On Monday, Putin met with his Belarusian counterpart Lukashenko about NATO’s “increased activity” in Ukraine. Ukrainian units began military exercises last week with NATO and US troops. Four thousand Ukrainians and two thousand Western soldiers are taking part in the maneuvers.
The exercise follows Rapid Trident 2021, a large-scale joint military exercise conducted by Russia and Belarus on the borders of Ukraine and NATO. About 200,000 players took part in it.
The Kremlin has been plagued by US troops stationed in Ukraine since April. “They are bringing NATO troops into Ukraine,” Lukashenko said after the meeting with Putin. “Under the guise of training centers, they are actually setting up bases in the country. It is clear that we have to respond to that.”
Russia is likely to worry about the US Congress’ call for more arms for Ukraine. This includes the Iron Dome anti-aircraft system. But it is doubtful whether the Biden administration will agree, fearing it could spark tensions in the area.
NATO accession is not yet available
According to Lukashenko, he and Putin agreed to do something. Otherwise, an unacceptable situation will arise on the border between Russia and Belarus tomorrow. He did not say what action the two countries planned.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba ignored the Kremlin’s threats. In a tweet, he said Russia should not interfere in the situation in Ukraine. Putin’s ‘red lines’ end at Russia’s border. At our border, we decide for ourselves what we must do for the welfare of the Ukrainian people and the security of Ukraine and Europe. ‘
Relations between the two countries have deteriorated since Russia took over the Crimean peninsula in 2014, providing military support to pro-Russian separatists.
Ukraine has been pressing for years to join NATO, which has made Russia very sad. According to Moscow, the West has promised that NATO will not expand eastward after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and Warsaw Pact, an Eastern European military alliance.
For now, there is little incentive in NATO to admit Ukraine. The conflict with Russia over Crimea and pro-Russian regions plays a key role in this. To his disappointment, Ukraine has not yet been included in the membership program, a kind of NATO portal.
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