Whose return to normalcy?

A chronology of the games they are playing

A cursory look at the things that “have returned to normal” over the extended state of exception caused by the pandemic shows the madness in the system. The first to return to being at risk, while we were still in lockdown, were the essential workers, including migrant workers and care workers. Then, the global commodity circuit got back in full swing and returned to pumping its monstrous quantities of goods through the open veins of the Suez Canal. And now it’s time for the war games to resume. Since the situation in and around Ukraine tends to be covered unilaterally, the following is a sourced chronology of the return of war (games) to our region, pointing out some of the escalating tensions and theatre that accompany such events.

March 2020:

“Following the current outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, the U.S. Army has taken a number of precautionary measures to reduce the unnecessary spread of the disease, including scaling down the U.S.-led multinational Exercise ‘Defender Europe 20.” https://shape.nato.int/defender-europe/defender/newsroom/exercise-defendereurope-20-announcement-covid19-implications

July 2020:

Ceasefire begins in eastern Ukraine, after 6 years of conflict, based on the “Complex of Measures” agreements signed in Minsk. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-crisis-ceasefire-idUSKCN24N2SX, https://www.vaticannews.va/en/world/news/2020-07/ceasefire-begins-in-eastern-ukraine.html

February 8, 2021:

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky approves a plan to admit foreign troops into Ukraine in 2021 to take part in international military drills, in collaboration with NATO forces. https://www.unian.info/politics/donbas-kyiv-invites-nato-to-hold-joint-military-drills-11374195.html

March 17:

In an interview with US network ABC News, US President Biden calls Russian President Putin a “killer” in a statement that escalates tensions. https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2021/mar/18/takes-one-to-know-one-putin-hits-back-after-joe-biden-killer-accusation-video

March 19-29:

“Sea Shield 21” takes place: “the largest and most complex NATO multinational exercise organized by the Romanian Naval Forces, in 2021, in the Black Sea area”; the exercises involve 18 NATO warships and more than 2,400 troops from Bulgaria, Greece, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain, the USA and Turkey. https://www.agerpres.ro/english/2021/03/17/constanta-sea-shield-21-nato-multinational-training-exercise-with-thousands-of-troops-led-by-romanian-navy—679556. The US Navy missile cruiser USS Monterey also makes a two-day appearance. https://navalpost.com/uss-monterey-visits-romania-after-sea-shield-exercise

Russian News Agency Tass also reports military exercises of the Russian Navy in the Black Sea. https://tass.com/defense/1269379, https://tass.com/defense/1270301. RIA Novosti states that in response, in an “unprecedented deployment”, all six Black Sea Fleet submarines are performing their tasks outside their bases, https://ria.ru/20210319/flot-1601935079.html

March 23-24:

The 30 NATO Foreign Ministers meet in Brussels to prepare for the launch of the “Defender Europe 21” military exercise, which will bring in troops from the US and will mobilize 28,000 troops on the territories of Europe, including from the US Air Force and US Navy. The war games will last until June 2021. The basic scenario is an interference of Russia in the Balkan region. https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_182648.htm

1,200 armoured vehicles and other heavy equipment are moved in March from the United States to 13 airports and four European seaports. In April, over 1,000 pieces of heavy equipment will be transferred from three pre-positioned US Army depots in Italy, Germany and the Netherlands to the drill areas in Europe, using trucks, trains and ships. In May, four major exercises will take place in 12 countries. In one of the war games, more than 5,000 soldiers from 11 countries will spread across Europe for live fire exercises. https://www.europeafrica.army.mil/defendereurope

March 30:

Video conference between Putin, Merkel and Macron. They confirm the 2015 Minsk Complex of Measures as the basis for a settlement of the crisis in eastern Ukraine. https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-germany-france-russia-idUKKBN2BM31V

April 3:  

The Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) announce the “Exercise Cossack Mace”, joint military war drills with NATO for 2021.

“As part of the joint military drills with NATO forces, in 2021 Ukraine will host on its territory the Ukrainian-U.S. exercises Rapid Trident 2021 and Sea Breeze 2021, the Ukrainian-British drills Cossack Mace 2021 and Warrior Watcher 2021, the Ukrainian-Romanian exercises Riverine 2021, and the Ukrainian-Polish drills Three Swords 2021 and Silver Sabre 2021”. https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua, https://www.unian.info/society/cossack-mace-2021-military-from-five-nato-states-to-take-part-in-ukrainian-british-drills-11376019.html

April 6:

Ukrainian President Zelensky speaks with NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg, asking NATO’s “key member countries” to support and hasten Ukraine’s process of adherence to NATO, and asking NATO to strengthen its military presence in the Black Sea region. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/06/ukraine-pressures-nato-for-membership-as-russia-amasses-troops-at-border

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announces nationwide military exercises in the Russian Federation; “they will test the country’s fighting capacity and readiness throughout the month of April, will involve both ground and naval forces, and will include more than 4,000 separate events conducted across the country, even in its most remote regions”. https://tass.com/defense/1274675, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/09/kremlin-officials-say-russia-will-not-stand-aside-if-kyiv-launches-assault

April 8:

Telephone conversation between Putin and Merkel. Russian President Vladimir Putin accuses Ukraine of provocative action in eastern Ukraine. German Chancellor Angela Merkel tells Russian President Vladimir Putin to pull back the Kremlin’s military build-up near the border with Ukraine. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-crisis-putin-merkel-idUSKBN2BV1OQ, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-crisis-kremlin-citizens-idUSKBN2BV1S3

Nikolay Patrushev, Secretary of the Russian Security Council, gives a public interview. Referring to Biden’s comments, he warns against the beginning of a new Cold War, and argues that Ukraine is trying to deflect from its internal problems, particularly capital flight. https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/4762137

April 9:

Telephone conversation between Erdogan and Putin ahead of Zelensky’s visit to Turkey. Putin stresses that the Minsk Complex of Measures adopted in 2015 should be the basis for resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ukraine-crisis-putin-erdogan-idUSKBN2BW1YR

CNN presents military satellite images showing that “Russian forces are massing on Ukraine’s border. Bluff or not, Putin is playing with fire”. https://edition.cnn.com/2021/04/09/europe/russian-forces-ukraine-border-analysis-intl/index.htm

Russian New Agency Tass says that US Navy destroyers USS Donald Cook and USS Roosevelt are on their way to the Black Sea. https://tass.com/world/1276187

April 10:

Meeting between Erdogan and Zelensky (previous meeting was in October 2020). Erdogan reiterates Turkey’s support for Ukraine in the issues of Crimea and the Donbas region, yet also states that “the conflict is to be resolved via dialogue on the basis of the Minsk agreements”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMMKeLnPY8s, https://www.president.gov.ua/en/news/spilna-deklaraciya-devyatogo-zasidannya-strategichnoyi-radi-67909

April 12:

British Sky News TV publishes a video material entitled: “Ukraine accuses Russia of stoking tensions, and military build-up increases.” It reads on: “Satellite images and witness testimony shows troop numbers building up only miles from the Ukraine”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZeEbsY398Y

US network CNN also publishes an article with video footage: “Unprecedented footage shows front line of Ukrainian conflict with Russia”. The text reads: “As tensions with Russia continue to rise in eastern Europe [sic!], CNN gains unprecedented access to the Ukrainian president on the front line in Donbas”. The video shows Ukrainian President Zelenskyy in military gear, jumping over some ditches on the frontline. https://edition.cnn.com/videos/world/2021/04/12/Zelenskyy-ukraine-matthew-chance-pkg-intl-ldn-vpx.cnn

US network CBS reports that “Ukraine says Russia has moved 80,000 troops to border and Crimea, and Putin won’t talk”. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/russia-ukraine-news-putin-moves-russian-troops-to-border-and-crimea

Euronews reports that US Secretary of State Blinken has come to Brussels, and that “G7 calls on Russia to cease border provocations”. https://www.euronews.com/2021/04/12/g7-calls-on-russia-to-cease-provocations-on-ukraine-border

Russian Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova shows that CNN had mistakenly presented the Ukrainian tanks transported by train as if being Russian: https://ria.ru/20210413/podlog-1728014203.html

Russian News Agency Tass reports that, during the ongoing exercises, “Russian Navy warships eliminate enemy aircraft over Black Sea in drills”, https://tass.com/defense/1276793

The Governor of the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU), Kyrylo Shevchenko, meets with the Director of the IMF’s European Department, Alfred Kammer, and subsequently declares that Ukraine “may receive US$2.7 billion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to replenish its international reserves”. https://www.unian.info/economics/imf-ukraine-gov-t-may-receive-us-2-7-bln-nbu-governor-says-11385355.html

Also on April 12, in completely different news, humanity celebrated 60 years since the Soviet Union has sent Yuri Gagarin, the first person in space.

April 13:

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, goes to Brussels to meet NATO’s Jens Stoltenberg, and asks for urgent help from NATO. Stoltenberg says Russia’s mobilization to Ukraine’s borders is “the largest massing of Russian troops since the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014”, and asks Russia to “end this military buildup in and around Ukraine, stop its provocations and de-escalate immediately.” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/13/nato-tells-russia-to-stop-military-buildup-around-ukraine

The expenses for all war games are paid from public budgets.

The cooptation of media is at the cost of public distrust.

Deepening the divides is to the detriment of public interest.

For all those caught in the middle, the best outcome of war games is confirming reciprocal deterrence, but every war game will have some real consequences.

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