Putin’s Military Exercise Reflects Political Tensions Over Ukraine

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With Ukraine in a transitional state following the departure of it’s former President, Viktor Yanukovych, it finds itself in a precarious post-protest situation. While the EU and the United States have been openly positive regarding the steps being taken towards a stable Ukrainian government and constitution, Russia has been quiet on the matter. President Vladimir Putin has so far chosen not to officially recognize Ukraine’s new government as legitimate, but instead has organized an unexpected military exercise of its ground forces in western Russia and its air force nationwide. According to the New York Times, the exercise will continue until March 3, and is meant to exhibit the military strength during a difficult political time with friction between Russia and the U.S. and Europe.

According to the Times, Russia’s Minister of Defense, Sergei K. Shoigu, made a statement in which he said that the test of military forces is being done in order to examine the capability of Russia’s military in the face of a “crisis situation” that could involve anything from a terrorist attack to a biological or chemical weapon. But the historical relationship between Russia and Ukraine make the proximity and timing of the activity unlikely to be coincidental. According to the Telegraph, Moscow has criticized Ukraine’s treatment of Yanukovych, who had close ties with Putin, but Sergei Lavrov — the Foreign Minister of Russia — said that its “policy of non-intervention” remains in place.

A former British Army Commander spoke with the Telegraph, saying that Russia “wouldn’t have done it now unless they wanted to have a political effect. If they had a planned exercise at this time in that command they would have cancelled it — if they wanted to de-escalate the situation. The converses is obviously true.”

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