Ukrainian crises- cyber-attack on Ukraine’s government websites
On Friday 14th January, a massive cyber-attack hit Ukraine, targeting nearly 70 websites of the government departments, which also included the ministry of foreign affairs and the education ministry. According to the Ukrainian security service, there exist several signs that point to the involvement of hacking groups associated with Moscow’s intelligence services. Currently, there is heightened tension between Russia and Ukraine; Moreover, the USA has accused Russia of transferring saboteurs trained in explosives to stage a ‘false flag operation’ that could potentially be a prelude to a military invasion of its pro-Western neighbor. Ukraine has also released a statement that Russia continues to wage hybrid warfare on the state.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has dismissed all such claims as being based on ‘unfounded information.’ Although Moscow denies the plan to attack Ukraine, Moocow asserts that it could undertake unspecified military action until its demands are fulfilled, including a promise by NATO to block Ukrainian accession to the alliance. Currently, Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s frontiers.
East-West talks amid security risks in Ukraine
In the wake of the escalating situation, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy proposed a three-way meeting with the leaders of Moscow and Washington. Furthermore, chief of staff Andriy Yermak stated that “life and death of Ukraine hung in the balance.”
The OSCE meeting held in Vienna on 13th January marked an end to the first round of talks conducted between Moscow and the West. The negotiations initiated with a face-to-face between the USA and Russia in Geneva and were subsequently followed by a dialogue with NATO in Brussels. The agendas of the talks circled European security policies and the potentiality of Ukraine’s membership of former Soviet states, such as Ukraine. Russia has threatened to employ ‘military-technical measures’ if the West continues down the path.
A week of dialogue between the East and the West failed to bring the two parties any closer, and there are signs of easing the tensions. Russia continues to be involved in a military build-up on Ukrainian borders, and the USA and NATO reject Moscow’s demand for de facto veto right with regards to the accession of new members. The next round of talks is not planned yet; Russia has repeatedly declared that it has no interest in conducting protracted discussions but desires quick results. The deadline is yet to be set.
While talks did not attain a groundbreaking leap, they did clarify possible areas for negotiations on a limited set of topics. Key takeaways are as followed:
Prior to the talks, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov raised the speculations that dialogue would collapse in the aftermath of a single session; regardless, the talks ran their course. Officials from both sides were stringent and frank yet cordial. Therefore, the week was historic in its own sense; there had never been so many meetings between the East and West over such a short span of time. Moscow has also been upping its historical ante; its top diplomats compared the current situation to the Cuban crisis.
Amid the talks, a senior Russian diplomat stated that the talks were reaching a dead end; however, Ryabkow and other officials asserted that Russia has not given up diplomacy. Sergei Lavrov stated on 13th January that Kremlin would wait unless it received a point-by-point response in a written form to its demands from the USA and NATO before it decides on how to proceed in the coming week.
Lavrov admitted that the culmination of an agreement depends on the USA, but it has accused it of unnecessarily dragging the process by involving 57-states OSCE security forum. One of the major objectives of Moscow is to rise on equal footing Washington via direct negotiations; however, the USA states otherwise. Due to this the format and timeframe of the further round of talks might be difficult to agree on.
Throughout the talks, both parties adopted their ‘red lines.’ For Moscow, it is absolutely mandatory that Ukraine does not become a member state of NATO, and demands the organization to retreat troops and military infrastructure from ex-communist states that become its part in the aftermath of the Cold War. The US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman asserted that these demands are simply nonstarters and that the USA would bever slam the door shut on NATO’s open-door policy.
Despite several disagreements, the West offered talks on issues, such as arms control, deployment of missiles, and CMBs, such as restrictions on military actions. These issues comprise a part of Moscow’s demands but were not raised until now.
Moscow’s strategies have kept the West from intercepting the true intentions of Russia. For instance, on the one hand, Russia has pressed on the need for dialogue; on the other hand, its troops have been practicing long-distance deployments. Similarly, Russia denies preparing for Ukraine’s invasion, but at the same time, it has threatened to employ military-technical measures that could undermine Western security. Moreover, Russian also entails deploying military infrastructure of new areas, thereby raising stakes in the conflict. Ukraine’s intelligence service has asserted that Russian forces are preparing provocations.
How far is Russia prepared to go?
For Putin, what matters the most is to show significant Russian gains in the wake of rampant military tensions. There are two directions that he can adopt: firstly, he could argue that Moscow has forced its adversaries to address its grievances after several years of ignoring them. Secondly, Putin could claim further progress, especially if security dialogues lead to a compromise or commitment.
Currently, one of the biggest concerns for the West is how far would Russia go to prevent Ukraine’s drift towards Europe. While the Russian delegation insists that there are no plans for invasion, danger persists as Moscow’s capability to restrict Ukrainian victory is perceived as the key to Kremlin’s long-term self-preservation.
Written By: Olivium's Staff