Many Americans seem to have largely forgotten about the formerly frozen conflict in the portions of Ukraine bordering Russia. That condition is set to change. Moscow is prepared to remind the world that it has designs on its sovereign European neighbor.
On Wednesday, NATO accused Russia of again invading Ukraine by sending mechanized weapons platforms, soldiers, and armor into the region. “We have seen columns of Russian equipment, primarily Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian combat troops entering into Ukraine,” said NATO’s European commander Philip Breedlove. “We do not have a good picture at this time of how many. We agree that there are multiple columns that we have seen.”
The escalation of tensions which largely went unnoticed in the West has, according to AFP reporters, heightened fears that open hostilities between Ukrainian troops and Russian forces are imminent.
With fears rising of all-out war, Ukraine’s central bank hiked interest rates Wednesday by 1.5% to 14% after inflation rose to nearly 20% last month, while the currency, the hryvnia, continued to tumble on money markets.
The Ukraine crisis has sent relations between Russia and the West plummeting to their lowest point since the Cold War.
Some analysts suspect that Putin’s aim is to formally annex the Ukrainian territory of Donbass into the Russian Federation in the same way that Moscow invaded and incorporated the Ukrainian territory of Crimea into the Federation earlier this year.
If, however, Americans thought they could get away with ignoring this rapidly escalating conflict half a world away forever, Russia disabused them of this notion when the Kremlin took the extraordinary ambitious step of commissioning long-range bomber patrols from Russia to the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.
The strategic bombers, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, will also conduct flights along Russian borders and over the Arctic Ocean, [Russian Defense Minister Sergei] Shoigu said.
“In the current situation, we have to maintain military presence in the western Atlantic and eastern Pacific, as well as the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico,” he said. The flights will conduct “reconnaissance missions to monitor foreign powers’ military activities and maritime communications,” he said.
A senior U.S. military official told the Associated Press that Russia never flew bomber patrols over the Gulf of Mexico, even during the Cold War.
Speaking of Russia’s nuclear deterrent, the Federation has undertaken a strategic modernization of the nation’s nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Russia will commit 25 percent of its $560 billion modernization budget over the next six years to revamping its atomic forces. “U.S. officials say it will take at least $355 billion over the coming decade to upgrade America’s nuclear arsenal and keep up with the rearmament spree underway in the rest of the world,” The Portland Press Herald reported. This, they add, is an unlikely prospect as the administration seems more predisposed to retire much of America’s nuclear arsenal than to update it.
The Russian news outlet Pravda celebrated this development and warned Washington that Russia’s nuclear progress cannot be reversed:
It was the first strategic agreement, after the treacherous policy of democrats, in which Russia managed to win significant advantages. In the treaty, the Americans, for the first time in history, undertook to reduce their strategic nuclear potential, while Russia won an opportunity to increase it. Furthermore, the new treaty removed important limitations that existed in the previous START 1 and START 2 treaties. It goes about the size of areas for the deployment of mobile ICBMs, the number of multi charge ICBMs, and the possibility to build railway-based ICBMs. Russia did not make any concessions.
Having written off Moscow as a serious geopolitical rival, flying on the wings of inaccessible military and technological superiority, Washington drove itself into a trap, from which it does not see a way out even in a medium-term perspective.
“Here is another surprise. As for tactical nuclear weapons, the superiority of modern-day Russia over NATO is even stronger,” Pravda added. “The Americans are well aware of this. They were convinced before that Russia would never rise again. Now it’s too late.”
In the wake of the downing of a civilian airliner by unrestrained pro-Russian militants using Russian weaponry in July, President Barrack Obama insisted that Washington and Moscow were not embarking on “a new Cold War.” Russia is intent on proving him wrong, and the situation in Europe is growing more dangerous by the day.