Over the years, the West has been an omniscient witness of how Russia has managed to expand around the world, increasing its influence and, above all, establishing itself militarily in the backyard of the United States.
While President Joe Biden assured that Russia would face “swift and severe consequences” from the United States and its allies if Moscow attacks Kiev; there is evidence that Vladimir Putin would not only be interested in eventually annexing Ukraine (as he did Crimea) but seeks, as well, Latin American territories.
Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, warned that reclaiming Ukrainian territory would not be the last thing Russian forces would do and would threaten all of Eastern Europe if the West does not oppose them.
“The reason why Putin attacked us is not because he wants Ukraine, or only Ukraine. The reason he attacked us is because we have chosen to be a democracy and we have the Atlantic and European aspirations,” Markarova said.
A Wall Street Journal article reveals how Russia has managed to “sink its teeth” into the West, not as a preamble to a conventional confrontation, but by preparing hybrid warfare using military intelligence systems and equipment in countries such as Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba.
“Russia supplies weapons and manpower, while China provides the more sophisticated military technology. It isn’t unlike the strategy employed to undermine the West in Ukraine and Syria,” notes journalist Maria Anastasia O’Grady in her article.
Russia settles in Venezuela and seeks to snatch an ally from the U.S.
Russia’s role has been fundamental for the regimes of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro to remain in power despite the great disapproval of the Venezuelan population. Both tyrants reached agreements with Putin which allowed them to armor their country with Russian weapons.
On January 13, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned that his government would not rule out the deployment of “military assets” in Venezuela and Cuba if the United States continues to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty.
But Russia’s military presence in the U.S. backyard is not new. A Reuters report on January 25, 2019 cited sources claiming that Russian private military contractors were sent to Venezuela to help Maduro stay in power.
“Trained and armed to run repressive police states, Venezuela and Cuba—and Nicaragua—are now safely in the Russia-China column,” the WSJ notes.
But as O’Grady describes it, Russia is not content with maintaining its presence in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. It will now go to great lengths to take from the United States one of its main allies in South America: Colombia.
“If the former M-19 guerrilla Gustavo Petro wins Colombia’s presidential election in May, the stage will be set to turn what was once one of the U.S.’s most reliable allies into a Russian proxy. All without firing a shot,” explains O’Grady in her WSJ article.
Russia wants Ukraine on its side
Just as Vladimir Putin managed to increase his presence in Latin America, he is also aiming to attract Ukraine’s attention and keep it, eventually, as an ally.
Although it sounds far-fetched to think that Ukraine —happy with its independence— would team up with Russia, experts claim that Vladimir Putin is moving all his chips to divide NATO, demonstrate Biden’s weakness and expose to Kiev that “it’s on its own.”
“If Russia is sincere about addressing our respective security concerns through dialogue, the United States and our Allies and partners will continue to engage in good faith,” Biden said. Yet, when it comes to “consequences” it has become clear that the United States isn’t willing to intervene militarily in an eventual invasion, and would only be preparing sanctions.
Three specialists in Foreign Affairs let El American know that the possibility of Putin invading Ukraine shouldn’t be ruled out, but what the Russian president would be looking for is to show Kiev that it doesn’t count on what it considers its allies.
Michael Johns, former White House presidential speechwriter and foreign policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, gave an exclusive interview to El American in which he explained that Putin is trying to divide and break NATO as he has been trying to do for years.
“I think Putin fears NATO and the U.S. and is seeking to divide and diminish the alliance rather than test U.S. and NATO resolve through military aggression against Ukraine, but it would be a mistake to discount the possibility of aggression. He annexed Crimea. It’s conceivable he’d seek to seize more of Ukraine,” Johns said said.
In an interview for El American, Cesar Sabas, an expert in Foreign Affairs and International Security, said that Russia will not invade Ukraine in the short term because the “real project of the Russians, which is long-term”, is to reunify the “Empire of the Czars” that was Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.
“If Russia invades Ukraine today there may be a bloody and bloody war that in the long term will not generate unity among the peoples. However, what Russia is looking for is to show Ukraine that it is alone before the West, to ask it to come closer and reach agreements, and in the long term to expand,” the specialist considered.
Joseph Humire, global security expert and executive director of the Center for Free and Secure Society Studies, agrees. “Russia is preparing to have that option to invade, but I agree that it is also demonstrating that Ukraine has no allies. Ukraine’s main ally should be NATO and it is very weakened […] Putin knows that the threat must be credible, so Russia can think about invading Ukraine at the same time it shows it is alone,” he said.
Does the United States need Russia more than Ukraine?
Although there are those who believe Biden should confront Russia in its intentions to invade Ukraine, there are also specialists who argue that a confrontation with Putin is not convenient for the United States at this time, and therefore they are betting on a diplomatic solution.
Daniel Garza, president of the conservative group Libre Initiative said in an interview for El American that “at a time when we face record debt, inflation, supply chain problems and an overstretched military, we cannot afford a conflict with a nuclear weapons state.”
“Encouraging Ukraine to falsely believe that we’ll fight on its behalf drives it to talk tough with Russia when it should be doing the opposite to protect itself. It’s in America’s interest to stabilize our relations with Russia as China continues to rise, rather than antagonizing Moscow and driving it toward Beijing,” Garza said.
“We should encourage Ukraine to seek a diplomatic solution with Russia and to be neutral long-term—that’s the best way to improve regional stability and ensure that Ukraine suffer more bloodshed or lose more territory,” he added.
Garza thinks best strategy to achieve stabilization and reduce tensions is to encourage Ukraine to assume a neutral position.
“The best way to defend Ukraine is to encourage it to seek a diplomatic solution to its eastern separatist conflict and to for it to become neutral in the long-run, like Finland or Austria. Neutrality lets Ukraine be a “bridge” between the West and Russia, preserving its autonomy and allowing it to trade with the West without Russia fearing its use as a NATO staging ground,” Garza argued.
“In practice, this costs the U.S. and NATO almost nothing, since Ukraine was never part of the Western orbit until 2014, but denies Russia the opportunity to turn Ukraine into a satellite state. Encouraging Ukraine to keep digging in its heels doesn’t do it any favors, and just makes a preventable Russian invasion more likely,” he concluded.