The tension between Russia and the West reached a new point this Monday, Nov. 15, as the United Kingdom announced it was ready to send troops to defend Ukraine from a possible Russian invasion. Also, Poland received U.S. support in its conflict against Belarus, and the European Union extended economic sanctions against the Lukashenko government.
The UK Special Air Service and Parachute Regiment have hundreds of troops ready to send to the Ukraine-Russia border in the face of a possible Russian invasion.
“Between 400 and 600 troops are ready. Their equipment is packed and they are ready to fly to Ukraine and either land or parachute in. They have trained for both eventualities,” an army source told the British newspaper The Mirror.
The UK support comes just days after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with his Ukrainian counterpart in Washington to reaffirm the alliance between the two countries.
During the meeting, Blinken said he feared Russia was preparing to repeat an invasion of Ukraine like the one in 2014 when it annexed the territory of Crimea.
“Our concern is that Russia may make a serious mistake of attempting to rehash what it undertook back in 2014, when it amassed forces along the border, crossed into sovereign Ukrainian territory and did so claiming falsely that it was provoked,” Blinken said.
The Kyiv government claims the Kremlin amassed as many as 100,000 troops on the border and mobilized armaments for what Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called an “unusual concentration of troops.”
The Russian government denies the accusations.
Russia, the common factor in two conflicts
Last week, a caravan of more than 4,000 migrants, mainly from Iraq and Afghanistan, attempted to enter Europe through the Polish-Belarusian border but were stopped by the Polish national guard.
Leaders of the European bloc accused Lukashenko, the Belarusian leader, of having brought the migrants to their border on commercial flights under the promise of entering Europe to force the EU to lift economic sanctions. The sanctions were imposed earlier this year after Lukashenko was accused of election fraud and hijacking a British plane to arrest a dissident journalist.
But for Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawieck, the Kremlin is behind the plot.
“This attack carried out by Lukashenko has its mastermind in Moscow, the mastermind is President Putin,” Morawieck assured a session of the Polish parliament.
Over the weekend, the situation at the border escalated, with Belarusian forces reportedly attempting to break down Poland’s barbed wire fence to allow migrants to enter, even using lasers to blind polish security forces.
In response, on Monday, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price issued a statement assuring that the Biden administration supported Poland’s efforts against the Belarusian leader’s attempt to blackmail the European Union using migrants.
“Secretary Blinken reaffirmed U.S. support for Poland in the face of the Lukashenko regime’s cynical exploitation of vulnerable migrants,” wrote Price, who aimed at the Putin government as well.
“The actions by the Lukashenko regime threaten security, sow division, and aim to distract from Russia’s activities on the border with Ukraine.”
Far from having been persuaded to lift the sanctions, this Monday, the European Council decided to extend them further to target individuals and even airlines that have assisted the Belarusian regime in moving Persian migrants.
Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European bloc welcomed the decision, “Today’s decision reflects the determination by the European Union to stand up to the instrumentalisation of migrants for political purposes. We are pushing back on this inhuman and illegal practice. At the same time, we continue to underline the unacceptable ongoing repression by the regime against its own population at home, and we will respond accordingly.”
Lukashenko denies being responsible for the crisis and promised today a “strong response” to the EU measures. “We will defend ourselves,” he told a meeting of senior officials, adding, “That’s it. We have nowhere to retreat.”