Ukraine: Russian ambassadors more conciliatory tone will encourage western diplomats as they seek compromise with Moscow
The Russian ambassador to the UK’s interview with Sky News was interesting in what he said and what he didn’t.
Russia, he insisted, has no intention to invade Ukraine. That is in the present tense. Of course, that could change if events do.
Ambassador Andrei Kelin also insisted that Russian troops need to be able to conduct exercises and be able “to deter any kind of threat”. One of the big fears is of a confected casus belli.
Ukraine: We will defend ourselves against Russia ‘until the last drop of blood’, says country’s army chief
Russian forces in the east of Ukraine, for instance, clash with Ukrainian troops and use that as an excuse to launch a much bigger military operation. Russian intentions would then be changed.
Ambassador Kelin also made much of NATO aggression.
NATO has pushed Ukraine to be aggressive and “aggressively expanded closer and closer to our borders,” he said.
An organisation that presents itself as defensive is seen as offensive by Moscow.
What was missing from the ambassador’s comments was the thinly-veiled threat we heard yesterday here in Geneva from Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov.
He warned of unspecified consequences for security on the entire continent of Europe if Russian demands on NATO, Eastern Europe and Ukraine are not met. That sounded ominous.
Ambassador Kelin was sounding more conciliatory than the minister.
The fact that he did not repeat that threat will encourage western diplomats as they continue seeking compromise with Russia at NATO on Wednesday and with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Thursday.
If the Kremlin wants the spectre of war to be felt across Europe, it did not choose the ambassador to do so.
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