What is the risk of a war between Russia and Ukraine?Reuters

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© Reuters. File Picture: In this handout picture released by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, a soldier of the Armed Forces of Ukraine participates in a military exercise at a training ground near the border of Crimea annexed by Russia in the Kherson region of Ukraine.

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Mark Trivian

(Reuters)-Russia’s military moves near Ukraine have caused concerns in Kiev and the United States that it may be considering attacking its neighbors. Here are some of the questions raised.

What are the views of the two parties on the risk of conflict?

Russia denies threatening anyone and says it can deploy troops on its own territory as much as it wants. It accused Ukraine and NATO of increasing tensions, and hinted that Kiev may be prepared to try to retake the two eastern regions controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014. Russia’s foreign spy agency this week compared this situation to 2008. In this war, the Russian army crushed the army of neighboring Georgia.

Ukraine denied planning any such offensives and stated that Russia had assembled more than 92,000 troops near its borders in preparation for an attack.

How likely is the Russian invasion?

Reuters interviewed more than a dozen sources, including Western intelligence officials and Russians familiar with the ideas of the Kremlin. Almost all agreed that the invasion is unlikely to be imminent. They said that a more reasonable situation is that President Vladimir Putin is using credible military threats to signal that Russia is serious about defending its “red line” in Ukraine. In recent weeks, it has repeatedly stated that it is not prepared to accept the provision of NATO weapons to Ukraine or any NATO military presence there, let alone the prospect of Ukraine eventually joining the alliance. The sources added that Putin is good at escalating and easing crises-as he did in the spring, when more than 100,000 Russian troops gathered near the Ukrainian border and then retreated. In this way, he is asking Russian opponents to guess his intentions and reminding the West that Russia is a force that cannot be ignored.

If there was a war, what would it look like?

According to data from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), the Russian armed forces have 900,000 active personnel, compared with 209,000 in Ukraine, an advantage of more than four to one. But Samir Puri, a senior researcher on mixed warfare at IISS, said that Russia’s real advantage is that it already has agents fighting in the separatist war in eastern Ukraine, which gives it the option to contact them and expand their control. Area. control. He said that if a wider invasion is to be carried out, it could consider attacking from the north (from Russia and its ally Belarus), the east or the south (through Crimea, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014). Naval attacks on Odessa and Mariupol.

How is Ukraine prepared to defend itself?

Ukraine’s military strength is significantly stronger than in 2014, when it lost Crimea to Russia without real fighting. It has advanced anti-tank missiles provided by Washington and can use US intelligence support. But it will still face overwhelming opponents-for example, Russia has more than three to one advantage in main battle tanks.

Matthew Burrag, a researcher at the Chatham Institute think tank in London, said: “For Ukraine, the problem will be…resist as much as possible, pray for help from the West, and finally fight back.” “If Russia invades completely, Kiev’s problem will be to launch a counter-insurgency-style war that will cost Russia a huge invasion price.”

What else might stop Moscow?

The West imposed sanctions on Russia after the capture of Crimea and may add painful new measures, such as preventing Russia from transporting Russian natural gas to Germany through the newly built Beixi 2 pipeline. If Putin invades, he will face the risk of severing relations with the West completely. It is not clear how far NATO may go in defending Ukraine, which is fraught with risks for all parties. Ukraine is not a NATO member, but doing nothing makes the alliance seem irrelevant.

“This is a fringe policy game that is being played. Whether it is NATO in Brussels or Moscow, calculations will be made around the direction that the escalation step may lead to. If NATO is deployed to fight… Russians will think this is an order. An incredible upgrade,” Puri said.

“I think it is unlikely that (Ukraine) will eventually become a battlefield-but it is indeed a question of Russia and NATO’s current siege in Ukraine.”

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