The Kremlin claims NATO is building up forces on Russian borders, while the West accuses Moscow of preparing to invade Ukraine. The Eastern European country, on the other hand, says that it has not recorded any Russian equipment or military movement directly near the border, but is ready for a potential large-scale confrontation. How likely is a “great war” between Russia and Ukraine?
This time the very same warmongering rhetoric dominates the public discourse, which is irresistibly reminiscent of Aesop’s fables The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Indeed, the very nature of the Donbass conflict indicates that it can be resolved only by war, unless Russia agrees to voluntarily to return the coal-rich region to Ukraine, which at this point does not seem very probable. Hypothetically, Moscow could trade the Donbass for Nord Stream 2 pipeline, especially after Germany’s energy regulator temporarily halted the certification process for the new pipeline that will carry Russian gas into Europe. Such a move, however, could have severe consequences for the very existence of the Russian Federation, given that once the Donbass issue is resolved, the status of Crimea will undoubtedly be on the table. Thus, the Kremlin is expected to keep preserving the status quo in the Donbass as long as possible.
There are, however, fears in the West that Moscow may launch an invasion of Ukraine in order to pressure its Western partners to give a green light for Nord Stream 2. Given the current energy crisis, it is rather debatable who needs the controversial pipeline more – Russia or the European Union. Although Nord Stream 2 is believed to be purely Russia’s geopolitical project, in reality it is a joint business between Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom, Royal Dutch Shell, German utility company E.ON, Austrian multinational integrated oil and gas company OMV and French multinational electric utility company Engie. Still, after the United States recently imposed additional sanctions in connection with the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, and Ukrainian gas companies Naftogaz and GTSOU were given notice that they will be included in the ongoing German certification procedures of the project, Russia and Germany may have a hard time pursuing their gas agenda.