The United States and Britain believe that Russian forces are ready to go on the offensive, but Germany and France assume that there will be no escalation in the coming days.
The game of guessing the intentions of Russian President Vladimir Putin continued on Sunday amid the conclusions of Western military officials and independent experts that the Kremlin has concentrated enough forces at the borders of Ukraine to invade the neighboring country.
However, the allies still cannot come to a consensus on whether the military buildup is a ploy to get concessions from the West, or whether we are still talking about forces ready to attack.
Washington and London believe that Russia is not pretending, and the forces surrounding Ukraine from three sides are really ready to go on the offensive.
“I am concerned that, despite the large-scale intensification of diplomatic work, the military buildup continues. It has not been suspended, but it continues,” British Defense Minister Ben Wallace said on Saturday.
He likened Western diplomacy aimed at preventing a Russian invasion of Ukraine to a policy of appeasement, telling London newspapers that “some in the West smelled of Munich,” which is a reference to the Munich Agreement of 1938, which allowed Nazi Germany to annex the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia.
Meanwhile, the flag was lowered at half-mast at the British Embassy in Kyiv on Sunday. Local staff said they had been told that from Monday the diplomatic mission would, in fact, be closed, and only the ambassador and military attaches would remain there.
While British officials fear that Putin is ready to shrug off the threat of Western sanctions and has already included the costs of them in military calculations, their colleagues in Paris and Berlin believe that escalation will not happen this week. The French authorities did not attach much importance to the detailed report of the Pentagon and American intelligence, which was handed over to NATO allies. The document describes the plan of the Russian invasion, which, according to the authors, may be scheduled for Wednesday.
Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron had a two-hour telephone conversation on Saturday. An employee of the Elysee Palace told French media that Putin “did not indicate in any way that he was going to go on the offensive.” French officials still hope that with the help of diplomacy it will be possible to prevent a conflict, and claim that Putin and Macron agreed to continue the dialogue, just as US President Joe Biden and the Russian leader agreed during an hour-long telephone conversation on Saturday.
Nevertheless, Paris adheres to the same precautionary principle as the United States and other European countries, recommending that foreign citizens leave Ukraine immediately.
“We are extremely vigilant and closely monitoring the location of Russian forces to avoid the worst,” the French official said.
Germany is moving its consulate from Dnipro in central Ukraine to Lviv in the west of the country. This is the second relocation of the diplomatic mission: It was moved from Donetsk in 2014, when pro-Russian separatists took control of the city.
The UK is also moving the Kyiv consulate to Lviv, and the consulate staff will focus on helping British citizens wishing to leave Ukraine, local staff said. The Kremlin denies planning an invasion of Ukraine. The Russian Foreign Ministry on Saturday accused Western media of a smear campaign against Moscow, which is allegedly aimed at “discrediting Russia’s just demands for security guarantees, as well as justifying Western geopolitical aspirations and military development of the territory of Ukraine.”