The seriousness of the crisis in Ukraine is increasing, as the scale of Russian troops mobilized to the border of the two countries has ballooned to a size never before seen.
The 30,000 Russian soldiers who participated in joint exercises with Belarussian troops have remained in the area, even after the exercises have ended.
To reduce tensions that have risen to dangerous levels, Russia must immediately withdraw its military from the area bordering Ukraine.
In eastern Ukraine, both government troops and pro-Russian militant forces have been escalating exchanges of fire. There are reports that in a matter of 24 hours, there were over 1,500 cease-fire violations.
Twice — once in 2014 and once in 2015 — Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine reached a cease-fire agreement called the Minsk Protocol. It extends “special status” to eastern Ukraine and permits the region to expand its autonomy, but the Ukrainian government has ignored the provision, to which Russia has objected.
The state of affairs is such that Russia could invade Ukraine using a chance occurrence in the eastern part of the country as an excuse.
U.S. President Joe Biden has said that he was “convinced” that Russian President Vladimir Putin had decided to invade Ukraine.
The U.S. aims to put the brakes on Russia’s attempts to invade Ukraine through information warfare. But pro-Russians in eastern Ukraine have objected strongly, and the Russian Presidential Executive Office has warned that any provocation in eastern Ukraine could lead to serious consequences.
Efforts to bring the situation under control through diplomatic negotiations are also continuing.
With France as a go-between, a U.S.-Russian summit is being considered toward a solution to the ongoing crisis.
Whether a U.S.-Russian foreign ministerial meeting set for as early as Feb. 24 will actually take place ahead of the bilateral summit will likely be a litmus test for how things will unfold going forward.
Practical efforts to regain safety in eastern Ukraine will also be necessary.
In addition to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which has been monitoring compliance with the cease-fire, Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine must sit down again at the negotiating table and rebuild the agreement that has become a mere sham.
But first, Russia must withdraw its troops, and engage sincerely in diplomatic talks.
To continue applying military pressure because other countries will not accept one’s demands is the equivalent of abandoning the responsibilities of a major country.