Russian aggression on Russian-Ukrainian border seeks to sow chaos
University of Miami lecturer and Russia expert Marcia A. Beck assesses the strengthening of the Russian military on the Ukrainian border and explains the role of Florida National Guard advisers deployed in the country.
The presence of more than 100 Florida National Guardsmen deployed to Yavoriv in the far west of Ukraine may seem surprising to some, but Marcia A. Beck, senior lecturer in the University’s Department of Political Science Miami, explained that the deployment is simply as part of a continuing education mission to the country that the United States and the West support as a potential stable democracy as well as a buffer against aggression and l Russian expansion.
The 53rd Gator Infantry Fighting Brigade arrived in early November, replacing an outgoing Washington state combat team to begin running the training center for the next 9 to 12 months, according to Beck. The guards work with other partners of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) under the auspices of the Joint Multinational Training Group to train and advise the Ukrainian defense forces.
Recent media and intelligence reports indicate that more than 100,000 Russian troops are amassing on Ukraine’s eastern border, posing the threat of an invasion early next year.
“They are not sending the guards now because of the build-up,” Beck said, explaining instead that the deployment constitutes the 11th.e the rotation of US guards in Ukraine since 2015 and the so-called “Revolution of Dignity” or “Maidan Revolution” – the conflict and protests that resulted in the ousting of then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian leader.
“The deployment is not a direct move from a Western point of view, but it is very provocative for Russia to have foreign forces in what it considers to be a country which is not only intimately linked to its national identity. , but is part of its so-called sphere of influence in the region, ”Beck said.
The scenario represents a “huge paradigm conflict” between the United States and its allies and Russia. While the United States views foreign policy in terms of self-determination and national sovereignty, Russia views the world through spheres of influence.
“Russia considers that it has all the rights as a power – it was a great power and wants to become a great power again – and a way of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin believes that he can once again move from a regional power to a world power by re-establishing this sphere of influence along Russia’s borders, ”Beck stressed.
The Russian expert referred to unclassified intelligence documents and maps as part of his assessment. She noted that the number of Russian troops could reach a maximum of 175,000, explaining that Russian military fighters could significantly increase the forces amassed on the eastern border of Ukraine.
Without ruling out the possibility of an invasion, Beck described the current border escalation as a scripted approach that the Russian government has followed for decades, an approach that ultimately seeks to reassert Russian power.
“Putin wants to stir up uncertainty and confusion – this is a determined policy and the same thing the Russians do in the United States when they try to polarize America in the election,” she explained. “Americans always make a big mistake in assuming that Russia supports a particular candidate. This is totally wrong. Russia wants to pit Americans against Americans to weaken our national resolve—[Putin is] do the same on the international stage.
While acknowledging that an invasion would quickly overwhelm Ukraine’s defenses, Beck stressed that such a move poses a huge risk to the Russian leader.
“Putin is playing a dangerous game,” she said. “On the one hand, he gets immense popular support by emphasizing Russia’s link with Ukraine, because there are many historical, linguistic and family ties. Beck reported that when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, in retaliation for the country to join NATO and the EU, its approval ratings jumped to 90%.
The many close ties between the two countries date back to the 9th century and the Slavic tribes that inhabited the region, she noted.
“Russians love when Putin expresses his support for this connection,” she said. “Yet polls conducted by these same Russian pollsters show that there is little or no support for military intervention in Ukraine, and he must be concerned about his national position,” Beck added.
While many view Putin’s power – as president or prime minister since 2000 – as absolute, Beck has suggested that his support for the Russian oligarchs is “built on a house of cards.”
“If it is considered weak, if Ukraine suddenly becomes a bastion of investment opportunities based on market standards and the rule of law and Putin loses the support of these oligarchs, he might have problems at the level national and it could all fall apart, ”Beck said. underline. “Putin is very concerned about his national position, especially with the upcoming elections in 2024.”
The threat of an invasion also creates a dilemma for the United States, she said.
With a newly elected Chancellor and Foreign Minister in Germany and French President Emmanuel Macron set for re-election, as well as Biden being relatively new and untested, Putin is poised to sow dissension, Beck said.
She also noted that the sanctions relating to the Nord Stream pipeline are back on the table. But when they were weakened, Putin saw the opportunity for Russia to create a wedge between the United States and Germany, due to Germany’s dependence on pipeline reserves.
“Putin wants to get NATO out of the front line of Russia’s borders and catapult the country back to world power and have a seat at the table and a voice in determining security relations,” Beck admitted.
She pointed out that in 2008, the outgoing administration of George Bush sent its national security team to a NATO meeting in Bucharest to discuss the enlargement of the alliance. Both Ukraine and Georgia have expressed “deep interest” in joining NATO, and Western allies have attempted to chart the course for their eventual membership without upsetting Russia.
Later that summer, Russia waged what is considered the first cyber war in history, shutting down Georgian government institutions and banks in order to warn that they should refrain from seeking to strengthen ties with the West.
This attack began, Beck said, when Russia claimed it was only carrying out training exercises on Georgia’s border and eventually annexed two territories to the north and west of the country.
Russia tried the same tactic in Ukraine in 2014. But there the attempt backfired and led to protests and the ousting of the pro-Russian leader.
“Putin won’t admit that these countries want to join Western military and economic alliances on their own – it’s more appealing than any sort of authoritarian hold they get from Russia,” Beck said. “Russia only expresses the idea of national security if it is under its yoke.”
The current border escalation follows the same Russian pattern of destabilizing and creating chaos as a means of advancing power in the region, she said.
“Russia has caused confusion by bringing troops to the border and moving them, sometimes back, sometimes forward. They know the intelligence forces are watching them and they don’t want the West to say whether they are going to invade, ”Beck suggested.
Russia wants to turn the situation into a huge international crisis, while the West wants to calm it down, she said.
“Who knows what they’ve been planning and how long they’ve been planning it,” Beck said. “It seems to be sort of coming to a head now. Hopefully the threat of tough economic sanctions, which would hit Russian oligarchs hard, will be enough to push Putin back – otherwise the region could be in big trouble again. “