On February 11, the American Security Project hosted an event titled, “Rapid Response Briefing: On the Brink of War in Ukraine.” Vivian Salama, national security correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, joined ASP CEO Patrick C. Costello to discuss her perspective from recent reporting on the ground in Ukraine and discuss the origins of the crisis, the latest developments on the Russia-Ukraine border, and where the United States goes from here.
The discussion opened by addressing the noting the Russian military buildup, which is up to 130,000 troops according to recent intelligence. This recent buildup is worrying given Russia’s movement of essential logistics units and the presence of Russian forces in neighboring Belarus. Costello asked how this will come to a head, to which Salama responded that the window of opportunity to ideally invade is decreasing, and that if an invasion occurs it will likely happen after the Olympics.
Costello commented on the Churchillian concept of “jaw-jaw” being better than “war-war,” and inquired about the diplomatic efforts to stave off conflict. Salama answered that while there isn’t much progress on these talks, as long as the can is kicked down the road further, the prospects for invasion will diminish. The French have a particular opportunity to lead on these talks, but to achieve a game-changer in negotiations, the U.S. needs to have a more direct role.
Salama noted that the situation on the ground in Ukraine is calmer than what American media is projecting or what everyday Americans are thinking. She stated that the Ukrainian government, which is used to Russia’s aggressive tactics, is trying to project a state of calm, though some citizens are noting concern over the situation.
Costello also asked Salama about the demands Russia outlined in December. Salama explained the Russian perspective, noting what they perceive as Western aggression in the from military aid to Ukraine, and in the potential admission of certain countries into NATO, which is a red line for Putin.
The conversation also included the Wall Street Journal’s coverage of Russia’s troop deployments, which can be accessed here.