Czech police arrested protesters supporting Russia in front of the Russian embassy in Prague on April 18.  Photo: AFP.

The unprecedented escalation of Russian-Western tensions


Russia and the West are going through the worst period of tension since the Cold War, with sanctions and deportations in response.

The day after the Czech government accused the staff of the Russian military intelligence agency of being involved in a series of mysterious explosions at an ammunition depot in 2014 and the expulsion of 18 Moscow diplomats, the government of the General. President Vladimir Putin on April 18 announced a response when he asked 20 Czech diplomats to return home.

The latest expulsion signals escalating tensions between the Kremlin and Western governments, reaching levels not seen since the Cold War. Tensions between Russia and the Czech Republic come just days after Washington imposed a series of harsh sanctions on Russian government officials and businesses, in response to a large-scale attack on the US government computer system. .

The Russian Foreign Ministry called the Czech accusations “unreasonable” and said that the government had become a “puppet” of the United States. “To please the US after the recent sanctions against Russia, the Czech government in this case even surpassed foreign masters,” said the Russian Foreign Ministry on April 18.

Czech police arrested protesters supporting Russia in front of the Russian embassy in Prague on April 18. Image: AFP.

Deportation decisions are likely to undermine Czech diplomatic presence in Russia, where Prague has only a few dozen staff. In contrast, the Russian embassy in Prague, the Czech capital, is believed to be one of the Kremlin’s largest diplomatic organizations in Europe and is used as a preparation center for intelligence operations in several countries. West, according to security experts.

The explosions in 2014, which first occurred in the village of Vlachovice and two months later in a nearby ammunition depot, were not adequately explained, although officials at the time raised the possibility of destructive motives. Two employees at the government-run ammunition depot were killed. The explosion occurred at a time when Ukrainian forces needed weapons to fight separatists, as well as when Russian forces were deeply involved in the Syrian civil war.

The deportation order and the accusation that the Czech Republic, a country located in central Europe, a member of NATO and the European Union (EU), caused the biggest conflict with Russia since 1989. The Czech move received many messages of support and solidarity from a number of allies on April 18, including the US.

The US Embassy in Prague announced on Twitter that Washington “always stands side by side with its allies first and foremost. We appreciate this move by the Czech Republic, forcing Russia to pay the price for the danger in the Czech territory”.

On the same day, French President Emmanuel Macron also expressed his opinion to Russia, saying that world powers should “draw red lines” with Moscow and consider punishing if they cross this line.

“We must have a clear red line with Russia,” he said in an interview with US broadcaster CBS on April 18.

“This is the only reliable way. Punishment is not enough, but it is part of many measures,” he said, agreeing with US President Joe Biden’s readiness to speak with Russian President. Vladimir Putin amid heightened tensions.

Recent tensions between Russia and the West are also “heating up” with developments in the Ukraine border area and the Crimean peninsula.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during the April 16 talks “shared concerns about Russia’s strengthening” at the border with Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula.

The statement was made after the Russian Ministry of Defense on April 15 announced that it would restrict the movement of foreign military and service ships in some areas of the Black Sea until October. citing a restriction on Russian Black Sea travel and calling it an act of “appropriating sovereignty” of the country.

Russia has recently deployed a variety of weapons, including tanks, artillery and heavy armored vehicles, to areas near the border with Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula. The Russian troop movement was started at the end of March and made the US uneasy.

Many military experts and analysts even argue that Russia is preparing for a “low intensity local warfare in separatist areas” scenario.

“This doesn’t mean the war will start tomorrow, but it does mean he is facilitating the final decision,” said Ihor Romanenko, former retired lieutenant general and former deputy chief of staff in Ukraine. to speak.

Analysts say Putin has many other reasons behind the moves near the Ukraine border and the Crimean peninsula. His support plummeted after the economic recession and pandemic. At the same time, pressure from the West on Moscow increased after the arrest of opposition leader Alexey Navalny.

Territorial defense forces Ukraine exercises in the suburbs of Kiev on April 10.  Photo: Reuters.

Territorial defense forces Ukraine exercises in the suburbs of Kiev on April 10. Image: Reuters.

The Pentagon asked Russia to clarify its intentions on the deployment, adding that Moscow did not notify Washington of military maneuvers near the Ukrainian border as before, causing “increased tensions in the region. “.

Consecutive warnings were given to Russia by officials. “If Russia continues to act recklessly or aggressively, they will have to pay the price and bear the consequences,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on April 11.

One day ago, British Defense Minister Dominic Raab also called on Moscow to “immediately de-escalate the situation”. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also meets with NATO allies in Europe and Israel on Russia’s recent moves and Ukraine’s border situation.

However, some analysts say Russia’s move has nothing but a show of force, to force Ukraine and its Western-backed countries to comply with the 2015 Minsk agreement, which provides for reintegration. Peacefully breakaway regions and pardon the separatist forces after they disintegrate. Moscow insists that under the agreement, Ukraine must “federalize”, give more autonomy to separatist regions like the Donbas, so that it can freely use Russian as a second language and trade freely with Moscow.

Pavel Luzin, defense analyst at the Jamestown Foundation in Washington, US, said Russia could also use the current escalation to shift its military presence in Donbas from a publicly denied under the picture. formula “humanitarian activities”.

Thanh Tam (According to the NYTimes, Al Jazeera, Politico)

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