NEWS DIGEST 23.01.2022: NewsNow – the war in eastern Ukraine

Good morning readers. This Sunday, our news partner NewsNow takes the wheel and brings their coverage of the ongoing military situation in the Ukraine-Russia border region.

The Russian foreign minister’s team warned Japan to stay out of the brewing Ukraine crisis after U.S. officials touted a “close alignment” with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in the lead-up to a potential eruption of violence in Eastern Europe. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s office expressed “puzzlement” at the “inadmissibility and senselessness” of Japan’s warning that it was poised to take “strong actions” in light of the Eastern European power’s recent actions in Ukraine. “We reviewed with puzzlement the reports that at the Japan-US summit yesterday, the Japanese side attempted to threaten Russia with some ‘strong actions,’ ‘in close coordination with the US and other allies’ at that, in the Ukrainian context,” Lavrov’s subordinates at the Russian Embassy in Tokyo wrote Saturday in a Facebook post translated by state media. Russia’s mobilization of military forces around Ukraine in recent months has stoked widespread misgivings about an expanded war in the former Soviet satellite state, particularly as Russian officials have signaled that the crisis can be averted only through a practical contraction of NATO. The growing tensions have global diplomatic ramifications, most recently evidenced by President Joe Biden’s virtual meeting with his Japanese counterpart. “NATO will not renounce our ability to protect and defend each other, including with the presence of troops in the eastern part of the Alliance,” NATO Spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said Friday after Russian officials singled out her home country of Romania as one of the allies that must lose the benefit of Western military partners – Russia warns Japan to stay out of Ukraine crisis (Washington Examiner – Magazine)

Photo by Somchai Kongkamsri on Pexels.com

The Baltic countries of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are to send anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine, in a move that is backed by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, but is unlikely to please Moscow. Russia is now estimated to have 127,000 troops stationed near its border with Ukraine, and is sending pilots to take part in military drills along the border between Ukraine and Belarus. In a bid to ratchet down the tensions in the region, Britain’s defence minister Ben Wallace is set to have talks in Moscow with his Russian counterpart – Anti-aircraft weapons on way to Ukraine as Russian troops amass on border (4 News)

Ukraine is now closer to the West than ever before but parts of the country with stronger links to Russia have been in open revolt ever since. We know the future Putin wants for Russia and his demands for the present – but to understand the Ukraine crisis, it is also important to realise he is fixated with a very particular reading of history. In July 2021, he published a self-penned 7,000-word essay called ‘On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians’, a laborious analysis spanning 1,000 years which seeks to make a case that Ukraine is part of a larger Russia. Simultaneously, pro-Russian protests broke out in the eastern Donbas region, which has closer cultural and linguistic ties to Russia than much of Ukraine, and the situation devolved into armed conflict between the government in Kyiv and separatist groups backed by Moscow. The Americans have even raised the prospect of a meeting between Putin and Joe Biden soon and the UK’s defence chief is expected to fly to Moscow for the first bilateral talks with Russia since 2013 – What does Putin want? The story behind the Russia-Ukraine conflict (Metro – News – World)

Europe is already reeling from the worst energy crunch since the 1970s, with gas stockpiles running perilously low. Prices have more than doubled in the past six months on fears of war and capped shipments from Russia, even as President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said he doesn’t plan to invade Ukraine. Biden has backed sanctions on Nord Stream 2 if Russia invades, while new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s administration has signaled that an escalation of the crisis could mean an end of the pipeline. Russia wants to preserve its position as a reliable supplier, and “I do not see this position changing even in the event of a shooting war with Ukraine,” said Chris Weafer, chief executive officer of Moscow-based Macro-Advisory Ltd. At stake is 40 billion cubic meters of gas that Russia is committed to move annually via Ukraine under a contract that ends in 2024. While Russian gas flows to Europe have been disrupted in the past during disputes with Ukraine over prices, they’ve largely remained uninterrupted – even in the aftermath of the annexation of Crimea in 2014 – What Would War in Ukraine Mean for Europe’s Energy Crisis? (BNN Bloomberg – Commodities)

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