Allied efforts to try to present a united, principled front on the Ukraine crisis appeared to waver today. European and NATO messaging attempted to calm growing apprehension. US, British, Australian and Canadian goverments made warnings about the situation or took steps with their embassies in Kiev that suggested a Russian attack was more imminent.
Borrell (EU) said it was about diplomacy. Solana (ex NATO) called for everyone to calm down a bit. Robles (Defence Minister, Spain) said that while this was all worrying it was not dramatic. Macron (France) and Scholz (Germany) spoke of the economic price Putin would have to pay after he invaded Ukraine. Afterwards. Ex post facto.
If President Biden's "minor incursion" slip at the press conference last week was interpreted as a green light for Putin to invade, today there were arguably two more. Stoltenberg (NATO) told CNN that NATO would not be sending combat troops to Ukraine. Psaki (White House) said: "There is no intention or interest or desire by the President to send troops to Ukraine".
The tone in Britain seems noticeably different. Armed Forces Minister James Heappey wrote in The Sun that "freedom is not free" and compared the situation to the German invasion of Poland in 1939 or the Korean War. Boris Johnson told parliament that Ukraine has a right to defend herself and that the war could be as nasty as Chechenya or Bosnia.
Pedro Sánchez announced after speaking to Stoltenberg on Sunday that Spain supports “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine", which in theory is more aligned with the British position. But no western leader in any country appears to be talking about defending Ukraine before Putin invades and does whatever it is he is about to do. The grand plan appears to be to send some more weapons to the Ukranians to help them defend themselves a bit more, but not to actually help out ourselves. Will that prove the right course over time? Even if Ukraine is not a NATO member, should liberal western democracies just stand by and watch Putin destoy her?
1. I thought this was a meme after yesterday's insults, but, no, it's on the party Twitter account. Vox has put a Vox hood on a hawk "to support the countryside". Monasterio, pretty in a winter collection country hat like Olona. Buxadé, with the people.
2. Borrell (EU, Spain) has been on CNN to talk about Ukraine. He avoided the "what is the risk of war" question: "We are engaged in diplomacy […] I'm not going to make some guesses about the risk of war". He admitted there was a threat from Russia.
3. So what if Putin invades? "If diplomacy fails, we are very well advanced with the preparations of a response to any kind of potential Russian agression", said Borrell, which "certainly are sanctions". "Bilateral talks" and "diplomatic efforts" all over the place: EU, US, NATO.
4. Although the EU is trying to differentiate itself from US and British diplomacy and warnings, the fundamental message to Putin on Ukraine remains some sort of temporary economic cost after the fact. No one is talking about stopping the Russian invasion.
5. In line with the European, not the British or American, diplomatic effort, Javier Solana (Spain, former NATO Secretary General) has called for calm: “There seems to be no greater risk today than yesterday on the Ukraine-Russia border”. Just 127,000 Russians with tanks.
6. Media offensive to try to allay fears in Europe. Robles in Spain (Defence Minister) joins Solana and Borrell in calling for calm. The situation in Ukraine with Russia, she has said, is not dramatic. She wants a happy ending.
7. British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey has written a piece in The Sun about Ukraine: “Freedom is not free”. He compares the situation with North Korea and the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939: “We are being tested again”.
8. Canada orders the families of its diplomats in Ukraine to leave the country. Ottawa joins the US, the United Kingdom and Australia and distances itself from the diplomatic calm that European authorities are trying to sell. Who will be right?
9. Boris Johnson announces in the British Parliament that Ukraine has the right to defend itself against the Russian invasion, that the Russian forces amassed on her borders are larger than in 2014 and that the war would see as much violence as those in Chechnya or Bosnia.
12. Macron says Putin “will pay a heavy price” if he invades Ukraine. Again that future tense, once the fact has happened. First invade, militarily, then pay, the price, economically. Nothing about stopping the invasion.
14. Green light three for Putin: "There is no intention or interest or desire by the President to send troops to Ukraine", said White House spokeswoman Psaki a few minutes ago at the press conference.