A bit far from the spotlight, despite the seriousness of the issue, is the war of words that is raging – thankfully just words at this stage – between Russia and the United States over Ukraine.
The choice of words and the tone of the statements, from both sides, are unusually harsh because both the U.S. and Russia obviously want to make it clear that Ukraine is an extremely serious issue for both countries.
Western spy agencies have warned that Russia is amassing more than 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine, raising fears that it is preparing for a possible invasion.
The former Soviet neighbors have remained in an informal state of war since 2014 when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula.
The issue of Russia’s absorption of Ukraine is said to be a personal matter for Putin, who sees his place in history as dependent on the fate of Crimea.
Speaking to reporters a few days ago, Putin warned NATO its presence in Ukraine was a ‘red line’ for him and stressed that he would seek guarantees that they would not use their forces and weapons there.
On December 2, the U.S. Secretary of State and the Foreign Minister of Russia met to discuss the issue – a meeting that was described as “difficult.” Indicative of the climate was that after the meeting, America issued a harsh statement warning Russia not to intervene in Ukraine.
The U.S. Secretary of State warned that, “if Russia decides to pursue confrontation, there will be serious consequences,” adding that “the best way to avert a crisis is through diplomacy.”
Meanwhile, a Kremlin spokesman said “the possibility of hostilities in Ukraine remains high.”
One cannot know how Putin will act. The fear, however, is that harsh statements from both sides are limiting their ability to make concessions or compromise.
This is especially true for President Biden, whose popularity is quite low, and who is viewed as having suffered a ‘defeat’ in Afghanistan (in the eyes of public opinion).
He cannot appear ‘weak’ against the traditional U.S. enemy: Putin.