Besides using the geopolitically motivated crisis to divert domestic attention, the Biden administration seeks to revive the U.S. influence over Europe by uniting its allies against Russia.
On Monday, U.S. and Russian diplomats had a heated debate at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) over the Ukraine crisis, with the U.S. side blaming Russia for intending to invade Ukraine and Russian diplomats accusing Washington of "whipping up tensions" over the current crisis.
Analysts said that the current U.S. administration has reasons to keep fueling the already-strained Russia-Ukraine tensions: one is to use the crisis to divert domestic attention and build momentum for the upcoming mid-term elections; the other is to revive its influence over Europe by uniting its European allies against Russia.
Experts said the U.S. administration has taken three major moves over the crisis on the Ukrainian border. The first is to exaggerate an imminent Russian "attack" on Ukraine by disclosing relevant "intelligence" obtained by the U.S. and its allies, revealing so-called "evidence" of Russia's continued destabilization of Ukraine, and ordering the departure of U.S. staff at its embassy in Ukraine.
The second is to beef up the threat of economic sanctions against Russia. The potential sanctions target several large Russian banks and some important financial institutions, and even Russian President Vladimir Putin, in an effort to cut Russia's ties with the Western financial system.
The third is to strengthen military deployment within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), while assisting Ukraine without directly sending troops to the country. Several shipments of weapons have been sent to Ukraine and more military and economic aid has been promised by the United States.
Moscow disapproves of Washington's moves over the current crisis surrounding Ukraine. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that U.S. news outlets in recent months "have been publishing a very large amount of unverified, distorted and deliberately false and provocative information about what is happening in Ukraine and around it."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow did not want war, but would not allow its interests to be undermined or overlooked. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also called on the West not to create "panic" over the current crisis, adding that warnings of an imminent attack were putting Ukraine's economy at risk.
Why #Europe has no say in the Russia-Ukraine crisishttps://t.co/mT930LPlrN— Geopolitics (@PhilipCMead) January 31, 2022
Europe’s lack of agency in the #Russia-#Ukraine crisis stems from a growing power imbalance in the Western alliance. Since 2008, the #US has become ever more powerful relative to its European allies. pic.twitter.com/2AiHFqmIKj
Analysts said that Washington's overblown description of a looming war relates to its own domestic and diplomatic concerns. On the domestic front, the current administration's move on the Ukraine crisis could show its toughness in foreign policy, over which Republicans have been keen to accuse U.S. President Joe Biden of being weak.
As Biden's approval ratings are at a low point, local media said that his hawkish attitude toward Russia is likely to gain more votes in the November mid-term elections. Diplomatically, the Biden administration could use the Russia-Ukraine tensions to further pressure Moscow, and consequently to woo and unite European allies to take a tougher stance against Russia.
Given that the U.S. international image has been tarnished by its hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan last year, the Ukraine crisis would be a chance for the Biden administration to show off its leadership in the West.
However, foreign policy is not a top priority in the U.S. election campaign at this stage. Americans, instead, are more concerned about the economy, the pandemic and other issues closer to their personal lives. In addition, many European countries, which rely on Russia for energy, do not want to escalate the tensions and do not want to be bound by the U.S. policy towards Russia, experts have said.
In contrast to U.S. efforts to fan the flames, the international community has been actively mediating to cool the current tensions through dialogue. Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the United Nations, on Monday called for quiet diplomacy instead of megaphone diplomacy on the tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
The parties concerned should persist in seeking to resolve their differences through dialogue and negotiations, Zhang said. "China once again calls on all parties concerned to remain calm, not to do anything to aggravate tensions or hype up the crisis, and to properly resolve their differences through consultations on an equal footing on the basis of mutual respect and fully taking into account each other's legitimate security concerns," Zhang said.
China's position on Ukraine is consistent, said Zhang, adding that to resolve the current issue, there is a need to return to the original point of implementing the new Minsk Agreement, which was endorsed by the Security Council in its Resolution 2202.
Putin has said that he would continue Russia's dialogue with the West, while Zelensky also expressed hope for increased diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis. Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron held a phone conversation on Friday to discuss the establishment of long-term and legally binding security guarantees between Russia and the West.
Putin stressed that the U.S. and NATO responses did not take into account such fundamental concerns of Russia as stopping NATO's expansion and refraining from deploying offensive weapons near Russian borders, among others. When discussing the situation in Ukraine, the Russian leader emphasized the importance of Kiev's strict compliance with the 2015 Minsk Agreements and other deals.
"Dialogue with Russia is not a gamble, it is an approach that responds to a necessity," an anonymous senior official was quoted by The New York Times as saying.