In Kiev on Monday, Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary-general, declared, “NATO can rely on Ukraine, and Ukraine can rely on NATO.” Apparently, however, the Kremlin is undeterred, for even though the ceasefire still holds, Russia is building a second base along the border. Reuters reports:
The new base will house 5,000 soldiers and heavy weaponry, according to public documents and people working at the site.
It is further east than one under construction in Belgorod region reported by Reuters earlier this month but still close to the border with separatist-held parts of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, where there has been heavy fighting.
The bases are part of a Russian military buildup along a new line of confrontation with the West, running from the Black Sea in the south to the Baltic in the north, which carries echoes of the Cold War-era “Iron Curtain”.
By putting more infrastructure in place, Putin signals that he is playing a long game of destabilizing Ukraine. He is not looking to annex all of the country; he simply wants to keep it from becoming a successful Western state. By applying pressure along the border (and over it), Putin knows he can upset domestic Ukrainian politics at any moment, and this new base will make it easier to create headaches in Kiev.
A weak Ukraine separated from Europe is all Putin needs to keep his dreams alive. He will work very hard to make that happen—and nothing NATO has so far done seems to be stopping him.