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Russian-Ukraine tensions have escalated further in recent months. The trouble has caused concern among many in the world. Is the Russian military preparing for a conflict in Ukraine? That is, without a doubt, the fear of Western leaders and Ukrainians.

It has only been seven years since Russia seized part of southern Ukraine and supported separatists who ignited conflict in the east. In order to deal with the recent tensions, NATO is considering deploying soldiers into Ukraine's surrounding countries in the event of war.

General Tod Wolters, NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe, has urged that the alliance should station troops in Romania and Bulgaria in response to Russia's military buildup along the Ukraine Border. The news was published by the German daily Der Spiegel on Saturday. The report indicates that the move would effectively extend the alliance's Enhanced Forward Presence mission, for which troops have already been deployed to the Baltic States and eastern Poland.

During a clandestine videoconference with military commanders of NATO-member nations, Wolters requested a reinforcement of soldiers on NATO's eastern border.  The proposal will effectively increase NATO's presence in Romania and Bulgaria. However, NATO has not yet commented on the report.

Regional Tensions are sparked by Russia's Troop Presence 

A military buildup that has more than 100,000 Russian soldiers increased tensions between Russia and, Ukraine and NATO. Russia maintains troops in its occupied territories in the north, east, and south of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian government has asked the alliance for military assistance to possibly protect itself against a Russian invasion. Jens Stoltenberg, NATO's Secretary-General already stated that NATO would constantly evaluate the need for the alliance to adapt its posture and presence as the region moves toward the southeast because we need to ensure that allies can be protected and defended against any threats. The governments of Romania and Bulgaria have also advocated for NATO's to be expanded.

Despite the tensions, two long-range Russian bombers patrolled the skies over Belarus on Saturday in an effort to strengthen defense ties between the two nations. Russia's Defense Ministry said that two Tu-22M3 planes performed a four-hour exercise to rehearse performing combined tasks with Belarus' air force and air defense.

Bulgarian Defense Minister's Recent Remark

However, Bulgaria does not see the necessity for NATO troops to be stationed on its soil in response to Russia's troop buildup near the Ukrainian border, according to the country's defense minister on Tuesday.

In a Facebook post, Defense Minister Stefan Yanev stated that "such a decision would not match NATO allies’ interests nor the national interests of Bulgaria." NATO is currently discussing several options, including establishing a military alliance presence in Bulgaria and Romania, two NATO black sea nations, as part of its "Enhanced Forward Presence" mission, according to Yanev.

This statement by Yanev has already enraged many Bulgarian politicians as well as NATO military officials. NATO's top military officer, General Sabi Sabev, called the statement a “gaffe”.

Russia Stance on Troops Deployment 

Russia has maintained its denial that an invasion is in the works. Moscow has stated that it has the right to guard its security" in the face of Ukraine's growing ties with NATO and Kyiv's desire to join the alliance. Moscow has demanded that it desired a legally enforceable promise from NATO that it would cease military operations in Ukraine and other Eastern European countries.

Alexander Grushko, Russia's deputy foreign minister, said Saturday that Russia's security suggestions to the US are an effort to change a military or a military-technical situation into a political one. According to a Russian news agency, Mr. Grushko asserted that the political process would strengthen military security.

Rising Concerns for Europe

Western intelligence officials are concerned that a conflict between Russia and Ukraine could spill into Europe if the Russians invade Ukraine. One of their concerns is that thinking war could be contained to one nation would be foolish. 

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, Chief of the United Kingdom Defense Staff, has warned that a full-scale invasion would have a magnitude unmatched in Europe since the Second World War. In response to Russia's military buildup along the Ukrainian border, the admiral expressed grave concern.

According to Western intelligence, Russia has already deployed thousands of troops near the Ukrainian border, along with tanks and artillery. The U.S. forces might reach 175,000 by the end of January, according to officials.

As a result of an invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Europe would be faced with a large number of displaced people. ​In the war that broke out in eastern Ukraine in 2014, 14,000 people have already died and 1.4 million people have been displaced. Europe is concerned that Russia may launch cyber, hybrid, and physical attacks against NATO members as well.

Why are Russia and Ukraine at Odds?

In 1991, Ukraine, which had been a Soviet republic for centuries before it became a part of the Russian empire, gained independence from the Soviet Union. The country is making strides toward shedding its Russian imperial history and expanding its ties with the West.

Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych rejected an association agreement with the European Union for stronger ties with Moscow, leading to widespread protests that eventually led to his removal in 2014. Russia retaliated by annexing Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and backing separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Russia was accused by Ukraine and the West of providing troops and weapons to support the rebels. The Kremlin rejected that, claiming that the Russians who joined the separationists were voluntarily joining them.

While France and Germany mediated a peace agreement in 2015, sporadic clashes continue along the tense line of contact, despite efforts to reach a political settlement. After a spike in cease-fire violations in the east and the deployment of the Russian army near Ukraine, war fears emerged earlier this year. In April, tensions eased following the withdrawal of Moscow's forces.

Reasons for Latest Standoff

The Kremlin blames Ukraine for violating the 2015 peace agreement and chastised the West for failing to insist on Ukrainian compliance. For Moscow, the accord was a diplomatic success, forcing the Ukraine to surrender large areas of autonomy and offer a broad pardon for the insurgents.

Ukraine, meanwhile, points to cease-fire violations by separatists backed by Russia and insists there are still Russian troops in the rebel-held east despite Kremlin denials. A Russian decision to reject a four-way meeting with France, Germany, and Ukraine has been attributed to Ukraine's refusal to respect the 2015 agreement.

As a result of US military assistance to Ukraine and the conduct of joint drills, the Russian government has harshly criticized the alliance, alleging that this encourages the Ukrainian hawks to try to annex rebel-held territory. The Russian president warned earlier this year that reclaiming the east by force would cause grave problems for Ukraine's statehood. According to him, Ukraine received historic Russian lands unfairly during the Soviet period and Russians and Ukrainians are just one people.

Moscow's desire: What is it?

Ukraine's aspirations to join NATO are a red line for the Russian president who has expressed concern about NATO's plans to set up military training centers in Ukraine. It would give them a military foothold even without Ukraine joining NATO.

Russia also wants NATO to stop military operations in Eastern Europe, which would entail withdrawing combat units from Latvia, Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and not putting missiles in countries like Poland and Romania. In a nutshell, it wants NATO to revert to its pre-1997 boundaries.

Putin said last week that Russia will seek security guarantees from the U.S. and its allies that will prevent NATO from moving eastward and from deploying weapon systems in close proximity to Russian territory.

What Role Does NATO Play In Assisting Ukraine?

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO's secretary-general, emphasized that any military assistance will be only defensive in nature. The United Kingdom is planning to assist Ukraine to build two navels on the Black Sea and on the Sea of Azov. ​The US has also sent two anti-tank missiles and two patrol boats from the U.S. Coast Guard to the Ukrainian navy. Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine's President is seeking a clear timeline from NATO before joining. Russia refuses to allow Ukraine to join the alliance.

Russian Aggression: Biden's stance

The American president took a very hard stance on the Ukrainian issue in a virtual meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on 7th December. The US has made it plain that if Russia invades Ukraine, it will retaliate with harsh economic sanctions. Hence, these new restrictions would be more potent than the sanctions imposed in 2014, which failed to deter Russia from invading Crimea.

Joe Biden also said in a statement that his administration would make it difficult for Putin to attack Ukraine. He cited a number of new deterrent measures designed to fend off Russian aggression.

How Real Is The Russian Invasion Threat?

The Kremlin dismissed allegations of an invasion plot as an attempt by the West to mislead and conceal an attack by Ukraine in the east. Ukraine denies those plans. It has been interpreted by some as Putin's attempt to convince NATO to respect Moscow's red lines and stop sending troops and weapons to Ukraine.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin expressed satisfaction that Moscow's warnings have gained some traction and caused a certain amount of stress in the West last month. According to him, it is critical to keep them in that state for as long as possible to avoid a conflict on our western border that we do not need.

Officials of the United States acknowledged that the goals of Moscow are unclear, but they cited previous Russian actions as the cause for alarm.

Written By: Olivium's Staff.

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