Will Britain's Ukraine Pact Prompt Putin to "Checkmate" in Donbas?
While diplomatic pushback is a given, there are worrying signs violence could flare anew in Ukraine's separatist-held east.
Between readjusting naval footprints in the Black Sea and locking Ukraine into a generation-long Western alliance, Britain's proposed security partnership threatens core Kremlin interests along the restive Russo-Ukrainian frontier, writes Winston Mwale
From this analyst's purview, the Kremlim has sufficient motivation to escalate tensions as a response.While diplomatic pushback is a given, there are worrying signs violence could flare anew in Ukraine's separatist-held east.
The News: Britain To Enter 10-Year Security Pact With Ukraine — Report
Britain is set to sign a 10-year security pact with Ukraine, intended to help Kiev “control the Black Sea,” the Telegraph writes.
ANALYSIS: According to the paper, the treaty will be finalized in the coming weeks. It will focus on bolstering Ukraine’s naval capabilities and feature security guarantees for it for the time after the conflict with Russia has ended.
This proposed security pact between Britain and Ukraine is sure to raise eyebrows in Moscow. Let me break down why Russia will view this partnership with suspicion, and what it could mean for tensions in the region going forward.
From the Kremlin's perspective, Ukraine has traditionally been within Russia's sphere of influence. A 10-year alliance positioning Britain as one of Kiev's top defense partners amounts to a major Western power getting unprecedented access along Russia's sensitive southern border. This comes shortly after Ukraine became the only non-NATO country to join Western military drills in the Black Sea.
Some thoughts on Russia's likely viewpoints:
Moscow will see this as a challenge to its dominance over security issues in Ukraine. The Kremlin wants Ukraine as a buffer zone, not anchored firmly within the Western orbit.
Bolstering Ukraine's naval capabilities could hamper Russian sea power projection in the Black Sea. Much of Russia's energy exports to Europe flow through this maritime gateway.
Security guarantees for Ukraine "after conflict with Russia" imply the West considers the current state of affairs as temporary. Russia wants to ensure Ukraine never joins NATO which this pact moves in the opposite direction of.
Of course, Britain and its allies would argue they have a right to partnerships with sovereign states on Russia's border. But from the Kremlin's geopolitical mindset, this mandate threatens to tighten the noose around Crimea and the Donbas region — consequences they are loathe to accept.
Going forward, I anticipate Russia responding forcefully at the diplomatic and propaganda levels. Behind closed doors, they will firmly tell Britain to cancel this deal.
Escalation in eastern Ukraine also can't be ruled out as tensions over its stance between Russia and West reach new heights. This proposed pact sets the stage for further geopolitical sparring.