The geopolitical chess game escalates and Russia continues to issue conflicting signals.
Satellite images taken over the past two days show new road construction and a tactical bridge being built across a key river in Belarus. It is less than 4 miles from the Ukrainian border amid what sources say is an ongoing buildup of Russian military forces encircling three sides of Ukraine.
While there are no concentrations of armor near the bridge, Russian forces have been deployed to forward positions to the East. It appears as if Belarus is being used as a full-fledged theater of operations.
Appearing on The Morning Show, former UN Ambassador and Director of the Public Service Leadership Program at UNF Nancy Soderberg said it makes it difficult to take Russian claims of de-escalation seriously.
“I think we have to watch what Russia does and not what Russia says. The world is watching the troop movements, it’s watching the signals, it’s watching the provocations that are anticipated, and unlike 2014 when they invaded Crimea, the world’s making public what we know. So we know they are hoping to use a fake crisis as a trigger to go in,” said Soderberg.
Soderberg said a significant de-escalation is as simple as seeing Russia pulling its 135,000 troops out. If this doesn’t happen, the situation is very tenuous.
“They’ve got 135,000 troops on the border surrounding Ukraine -- go home. If that doesn’t happen, this remains on a hair-trigger,” Soderberg said.
“The U.S. and Europe are unified in putting tough sanctions, the toughest in history, doing the nuclear option in yanking the SWIFT banking code. It would, overnight, obliterate Russia’s ability to normal commercial banking. I think that has given him pause,” Soderberg emphasized.
The former diplomat believes the world is at the proverbial fork in the road but that diplomacy is still possible.
“Well yes there is plenty of time to choose the fork of diplomacy and not escalation and conflict,” Soderberg said. “I think the White House has been very clear that we are watching this.”
“Unlike 2014 they are basically telling the world what we know. And what we know is Russia stands poised to invade the sovereign territory of Ukraine. Once again we know he will face a massive resistance in the west in terms of sanctions,” said the former UN Ambassador.
According to Soderberg, there is no doubt Russian President Vladimir Putin is going to want to be rewarded and want something for not invading.
“Both sides, the Russians and the U.S. and the Europeans, are all saying the path to diplomacy remains. What does not remain on the table, never has been on the table is Ukraine’s sovereignty and the decision on what alliances it wants. And the rest is not comodulated,” she said. “It’s important that he get rewarded in some fashion (for not invading).”
She said whichever way this goes don’t look for a resolution anytime soon.