Tensions between NATO and Russia are once again on the rise, with Russia responding to Western sanctions with a round of bans on US and European fruits and vegetables.
As it has so often in the past, this has fueled a new round of NATO statements expressing fear about a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine, where ethnic Russian rebels are being fought by the pro-West Ukrainian military.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel cited the “military buildup” along the border region, which is actually a Russian military exercise already announced, as proof of a “increased threat” of an invasion of Ukrainian territory.
Other NATO officials particularly in eastern Europe, have presented the putative threat as an existential one for them as well, advancing the notion that if Russia did fight Ukraine, they might conceivably sweep across Europe like a plague of locusts, starting World War 3.
There’s no evidence of any of this, of course, and it rather is the response to Russia pushing for the UN to make some provisions for the growing humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine. The war there is fueling a massive number of refugees into Russian territory, with estimates that up to one million civilians have been displaced. The US has repeatedly downplayed the crisis, and at times the State Department has suggested the mostly ethnic Russian refugees could conceivably just be “visiting relatives” in neighboring Russia, and not fleeing the invasion of the Ukrainian military.
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