Russia carried out a wide missile attack on several Ukrainian regions on August 15, hitting the cities of Lviv, Lutsk and Dnipro. It would be one more in the series of Russian bombings that have already become commonplace in the theater of the war that has dragged on for almost 18 months, were it not for the target being so close to the Polish border. Cities like Lviv and Lutsk, located about 100 kilometers from the border, had already been the target of attacks during the war, but, far from the front line, they are regions spared by the clashes.
The date of the bombings was not by chance. On the same Tuesday (15), Poland held its biggest military parade in decades to commemorate Polish Army Day, which celebrates the anniversary of Poland’s victory against the Soviet Union in the Battle of Warsaw in 1920. On August 15 that year, Polish soldiers and volunteers stopped the Red Army advance near Warsaw, which was a turning point in the Soviet-Polish war.
During last Tuesday’s military parade, 200 units of Polish and foreign military equipment were displayed, 92 aircraft and 2,000 military personnel from NATO countries marched through the country’s capital. The magnitude of the stop is not fortuitous either. It symbolizes the rift between the West and Russia in the context of the Ukraine war.
The event was seen as a message to Russia amid the sharpening of feelings with Moscow and a show of strength amid tensions on the border with Belarus.
In the previous week, both Russia and Poland announced increased military presence on the border. On the one hand, Warsaw announced the increase in the number of troops on the border with Belarus due to the presence of the Wagner group in the country after the mercenary battalion moved from Russia after the mutiny of Yevgueny Prigozhin. Russian Defense Minister Serguei Shoigu declared on August 9 that the country will reinforce troop assemblies on the western borders with Finland and Poland.
“The West’s willingness to invest a significant portion of available resources in Ukraine to turn the situation on the battlefield in its favor creates serious risks of a further escalation of the conflict. The existing risks are related to the militarization of Poland, which has become the main instrument of the anti-Russian policy of the United States,” said the minister.
In an interview with Brazil in Factthe senior analyst of the International Crisis Group for Russia, Oleg Ignatov, pointed out that, in this context, the Russian bombings in Lviv are a clear signal to Poland and are linked to the fact that the West supplies Ukraine with weapons, a supply that takes place mainly through Poland and Romania.
On the other hand, the political scientist notes that the Kremlin, like the US, has always maintained a political line of doing everything to avoid a direct conflict with NATO. The inflammatory rhetoric, which often included threats to use nuclear weapons, would be a way of putting pressure and dissuading NATO from intervening directly in the Ukrainian conflict.
In this way, Oleg Ignatov states that both parties operate a game of provocations, establishing “red lines”, moving “what can and cannot be done” in the geopolitical chess of Eastern Europe, “but they always avoid in fact a confrontation “.
“Russia gains absolutely nothing from this (a confrontation with NATO), because all its troops are occupied in Ukraine, and it has several problems with ammunition, so it is clear that Russia is in no condition to drag out a conventional conflict. with NATO. There is no point in that, but I agree that both parties are constantly testing each other’s nerves”, he argues.
All this movement also comes in the context of the Kremlin’s harsh accusations against Poland, stating that the Eastern European country plans to create an alliance with Kiev, citing security reasons, to, in reality, carry out a military occupation in the western region of Ukraine.
Without specifying details and evidence to support these accusations, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared in mid-July that Poland plans to occupy the territory of Ukraine and that it would also be targeting land in Belarus, a country allied with Moscow.
According to Putin, the West’s pretensions in western Ukraine are part of a plan to create a “Polish-Lithuanian-Ukrainian connection”. Putin warned that in the event of aggression against Belarus in the region, Russia would respond with “all available means”.
Tension with Poland signals Russia’s intentions in Ukraine
The Russian president’s rhetoric regarding alleged Polish pretensions in Ukraine and against Belarus makes reference to the historic city of Lviv, which was Poland’s territory before World War II and was donated to the Soviet Union by the allies after the victory over Nazi Germany .
In this way, Putin’s statements imply that the West could claim influence over western Ukraine. By the way, in the same way that Russia claims its presence in eastern Ukraine.
For analyst Oleg Ignatov, the Russian president’s insinuations sound like a way of substantiating Russian pretensions in Ukraine, arguing that if “Poland can occupy, then we can also take territories”. “This is a way of reaffirming that ‘Ukraine is not an independent state and everyone wants to break it up’, even though this is not true,” he points out.
On the other hand, the political scientist also says that these provocations reveal precisely that the claims linked to Ukrainian territories do not take into account the western part of the country.
“It seems to me that for Russia it is not a problem that Ukraine is divided by Poland, the West and Russia. Russia kind of demonstrates that it is not interested in eastern Ukraine that much. […] his sphere of interest is the center, Kiev,” he says.
According to him, Russia is ready to agree that some part of Ukraine is under Western control as a result of this war.
“I understand this sounds like complete madness, but really it is a war for Ukraine, Russia has not given up on its goal of controlling Ukraine. But when they claim that Poland wants to take over the western side of Ukraine, they are agreeing. with the fact that they are going to control not all of Ukraine, but a large part of it… And the western part of Ukraine, where there are no people who would not even potentially be loyal to Russia, they would be ready to give up this region to NATO, Poland. But not from Kiev, Odessa,” he explains.
For the political scientist, Russia wants at least a government in Ukraine that is loyal to Moscow, exercising political control in the center of power in the country.
In this context, a statement by NATO Secretary General’s Chief of Staff, Stian Jensen, drew attention this week. He suggested a hypothetical way of resolving the war, declaring that Ukraine could get the hoped-for invitation to join NATO as a bargaining chip if it cedes territory to Russia. “I think the solution could be for Ukraine to give up territories and get NATO membership in return,” he said.
The speech generated a great controversy between the organization and Ukraine, which promptly rejected the proposal, classifying it as “unacceptable”. Subsequently, the secretary general of the alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, went public to put a damper on the controversy and denied that there are plans to trade Ukrainian territories in exchange for joining NATO. The controversy, however, left suspicions that the West is feeling burnt out by the war and might make concessions to Moscow.
Political scientist Oleg Ignatov makes a reservation that the suggested bargain to resolve the war would not have an acceptable price for Russia either, since Ukraine’s entry into NATO would represent “renouncing the objectives for which it started this war”.
“For Russia, that means giving up Ukraine. That is, if Russia agrees to take what it controls today and Ukraine joins NATO, that means Russia would be giving up Ukraine in general, but that doesn’t mean does not fit in any way with Russia’s policy today, I see no conditions for Putin to take this step. If he goes in that direction, it will be a radical revision of his strategy towards Ukraine.”
Editing: Thalita Pires