/ 21 January 2022

Biden reckons Russia will take a crack at Ukraine

Image source: Getty
Image source: Getty

Fronting up for his second solo presidential press conference to mark a year in the White House, Joe Biden said his “guess” is Vladimir Putin will “move in” on Ukraine. “He has to do something. He is trying to find his place in the world between China and the West,” Biden said yesterday.

Biden said he doesn’t think Russia wants a “full-blown war” – and he reissued his warning that Putin would pay a “serious and dear price” if he did invade Ukraine. But Biden also said a “minor incursion” could receive a lesser response than a full-scale invasion of the country. That statement left Ukraine officials and supporters flummoxed, and critics accused Biden of giving Putin “a green light” to rev up the tanks. On clean up duty, the White House later said he was referring to Russia’s “extensive playbook of aggression short of military action”, like cyberattacks and paramilitary dirty tricks. “And he affirmed today that those acts of Russian aggression will be met with a decisive, reciprocal, and united response,” press secretary Jen Psaki said. Moscow continues to deny that it is planning to invade its neighbour, but 100,000 Russian troops remain close to the border, and extensive diplomatic talks have not prompted Putin to step things back.

Yeah, let’s go back a little… In 2014, Ukraine’s Russian-friendly president was driven from power following mass protests. Russia responded by annexing Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula (which is a fancy way of saying it now claims the territory as its own), and it backed Russia-loving rebels who took up arms in Ukraine’s east. During the fighting, MH17 was downed by a missile system that belonged to a Russian brigade and all 283 passengers were killed, including 27 Aussies. In total, the conflict claimed at least 13,000 lives, and 2 million people fled their homes. A peace agreement was brokered in 2015 – but things are far from settled… Ukraine says the rebels keep violating the ceasefire agreement, and Russia has accused Ukraine of failing to give the rebel regions the freedoms promised. On top of that, Russia is livid with the idea that Ukraine is getting close to NATO, which would put Western Europe’s and America’s security interests too close to Russia’s border for comfort. So the pot is simmering…

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