Russian invasion in Ukraine January 2022 and new war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Balkans?

Russian invasion in Ukraine January 2022 and new war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Balkans?

Putin already in March/April 2021 concentrated troops on the Ukrainian border which caused alarm in the West and NATO and brought an military analyst to the following scenarios:

“Putin has three options:

1) Show of forces to „discipline“ Zelensky, to influence FR and GE to help him to test and embarrass and disgrace the US;

2) Break-ins and occupation of the two breakaway regions with regular Russian forces as „peacekeeping forces“ – with the prospect of joining Russia and further destabilization of the UKR;

3) after further intensification of a concentric attack with a focus on the south with the UKR forces in the north / east tied up, creating a land connection to the Crimea – very risky, especially with a view to the unforeseeable, but probably far-reaching political consequences, but in the light of the experience with Putin’s willingness to take risks 2014, if he sees the stability of his regime at risk, cannot be ruled out at the moment

In the April crisis, the FAZ already wrote:

„Experienced generals are alarmed: … Philip Breedlove is alarmed, very alarmed when he looks at the Russian deployment on the borders with Ukraine: ‚We are now seeing for the first time the strategic‘ facilitators‘ that Moscow needs for an invasion: artillery batteries, Equipment for electronic warfare, logistics units, paramedics. ”They weren’t there a week ago, says the former Air Force general, who until 2016 was the commander in chief of NATO and all American troops in Europe. He does not know what is going on in the head of the Russian President. Maybe Vladimir Putin wants to politically intimidate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. ‚Or it is the kind of force that Russia used to invade Crimea in 2014 and later in Donbass.‘

Ben Hodges goes even further. ‚After everything we’ve seen in the last few days, I no longer have the slightest doubt that we will see an escalation in violence,‘ says the Army General, who led the American land forces in Europe until 2017 … It is alarming that Russia has designated three zones for military exercises off the Crimean peninsula – not, as usual, for a very limited period of time, but until the end of October. Foreign warships and other state ships are not allowed to pass the Kerch Strait during this period, Moscow has decreed … For President Putin, the military deployment opens up at least three strategic options. First: He has set up a threatening backdrop to intimidate Kiev … The second option: … ‚Putin could de facto join the two Donbass regions to Russia or at least keep them as a bargaining chip in order to continue massively influencing Ukraine’s politics influence and destabilize them, ’says Heinrich Brauss, NATO’s top defense planner until 2018 … The third option is a regional attack on (new) Ukrainian territory. Former Generals Brauss, Breedlove and Hodges are more likely to expect this in the south of Ukraine than in the east. Putin can try first of all to bring the Crimean water supply under Russian control. To do this, he could use paratroopers from the Crimea, flanked by electronic warfare. In 2014 the Russians managed to conquer Crimea in one stroke … Hodges believes the Kremlin’s territorial hunger is even greater. „The main prize would be to conquer the entire coast as far as Odessa,“ says the former army general. „(FAZ, April 21, 21)

However, it turned out to be false alarm and that Putin was bluffing and wanted to test out Biden.

However, now in November 2021  as Putin is concentrationg troops at the Ukrainian border again, Western Intelligence services warn of a major attack by Russia on Ukraine early next year. Is there a threat of a new escalation in Eastern Europe? Dmytro Kuleba, Foreign Minister of Ukraine, reacted with a warning to the Russian troop movements on the border. „A new attack will be costly,“ said Kuleba in a speech on Ukrainian television on Thursday. It is therefore “better to refrain from doing it”. He could not imagine what is currently going on in Vladimir Putin’s mind: „We are working to make him understand: A new attack on Ukraine will be too costly, so it is better not to do it.“ The Ukrainian military intelligence service reports, according to the Reuters news agency, that more than 92,000 Russian soldiers have gathered on the border with Ukraine  According to CNN, the White House is thinking about sending military advice to Ukraine and weapons. These included anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles from the Stinger and Javelin systems as well as Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters that were actually intended for Afghanistan. However, there were dissenting voices in Joe Biden’s administration: The appearance of the Stinger and Mi-17 in Ukraine could see Russia as an escalation of the conflict. Presidential spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki did not want to comment on the possible deliveries. Nerves are strained, in Washington as in Moscow. According to US and Ukrainian intelligence services, the Kremlin is preparing a war against Ukraine. The Russians were planning a major attack in late January or early February, said Kirill Budanov, head of military intelligence at the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, over the weekend, confirming US information. Moscow had already gathered 94,000 men at the front and posted 1,200 tanks and Iskander ballistic missiles there. Before that, the Russian secret services would instigate protests in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities. Russia attack on Ukraine: the Donbass conflict would be over

According to the Ukrainian intelligence, the Russians are planning extensive advances from Donbass and Crimea, as well as a landing maneuver near Odessa and attacks from Belarus. This would allow them to bring the Russian-speaking southeast of Ukraine, as well as the capital Kiev and above all the entire Black Sea coast under their control. The remaining trunk of Ukraine would lose access to the sea, but the annexed Crimean peninsula would receive a wide land bridge to Russia and a problem-free water supply from the Dnieper. The Donbass conflict, in which Russia appears increasingly annoyed, would be over. The Russian occupation, together with the pro-Russian separatist republic of Transnistria, could put the European-oriented government of Moldova under pressure in the future. With Ukraine, Russia would have defeated its hesitant Western supporters and established itself as Eurasia’s military power. The Russian portal quotes the essay by the former Kremlin ideologist Vladislav Surkov: „For Russia, constant expansion is not just an idea, but a fundamental existential of our historical existence.“

However, the sources in Washington or Kiev consider the Russian military strike to be by no means certain. And it was only on Monday that Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov insisted that his country had no aggressive plans. On the contrary, Ukraine is planning aggressive actions against the pro-Russian rebel republics in Donbass. The Moscow military expert Viktor Litowkin told the Frankfurter Rundschau that it was a Western fake campaign. In case of  major attack on Ukraine, Putin risks further sanctions „Russia will not invade Ukraine as long as Ukraine does not start a major offensive in Donbass.“ Then Russia’s military response would also hit the southern Ukrainian coastal regions of Mykolaiv and Kherson, as well as Odessa. There are NATO training centers near Mykolaiv and Ochakiv, and the British want to build a naval base for the Ukraine in Berdyansk; Russia will also take this opportunity to remove such threats. But Litovkin believes the US will not allow a major Ukrainian offensive in Donbass. Putin would realize how bad this will end for Ukraine. And the Kiev political scientist Vadim Karassev considers an invasion only a reserve variant of Russia. „Moscow created this threat scenario in order to put the West under political pressure, as it did last spring.“ Biden and the West have since become weaker, China stronger, and the price of gas has risen enormously.

The USA achieved Russia´s troop withdrawal in April On the other hand, Putin risks further economic sanctions and the end of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the event of a war. Other analysts also believe that Putin is still bluffing. Last week, he asked the Foreign Ministry to keep the western states under tension. “They have to maintain this condition for as long as possible.” The aim is to enforce “long-term, reputable security guarantees”. In April, Russian troops withdrew after Biden proposed a summit to Putin. At least a virtual meeting is now being debated again. But with each new deployment of troops, the Kremlin is pushing up the stakes.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selensky (43) warned on Friday that Russia was planning a coup against him. „I have received the information that a coup d’état will take place in our country on December 1st,“ he said at a press conference in Kiev. The Ukrainian secret service has tape recordings on which Russian government representatives wanted to forge plans for a coup with the Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov (55). Akhmetov is the richest man in the country and, according to Selensky, should finance the coup with his fortune of more than six billion euros. The head of state did not provide any further details, but he announced that he would confront the oligarch with the recordings.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned Russia on Friday of an attack on Ukraine. „Any use of force against Ukraine will have consequences, will lead to costs,“ said Stoltenberg, thereby intensifying the alliance’s tone. For the first time, he not only spoke of „large and unusual concentrations of troops in the region“, but also specified it. “That includes capabilities such as tanks, artillery, armored units, drones and systems for electronic warfare, as well as troops in combat readiness.” Although Russia’s intention is not known, it has attacked Ukraine, occupied Crimea and destabilized the East . It also leads cyber attacks against the country. „These are all very strong reasons to be concerned.“ NATO foreign ministers will meet next week in Riga to discuss the situation on Ukraine’s borders. Stoltenberg made it clear that the country was not protected by Allianz’s assistance obligation. But the allies could impose further sanctions on Moscow.

The day before, during a visit to NATO headquarters, the Polish President Andrzej Duda spoke out in favor of the alliance strengthening its “strategic surveillance” in the region. Specifically, he named the desire for increased air policing, which the allies have been doing in the Baltic States since 2014, and “strengthening the operational readiness of NATO units on the eastern flank”. This referred to the battlegroups stationed in the Baltic States and Poland. „We want this to be considered by NATO,“ said Duda. Diplomats then made it clear that Poland had not yet made any requests for military support in the responsible bodies. more on the subject Stoltenberg also commented on the coalition agreement in Germany. He welcomed the partners‘ decision to maintain NATO’s nuclear participation and to continue investing in defense. However, he kept his distance to the announcement that he would join the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty as an observer. He had already spoken to Olaf Scholz and had been assured that Germany did not want to become a member of the treaty that NATO rejected as a „unilateral step“ in disarmament.

After the Belarus refugee hybrid war and besides the Ukrainian crisis, another crisis is looming at the Balkan, especially in Bosnia- Herzegovina which is facing division.The radical Serb leader Dodik wants to split Bosnia-Herzegovina. Russia is helping him to found an army. Sarajevo the last time in the 90s – 100,000 dead, more than two million displaced persons and a largely destroyed country: nowhere in the territory of the former Yugoslavia flowed as much blood as in Bosnia. In 1995 the war ended with the Dayton Agreement and the federally organized state of Bosnia and Herzegovina with its two semi-autonomous, roughly equal republics, emerged from it. Long-simmering conflicts are now flaring up again and threatening to explode. The system of government in the Balkans, with a population of three million, is one of the most complicated in the world. The two states, the Republika Sprska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, each have their own parliaments. Above all, however, is the central government in the capital Sarajevo and tries to unite all the population groups living in the country – Bosnian Serbs, Croats and the Bosniaks. Bosnia and Herzegovina: Serb leader Milorad Dodik wants to split off from the central state The government is currently led by Milorad Dodik, the Serbian member of the state presidency. The radical Serb leader has been relying on war rhetoric for some time, wants a separate army for the Republika Sprska and plans to split off from the central state. At the instigation of Dodik, the Bosnian Serbs have been boycotting the work of the central institutions of the Balkan state since July. The independent Sprska army is to be formed „within the next few months“.

 According to political scientist Vedran Dzihic from the Austrian Institute for International Politics in Vienna, Dodik will receive support from Serbia and Russia. In the ntv podcast “Wieder was gelernt” (Learned something again) , Dzihic describes the Balkans as a “new geopolitical marketplace”, on which the cards are currently being redistributed. “Russia wants to hand out a wad to the European Union. They don’t want to threaten the European project, but at least want to challenge it, ”explains the Viennese political scientist This is one of the reasons why worries are growing in the EU. Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas recently brought EU sanctions against Serb leader Dodik into play. On the sidelines of EU consultations in Brussels, he described the developments in Bosnia-Herzegovina as „extremely worrying“. The European Union couldn’t care less, said Maas. Bosnia and Herzegovina: „Serious existential threat of the post-war period“ The CSU politician and former Federal Minister of Agriculture Christian Schmidt has been High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina at the United Nations since August. In his current report he writes: „Bosnia-Herzegovina is confronted with its gravest existential threat of the post-war period“. According to political scientist Dzihic, the coming weeks and months will be decisive. It now comes down to de-escalation, he explains in the podcast. “Dodik has crossed the red line several times. The Americans and the Europeans have to show their flags ”demands the native Bosnian.It seems likely that the first foreign political challenge for the new traffic light coalition and its new chancellor Scholz and green foreign minister Anna-Lena Baerbock could be the escalation of the Ukrainian and the Balkan crisis. Maybe Putin wants to test out the coherence of the West after the Summit of Democracies again and also the new German goverment, but the USA seems to take it more seriously this time as it thinks about delivering Stinger missiles to Ukraine which could bring down Russian military fighter jets. Therefore the time just to rely mainly on economic sanctions to raise the price for a Russian invasion, seems to be over and if the USA would deliver the Stinger missiles they want to rasise the military price for Russia and drag it in a Ukrainian Afghanistan quagmire as deterrence.

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