-Slovak border, in October 2014. Shortly after, the Czech Republic formally informed the NATO allies on the matter and requested a joint statement at the NATO level as well as a follow-up North Atlantic Council meeting "to discuss other possible coordinated steps". In the wake of the expulsion, Bloomberg News commented that "in a rare act of unity, Zeman took the government’s side against Putin". The Russian government responded by expelling 20 Czech diplomats.
Following Russia's own diplomatic response of expelling Czech diplomats, the newly appointed Czech foreign minister Jakub Kulhánek on 21 April gave the Russian government an ultimatum saying Russia had until 12 p.m. the next day to allow the return of all the Czech diplomats it had expelled from Moscow back to the Czech Embassy in Moscow and if that did not happen "he would cut the number of Russian Embassy staff in Prague so it would correspond to the current situation at the Czech Embassy in Moscow". On 22 April, as Russia refused to abide with the Czech demands in returning Czech staff to the Embassy in Moscow, the Czech foreign ministry announced it was reducing and capping the number of staff at the Russian Embassy in Prague at the current number of their staff in Moscow; the Russian embassy staff were required to leave the Czech Republic by 31 May 2021. The Czech government response was followed with support by a number of other EU countries expelling Russia′s diplomatic personnel. The Russian government responded by setting the Czech Republic on its 'unfriendly states list' along the US. Listed states on the list are limited of hiring Russian local employers for their respected embassy, with the Czech embassy only being able to hire up to 19 Russian locals with many former local employee stuffing an entire Czech hospitality and business centre in Moscow, while the US embassy in comparison wasn't allowed to hire anyone since 2021.
Polish–Russian relations entered a new phase following the fall of communism, 1989–1993. Since then, Polish–Russian relations have at times seen both improvement and deterioration. According to a 2013 BBC World Service poll, 19% of Poles view Russia's influence positively while 49% express a negative view. However, since the Russian annexation of Crimea, over 60-80% of Poles are worried about future conflict with Russia, given the fact Russia maintains control in Kaliningrad Oblast.
Poland also accuses Russia for its unlimited historical distortion, notably back to 2014 when Putin signed a bill using any comparison of Nazi to Soviet war crimes as a punishment, as the Poles were also treated brutally by the Soviets; although Russia's historical revisionism might have influenced Poland's Andrzej Duda over its Nazi war crime laws; and Poland also has concerned that Russia's political and historical revisionism might put Poland at risk.
The threat of a military invasion of Ukraine in early 2022
The refugee crisis on the Polish-Belarussian border and the parallel escalation of tensions between Poland, Belarus and Russia have served governments on all sides in the pursuit of their foreign and domestic agendas.
As tensions mount between Washington and Moscow over a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine, U.S. intelligence has found the Kremlin is planning a multi-front offensive as soon as early next year involving up to 175,000 troops, according to U.S. officials and an intelligence document obtained by The Washington Post.
The Kremlin has been moving troops toward the border with Ukraine while demanding Washington guarantee that Ukraine will not join NATO and that the alliance will refrain from certain military activities in and around Ukrainian territory. The crisis has provoked fears of a renewed war on European soil. “The Russian plans call for a military offensive against Ukraine as soon as early 2022 with a scale of forces twice what we saw this past spring during Russia’s snap exercise near Ukraine’s borders,” said an administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information. “The plans involve extensive movement of 100 battalion tactical groups with an estimated 175,000 personnel, along with armor, artillery and equipment.”
A sketch of a possible Russian military operation against Ukraine in January provided by Brigadier General Kyrylo Budanov, deputy head of Ukraine’s military intelligence service shows the severity of the present situation. The sketch depicts the advance of 40 Russian battalion tactical groups from Crimea, Donbas, Voronezh, and Belarus – a manoeuvre designed to conquer all Ukrainian territory up to the Dnieper river, including Kyiv.
Russia has been conducting military manoeuvres in Crimea
Firstly, this sketch of an invasion plan is in line with the recent build-up of forces along the Ukrainian border. The Russian armed forces are perfectly capable of executing such an operation. And the Russian leadership is determined to use military force to regain imperial control over Kyiv. But planning, rehearsing, and preparing for war is part of the military’s job description. That does not necessarily mean President Vladimir Putin will automatically follow war plans in this form. Military threats, including nuclear threats, have long been part of Moscow’s approach to coercive diplomacy. The West should be used to this by now. An all-out invasion would certainly be costly for Moscow, in terms of not just international isolation but also loss of life and materiel. Since 2014, Ukrainians have paid a high price for their independence – and they treasure it. Their armed forces have improved in combat readiness and effectiveness. In particular, Ukraine’s seven air assault brigades – staffed by career soldiers – are a force to be reckoned with. And its mechanised forces performed well in recent clashes in Donbas. Most of Ukraine’s military infrastructure remains in the west, a legacy of the cold war. Accordingly, even a quick initial Russian advance would not overrun much of this infrastructure. Of course, there are gaps in Ukraine’s air defence and electronic warfare capabilities, which Russia would exploit. But the invasion would not lead to the kind of swift victory Russia won in Georgia in 2008, or could have won over Ukraine in 2014. This would give the West time to react in whatever manner it chose – which, in turn, would make the outcome of the war less predictable and controllable for Russia. However, one can only guess whether Putin believes there is a credible chance of a substantive Western reaction. The other option often cited in the press is a strategic bombardment campaign. By conducting concerted air and missile strikes on Ukraine, Russia could avoid a bloody land battle. As Ukraine’s air defences rely on Soviet-era systems, Russian aerospace forces know how to detect, jam, suppress, and destroy them. But such a campaign could have a long target list: Ukraine is a large country that contains many military installations. NATO’s 1999 air campaign against Serbia, a much smaller nation, lasted for almost three months. And history is littered with examples of strategic bombing campaigns that hardened the defenders’ resolve rather than eroding it. As a Russian air campaign against Ukraine dragged on, the West would have time to react. Therefore, it is difficult to predict whether such a campaign would achieve the desired results. Russia’s most likely course of action is to launch a limited offensive from Donbas. This would not fundamentally alter the stakes in the conflict – Moscow would deny involvement in it, even though everyone knew the contrary was true. As Russia’s aim would be to destabilise and disrupt rather than conquer, the operation would be swift. This would signal to Kyiv that it could not hide behind its army or Western support: either Ukraine accepted Russia’s conditions or risked further escalation. And, if the West put up little resistance, Russia could always switch to one of the other two options described above to achieve its goals. Alternatively, if things went badly for Russian-backed forces, it would be relatively easy for the Kremlin to abandon such an endeavour without losing its domestic credibility.
Russian troops recently conducted large-scale drills in the Ukrainian-Russian border region
A massive build-up of Russian forces along the Ukrainian border constrains Ukraine’s ability to react to a local offensive in Donbas – making such an operation more predictable and controllable for the Kremlin. Ukraine’s high-readiness forces would be dispersed across the country to guard against a possible incursion from other directions, meaning that they could not be thrown into battle in the east. With the Ukrainian front line exposed, Moscow would have greater freedom of action. Hence, while the Russian military is making serious preparations for a war, this will not necessarily be an all-out war. Many lesser military scenarios are possible – even likely. As such, the West does not face a stark choice between either abandoning Ukraine or risking total war. It still has enough room to influence Moscow’s calculus, but this would require serious preparations as well. Russia has a clear aim: to weaken Ukraine so much that it will be relatively easy to control the country’s politics. Moscow can achieve this by forcing Kyiv to implement the Minsk agreement on its terms – which would establish a de facto Russian veto on Ukrainian domestic affairs – and by starting and exploiting anti-government revolts. Alternatively, Moscow could pressure Washington to ‘deliver’ Ukraine by signing security guarantees that favoured Russia. These guarantees would prohibit Ukraine from not only joining NATO but also engaging in any form of cooperation with the West that would strengthen its resilience. This would eventually force Ukraine back into Moscow’s sphere of influence. Given these considerations, Kyiv may believe that it can either fight for independence now or be forced to do so later – probably in more challenging circumstances. Therefore, Kyiv may believe that it is worth standing up against a militarily superior enemy.
The Finlandisation of Ukraine would have severe effects on the European Union. Not since Joseph Stalin forced ‘friendship and cooperation’ treaties on eastern Europe has any European country faced such harsh restrictions on its external relations. Back then, Finland was the only nation in the region to escape de facto colonisation by the Soviet Union. This was due to its military strength, iron political discipline, and cross-party cooperation on security matters – attributes that Ukraine does not have to the same extent. If Russia’s coercive strategy works well, there is no guarantee that it will stop with Ukraine. Russia’s current alteration of the force structure in its Western Military District is partly directed against NATO. With Chinese-Russian military cooperation increasing, today’s imponderables may become tomorrow’s possibilities. American generals have long warned Europeans that, in the coming decades, the US may not be in a position to simultaneously protect its Asian and European allies against the threat of both China and Russia. But Ukraine’s submission to Russian rule is not a foregone conclusion. To prevent this, the West will need to alter Putin’s calculations about the costs and benefits of direct military action: maintaining the status quo would have to be preferable to the anticipated consequences of such action. These consequences should not be limited to sanctions – even if the measures were harsh, Moscow would likely have priced them in. And, if Russia were to attack, NATO would need to make major alterations to its military posture on its eastern flank. These moves would be more credible if NATO forces deployed to Poland, Slovakia, or Romania, as they would underscore the alliance’s ability to react to any development. Putin, who is playing the long game, would prefer that these troops moved away again following such a deployment. However, many European leaders do not seem to grasp the seriousness of the situation. One can see this in the defence of Nord Stream 2 in recently leaked German cables to members of the US Congress: Ukraine has a gun to its head, but the German government only seems worried about the survival of its pipeline. Berlin and Paris are resistant to a stronger NATO reaction – citing fears that Russia may feel threatened by a military capable Ukrainian state that has the support of the alliance. This is just the kind of poor judgement that enables Russian military aggression. For now, many eastern and central European nations may feel secure in the assumption that Washington will protect them by placing Moscow under diplomatic and military pressure. But they should not be complacent: while certain groups of think-tankers have been arguing for concessions to Russia since 2014, their ideas have gained a new resonance this time. A Washington preoccupied with countering Beijing may soon be willing to turn these arguments into policy – not for their brilliance, but for their convenience.