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US crying wolf: Russia says not after war, Ukraine hails 'constructive talks'

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The US sees Ukraine as an opportunity to wean Europe off Russia's gas, which explains why Washington is adamant on stoking the tensions.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Russia does not want war with Ukraine, dismissing US claims of an imminent conflict and assuring that there will be no war. 

His remarks at a news conference in Moscow Friday came a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the outcome of talks between senior Russian and Ukrainian officials in Paris earlier this week.

Envoys from Moscow and Kyiv on Wednesday agreed after talks that all parties should observe a ceasefire in the east of Ukraine where government forces have been battling pro-Russia separatists since 2014.

Zelensky "positively assesses the fact of the meeting, its constructive nature, as well as the intention to continue meaningful negotiations in two weeks in Berlin", his press service said in a statement.

On Tuesday, Ukraine's leaders also reassured the nation that a war was not imminent after US President Joe Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin “continues to build forces along Ukraine’s border” in preparation for "the largest invasion since World War II".

"It would change the world,” he told reporters in a speech more akin to a cataclysmic prophecy.  

Biden called Zelensky on Thursday to pledge support for Ukraine in its confrontation with Russia, the White House said, after Kyiv and Moscow met to mend fences.

In the call with Zelensky, Biden "reaffirmed the readiness of the United States along with its allies and partners to respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine," a readout from the White House said.

Biden has been leading attempts to build a united Western front against Russia, but his attempts have been wrought with divisions among the European allies and partisan bickering at home. 

Conflict has broken out back home between traditional Republicans and a political base asking why America should take sides at all.

Republicans in the House of Representatives and on the campaign trail have been breaking with conservative orthodoxy to complain loudly that the United States should have no role in the crisis.

"Ukraine is over 5,000 miles away. Dangerous drugs and violent crime are crossing my constituents' backyards," Arizona's lawmaker Paul Gosar tweeted this week.

The post was among more than a dozen public statements identified by news website Axios from House Republicans challenging the notion that America has any business getting involved in the standoff.

Analysts believe the party's internal conflict has been fueled in part by the unpopular war in Iraq and botched withdrawal from Afghanistan.

America's business, according to many observers, revolves around its fierce opposition to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, a vast network of offshore natural gas pipelines that runs under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany.

Washington is frustrated with the prospect of Europe's energy dependence on Russia at a time when the US is trying to dominate the world market by its ramped-up oil and gas production as part of its "energy war". 

Many analysts believe the US sees Ukraine as an opportunity to wean Europe off Russia's gas, which explains why Washington is adamant on stoking the tensions and pursuing a confrontational policy. 

A top official in Washington on Thursday said an "invasion" would stop Germany from activating the multibillion-dollar project, which was completed in September but still requires testing and regulatory approval.

"If Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward," said Victoria Nuland, the under secretary of state for political affairs.

Germany has already raised hackles in the United States by refusing to commit into US-led deployment of troops and weapons near Russia's borders. 

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Friday dealt another blow to the US campaign, when he said his country will seek to increase the amount of gas it receives from Russia.

Hungary, a member of the European Union and NATO, agreed a new long-term gas supply agreement with Russia's Gazprom in August.

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko also said on Friday that he is almost certain there will be no war when asked about Ukraine.

With Washington's efforts to create a sense of alarm and emergency having apparently hit the wall in Europe, the US is now trying to internationalize the standoff. 

The Biden administration has asked the United Nations Security Council to meet publicly on Monday to discuss what it claimed as Russia's "threatening behavior" against Ukraine.

"Russia is engaging in other destabilizing acts aimed at Ukraine, posing a clear threat to international peace and security and the UN Charter," US ambassador to UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said in a statement.

"This is not a moment to wait and see. The council's full attention is needed now, and we look forward to direct and purposeful discussion on Monday," she said.

The US State Department has ordered the families of all American personnel at its embassy in Kyiv to leave the country and some Western governments have followed suit.

Speaking in the second televised speech to the nation in as many days this week, Zelensky urged Ukrainians not to panic.

"We are strong enough to keep everything under control and derail any attempts at destabilization,” he said.

The decision by the US, Britain, Australia, Germany and Canada to withdraw some of their diplomats and dependents from Kyiv “doesn't necessarily signal an inevitable escalation and is part of a complex diplomatic game,” he added.  

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told parliament that “as of today, there are no grounds to believe” Russia will invade imminently, noting that Russian troops have not formed a battle group to force their way over the border.

“Don't worry, sleep well,” he said. “No need to have your bags packed.”

Russia warns of NATO nuclear threat

Russia’s top arms control official said on Thursday that the US-led NATO is developing the capacity for devastating nuclear strikes against the country by training and arming the member states.

Vladimir Yermakov, director of the Department of Arms Control and Nonproliferation in the Russian Foreign Ministry, said the US was in the process of modernizing its atomic capabilities in Europe and had deployed missiles in the territories of several other member states.

“According to expert analysis, there are five non-nuclear NATO countries holding around 200 American B61 nuclear bombs,” Yermakov said.

“There is also the infrastructure to support the operational deployment of these weapons, which are capable of reaching Russian territory and striking a wide range of locations, including strategic ones.”

Yermakov said the withdrawal of US nuclear weapons from Europe is one of Moscow’s primary goals in ongoing security negotiations.

Lavrov on Thursday expressed disappointment in the American response to the proposals, saying that the US had refused to make concessions concerning the expansion of NATO in eastern Europe.

“The main issue is our clear position on the unacceptability of further NATO expansion to the east and the deployment of highly-destructive weapons that could threaten the territory of the Russian Federation,” the diplomat said.


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