By Janet Ekstract
ISTANBUL- On Tuesday, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan cautioned Russia on invading Ukraine, commenting that any invasion by Russia is not realistic. Erdogan added that he is willing to discuss the crisis situation with Russia’s President Putin. Turkey had offered to mediate the crisis which Ukrainian leaders welcomed but Putin refused to consider the offer.
Speaking in Tirana, Albania where Erdogan is on an official visit, the Turkish leader told NTV: “I don’t view Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a realistic approach because Ukraine is not an ordinary country. Ukraine is a strong country. He further stated: “Of course, we need to put these issues on the table with Mr. Putin and discuss them.” The Turkish leader added that if Russia were to move toward an invasion that it would “not be right.” Though NATO member Turkey maintains good ties with both the presidents of Ukraine and Russia, its sale of sophisticated drones to Ukraine angered Russia. In addition, a contentious point Turkey has with Russia is over its policies in Syria and Libya as well as Turkey’s opposition to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.
Meanwhile, despite a flurry of diplomacy between Russia and the U.S. as well as the EU, no major breakthroughs occurred, this has led analysts and observers to fear the worst – an imminent invasion into Ukraine by scores of Russian troops amassed on Ukraine’s border. A further unsettling scenario, top UK officials claim is a secret Russian plot to overthrow the Ukrainian government with its own leaders. Russia has repeatedly denied any invasion plans and the alleged plot.
In a new development, French President Emmanuel Macron’s office announced on Monday that France will host a high-level meeting on Wednesday, to propose a way forward for Russia with a de-escalation roadmap. This move came after a multilateral meeting about the crisis with U.S. President Joe Biden, European Union and NATO members. Macron expressed his “deep concern” over the border situation and wants to take immediate action to restore calm. Macron emphasized the need to work collectively to rachet down tensions in the region. A statement from the Elysee Palace said Macron “remains determined to use all the resources of diplomacy to preserve the stability of Europe and to show its solidarity and readiness to support the States of the European Union concerned for their security.” France has been supporting Ukraine along with the U.S. and will host the dialogue with a bevy of diplomatic advisers from France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine under the Normandy format along with President Zelensky of Ukraine and President Putin of Russia.
The goal of the dialogue is to urge Russia to fully implement the 2015 Minsk peace accord by withdrawing its support to the rebels fighting Ukrainian government troops in Donbas. Both Russia and Ukraine have been deadlocked in a conflict since the war in eastern Ukraine broke out in 2014 after Russian forces invaded the Donbas region and annexed the Crimean Peninsula.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian made it clear that Europe is united on acting against Russia should it choose to invade Ukraine. As Le Drian said: “The EU has the will to use sanctions as deterrence with regard to Russia to prevent any incursion or offensive, military or otherwise against Ukraine.” The French foreign minister made those remarks to the media after the conclusion of a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the EU.
Meanwhile, late Monday, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said the situation was “under control” and told citizens there is “no reason to panic.” Yet, despite the words of calm from Zelensky, Ukraine accepted a shipment of American military equipment Tuesday (part of a $200M military package) to increase its defenses. NATO also announced an increase in its deterrence in the Baltic Sea region, and the U.S. ordered 8,500 troops on high alert to deploy to Europe as part of an alliance “response force” if necessary. In addition, the U.S. State Department ordered families of all American personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev to leave Ukraine. The State Department also said that nonessential embassy staff could leave. Britain also said it is withdrawing some diplomats and dependents from its embassy in Kiev as well. In the meantime, Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Monday that Russia’s armed forces haven’t yet formed battle groups that Reznikov said “would have indicated that tomorrow they would launch an offensive.” Also on Monday, Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov added: “As of today, we don’t see any grounds for statements about a full-scale offensive on our country,”