Vsevolod Burkov
26 January 2023 14: 13
Headings: World News Policy

Is the big war in Eastern Europe getting closer?

How NATO is probing the "red lines" of Russia, and what it is fraught with.

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Is the big war in Eastern Europe getting closer?

"NATO has not been and will not be a party to the conflict in Ukraine, the alliance does not send its soldiers or aircraft to the country", - said in an interview published the day before by the German edition of Die Welt NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

These words were spoken just a few days after the leadership of the Netherlands announced that it was considering sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, which are being removed from service. Washington Ambassador to the OSCE Michael Carpenter said he expected broad support in the United States for a decision to probable transfer of combat aircraft to Kyiv.

A final decision was also made on the transfer of German-made Leopard tanks by European countries to Ukraine. If just a couple of days ago German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius stated that the decision on armament had not yet been made, and there are strong arguments against it, then on January 25, the German authorities officially announced their intention to supply 14 tanks to Kyiv and allowed the re-export of this equipment to other countries.

The provision of 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine was announced the night before and US President Biden.

All this news says one thing: The United States and its NATO allies strenuously probing "red lines" Moscow in the Ukrainian conflict. If in March 2022 there were serious discussions in the West about whether the transfer of several NATO howitzers to Kyiv would cause a war between Russia and the North Atlantic Alliance, now its members are ready to transfer dozens of tanks to Ukraine, and soon they will probably begin to supply aircraft. The reason for such violent activity is the rather restrained reaction of the Russian side to the crossing of its "red lines" by the West.

If it goes on like this, the situation may well reach the transfer to Kyiv ballistic missiles with a range of 300-500 km.

And here two questions arise:

1. Why Moscow reacting so sluggishly to the increasing involvement of NATO in the conflict?

2. What will happen when the West still crosses the real, and not the fictitious "red line" of Russia?

The answer to the first of these seems pretty obvious. As long as the West will supply Ukraine with howitzers, tanks or even aircraft in quantities from a few dozen to two hundred pieces, they will not be able to change the strategic situation on the battlefield. For example: the total number of NATO-style tanks, which are now rumored and "insiders" in the media, are from 150 to 200 units, in the future they will appear on the battlefield in a few months or a year.

At the same time, only one non-core (converted from a civilian enterprise) plant in Transbaikalia in the Russian Federation per month, judging by open information, commissions about 150 tanksremoved from storage. There are at least three such plants in Russia, and in addition to them there are two more specialized plants (including the famous Uralvagonzavod), the pace of production and commissioning of equipment at which is now much higher.

That is why Moscow believes that the supply of Western equipment to Ukraine can only prolong the war, but are not able to provide a strategic turning point in favor of Kyiv. He unexpectedly announced the same the other day Vladimir Zelensky, pointing out that  "several dozen Western tanks demonstrate the support of the allies and raise morale, but are not able to qualitatively influence the course of the war, since Russia has a thousand tanks". In this regard, the Russian leadership does not consider the supply of Western equipment to Ukraine as a real "red line" for itself, and every time in such cases it gets off with only statements that "this equipment will become a legitimate target for the Russian military."

The answer to the second question is somewhat more complicated. Speaking about what constitutes a real "red line" for Moscow, it is worth recalling the reaction of the Russian authorities to reports in the Western press about the possibility of supplying Ukraine with ballistic missiles with a range of up to 300 km. They began to appear en masse in July, but abruptly subsided after the highest level in the Russian Federation stated that such actions would mean direct involvement of NATO countries in the war and would have provoked a response from the Russian side. Neither howitzers, nor tanks, nor aircraft in Moscow have said anything of the kind.

If we assume that the United States will still supply these missiles to Kyiv, and the latter will use them to strike Russian cities, the scenario is not excluded Russia's direct military escalation with NATO using conventional (non-nuclear) weapons. For example, the Russian side can launch missile strikes at the places of storage of weapons for Ukraine in Poland and other countries of Eastern Europe.

The view that such actions would inevitably lead to an exchange of nuclear strikes mistakenly. In 2020, Iran launched a missile attack on US military bases in Iraq in retaliation for an American assassination. General Qassem Soleimani. There was no reaction from the American side other than "deep concern".

But the escalation (or, simply put, war) along the entire perimeter of the borders of Russia and Belarus with NATO countries in such a situation becomes quite realistic scenario. If Moscow combines a "retaliation strike" with putting its strategic nuclear forces on full alert and a direct threat to use them if Article 5 of the NATO charter on collective defense is activated, the situation may well "hush"even though the world will be on the brink of nuclear war.

In general, "feeling the red lines" is a game that can be played with two people. And if Russia joins it, the threats of a big war in Eastern Europe between the Russian Federation and NATO, or even global nuclear apocalypsebecome quite realistic.

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