Tensions have escalated as NATO allies and the United States expressed concern about the presence of around 100,000 Russian troops in Ukraine. This could indicate that Moscow intends to invade its ex Soviet neighbor. Russia has made a list of demands that will increase security in Europe, but denies any such plans.
As expected, however, the U.S., Western alliance and Russia refused to make any concessions on Moscow’s main points Wednesday. They said that Ukraine cannot join NATO permanently and that allied deployments in Eastern Europe of troops and military equipment are non-negotiable. The U.S. offered a possible path to de-escalation by indicating areas where some of Russia's concerns could be addressed.
U.S. Secretary Antony Blinken stated, "There is no change, and there will not be any change," reiterating the warning that any Russian incursion in Ukraine would have severe economic consequences.
All eyes now turn to President Vladimir Putin. He will decide how Russia will react amid fears that Europe might be retreated into war.
Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, told reporters that there was little to be optimistic about the U.S. response and the NATO response. But he said that "there are always prospects for continuing a dialog, it's both in the interests of the Americans and us."
Sergey Lavrov, Foreign Minister, stated that the U.S. response had some elements that could be used to start a serious discussion on secondary issues but stressed that it did not contain a positive response on the main topic. These are Moscow's demands for NATO to stop expanding and that the alliance cease from deploying weapons that might pose a threat to Russia.
Lavrov stated that top officials would submit proposals to Putin. Peskov stated that the Russian response would be soon.
Putin will decide Russia's next steps, despite the official statements being vague. If the West does not heed his warnings, he has threatened to take unspecified "military technical measures".
Peskov said that Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden would decide if they should have another conversation after the two previous calls.
According to Zelenskyy’s spokesman, Biden will call Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday.
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine's Foreign Minister, said that Kyiv had received the U.S. response to Russia before it was sent and had no objections. He tweeted that it was important that the U.S. maintains close contact with Ukraine after and before any contacts with Russia.
Kuleba, a Danish visitor, stressed the need for Denmark to improve its defenses.
He said, "This crisis is the moment of truth, which is why we talk about weapons." "This is why economic sanctions are discussed. We speak of the consolidated position of everyone, so President Putin can see that there are no weak points in our defensive chain.
During a parliamentary debate about Ukraine, Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Bock stated that her government was closely coordinating its policies with allies and considering a range options that could include Nord Stream 2 Russian gas pipe to Germany.
Diplomacy is a slow slog, but there are maneuvers that have escalated tensions. Russia launched a series military drills that involved motorized infantry, artillery units, warplanes at Kaliningrad, on the Baltic Sea, warships in the Black Sea, Arctic and Russian fighter jets, paratroopers and paratroopers in Belarus.
NATO stated it was strengthening its deterrence within the Baltic Sea Region, and the U.S. placed 8,500 troops on increased alert for possible deployment to Europe.
Amid the tensions, thousands of Ukrainians expressed their resolve to stand up to the Russian pressure under the hashtag #UkrainiansWillResist on Twitter and Facebook.
Andrii Levus, the initiator of the campaign, wrote that "No one will force Ukrainians into accepting the Kremlin ultimatum."
The Ukraine's Interior Ministry organised training to help in emergencies as war fears grew. It emphasized explosives.
There are concerns about Russia's possible offensive in Ukraine. However, some speculate that Moscow could respond with military deployments to Western Hemisphere.
A senior Russian diplomat refused to rule out the possibility of such deployments to Cuba or Venezuela. However, a top Putin associate voiced doubt Thursday about that possibility.
Dmitry Medvedev (a deputy head of Russia’s Security Council), stated that Cuba and Venezuela were seeking to break the isolation and restore normal relations to the U.S. in a certain degree.
He claimed that Russia is trying to control Russia by using Ukraine, but he acknowledged somberly that Russia-NATO conflicts "would be the most tragic and simply catastrophic scenario and that I hope it never happens."
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Alexei Zaitsev reiterated that Moscow does not intend to attack Ukraine. He said: "We consider any thought about war between our citizens unacceptable."
Although concerns over a Russian attack persist, there is a simmering separatist conflict in Ukraine. After the ouster of the Kremlin-friendly president from Kyiv in 2014, Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and supported an insurgency within the country's eastern industrial center. Over 14,000 people have been killed in fighting between Ukrainian forces, Russia-backed rebels, and negotiations for a settlement are still at a standstill.
Russia has been accused of providing weapons and troops to separatists since the beginning of the conflict. This has been denied by the Kremlin. Peskov refused to comment on Thursday's proposal by United Russia, the Kremlin’s main political party. It suggested that Moscow send arms to rebels in response to Western weapons being delivered to Ukraine. Peskov said that Putin was aware of the proposal, but that he had not yet responded.
On Wednesday, representatives from Russia, France, Germany, and Ukraine met in Paris to discuss ways to end the conflict. While there was no tangible progress, they agreed to meet again in two weeks. Zelenskyy called the talks "constructive" but urged that the leaders of the four countries meet quickly.
Medvedev said, however, that Moscow doesn't see any point in talking with Zelenskyy. He expressed hope that the Ukrainians would eventually be "weary" of this bedlam, and vote for leaders that will pursue policies... aimed to normalize economic relations between Russia and Ukraine.
This comment is in response to a British claim that Russia wanted to replace Ukraine's government by a pro-Moscow one -- a claim Russia denies.