The balance of power went up another notch between Russia and NATO members on Tuesday after the start of Russian military maneuvers near Ukraine and in annexed Crimea. Some 6,000 men have started exercises on several bases in southern Russia to check their combat readiness. Other exercises involved air and anti-aircraft forces, groups of ships from the Black Sea and Caspian fleets, as well as 60 fighters and bombers.
The Kremlin justified these military operations because of a new “exacerbation of tensions” by Washington. On Monday, the United States placed 8,500 soldiers on alert, and they could be ready in five days to reinforce the Rapid Reaction Force of the military alliance, made up of 40,000 soldiers. For its part, Kiev assured to have dismantled a group acting on the order of Moscow and which was preparing “a series of armed attacks against infrastructures” to “destabilize” the country.
“In case of aggression, the response will be there and the cost will be very high”
Emmanuel Macron spoke in Berlin at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday afternoon. The French head of state affirmed that “in the event of aggression, the response will be there and the cost will be very high” for Russia, specifying that there was a “very great unity” between France and the Germany to call for de-escalation. Paris will also host a meeting of high-ranking advisers from Germany, Russia and Ukraine on Wednesday. Emmanuel Macron will then have a telephone interview with Vladimir Putin on Friday.
Europeans fear that Russia will put pressure on the West by stopping deliveries of Russian hydrocarbons, and particularly natural gas. However, Russian natural gas weighs more than 40% of the European Union’s supplies. The United States and the Europeans have therefore taken measures to protect supplies and a senior White House official has warned Moscow against any “instrumentalization” of its hydrocarbon sales. Russia “needs gas and oil revenues at least as much as Europe needs its energy supplies,” he said.
NATO threatens Russia with heavy sanctions
Western leaders have agreed to respond with one voice to a possible “attack” on Ukraine by Russia. Boris Johnson assured that these sanctions would be “severe, coordinated and economical” and that they would be “the heaviest we have ever decided before against Russia”.
Washington, for its part, said it was ready to ban the export of technology to Russia. This sanction would affect areas that are important to Vladimir Putin, such as “artificial intelligence, quantum computers, defense, aerospace and other key sectors”, explained a senior White House official. Joe Biden has already made it known that he is considering banning Russian banks from transactions in dollars, the queen currency of international trade.