This comes as U.S. President Joe Biden ruled out sending American troops to help Ukraine to confront any Russian aggression and instead suggested that America would increase military deployments in Europe if Putin invades Ukraine.
“The idea that the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia invading Ukraine is not on the cards right now,” Biden told reporters. “We would probably also be required to reinforce our presence in NATO countries to reassure–particularly those on the eastern flank.”
However, it was his use of the term eastern flank that captured the attention of experts of the region, and it is not the first time. Biden also referred to the region as the eastern front when announcing talks with four European allies to address the growing tension between Europe and Russia.
Former NATO Assistant Secretary-General Marshall Billingslea expressed his concerns over the phrasing in a post on Twitter, saying that: “Calling it an ‘eastern front’ plays directly into Russia’s hands” he said, “they have long wanted to negotiate a pull-back of forces…which could leave the Baltic allies defenceless.”
1) I have at least two concerns with this quote. First, calling it an “eastern front” plays directly into Russia’s hands. They have long wanted to negotiate a pull-back of forces from this so-called front, which would leave the Baltic allies defenseless. They tried this… https://t.co/8xLRotQDq7
— Marshall S. Billingslea (@M_S_Billingslea) December 8, 2021
Billingslea is not the only one who is concerned.
Professor Alexander Lanoszka at the University of Waterloo Canada also noted ‘in a thread of Twitter’ nervous chatter’ in Central Europe about Biden’s decision to hold talks with Russia and selected European allies.
“Biden spoke with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and the UK,” while “countries bordering Russia, in particular Poland, were left out,”
Lanoszka says that eastern NATO allies fear a U.S. bargain with Russia over Ukraine could be made at their own expense, “not least because they have benefitted from a raft of defence and deterrence programs put in place since 2014, the sort that has raised Kremlin objections.”
4) Naturally, the countries that border Russia fear that a grand bargain might be made at their expense, not least because they have benefited from a raft of defence and deterrence programs put in place since 2014–the sort that has raised Kremlin objections.
— Alexander Lanoszka (@ALanoszka) December 8, 2021
Additionally, Dr Lorenz Wojciech, from the Polish Institute for International Affairs, said that while Biden’s intervention with Russia decreased the risk of possible military engagement in the region, he was also concerned about any potential Russian security guarantees made in any talks Putin has with Biden.
“There are not too many details about this, but it sounds really bad; there have been numerous platforms of dialogue that Russia has paralysed,” Wojciech told The Epoch Times.
Wojciech suggests that Russia is successfully dividing NATO allies.
“Russia threatened Ukraine and the west with aggression and possible escalation and received in return a proposal of a new format, which looks like a concert of powers. Russia can promote her vision of new security architecture based on spheres of influence. So this is a major concession and potentially dangerous initiative,” Wojciech said.
Wojciech stresses that NATO must present a united front on the Ukraine issue. “This is a major problem,” he said.
“The west is not mentally prepared to defend its red lines when there is a risk of conflict and escalation. So it gradually makes concession after concession, and Russia is not deterred but rather encouraged to demand more. With such a pattern, the next step can be an open military threat against NATO.
Russia has been amassing tens of thousands of troops along the Ukrainian border, which has pushed the Biden Administration to dispatch CIA Director Burns to Moscow for direct talks with his counterparts in Russia.
This renewed threat to Eastern Ukraine follows the 2014 annexation of Crimea when Vladimir Putin seized the territory while Biden was Vice-President in the Obama administration.