The exercise was scheduled for February 3-8 240 kilometers (150 miles) southwest of Ireland in international waters and Ireland’s exclusive economic zone. Ireland is a member of the European Union of 27 countries, but not a member of NATO.
This week, Irish Foreign Secretary Simon Covenant contradicted the war games, saying: “This is not the time to increase military activity and tensions surrounding Ukraine. The fact that they choose to do it in the west. Border, if you will, from the European Union, off the coast of Ireland, we consider undesirable.”
On Saturday, the Russian Embassy in Ireland published a report on Facebook by Ambassador Yuri Filatov, saying the exercise was being moved outside Ireland’s economic zone “so as not to disrupt fishing activities”.
Such a decision was a rare concession amid rising tensions over Russia’s massing of some 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border and its demands for NATO’s involvement in preventing Ukraine from joining the alliance to stop and withdraw. . Its forces are from Eastern Europe.
The United States and NATO formally rejected those demands this week, although Washington has identified areas for discussion in hopes that there may be a way to avoid war.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has not commented publicly on the Western reaction. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said there wasn’t much room for an agreement, although he also said Russia did not want war.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on Friday that Putin could use any part of his power to seize Ukrainian cities and “key regions” or carry out “forced or provocative political actions” such as recognizing separatist areas within Ukraine.
Two regions in eastern Ukraine have been under Russian-backed insurgencies since 2014 after Russia annexed Ukraine to Crimea.
Russian lawmakers are urging people in these areas of Ukraine to join the Russian army, showing that Moscow is still trying to integrate these areas as much as possible. Viktor Vodolatsky said on Saturday that residents of rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine feared attacks by Ukrainian forces and that those with Russian passports would be welcomed into the Russian army.
“If Russian citizens living in (territories) want to join the Russian armed forces, they will be registered and released by the Rostov Oblast Military Commissariat,” Vodolatsky, deputy chairman of the parliamentary committee on relations with neighbors, told TASS.
Russia has issued passports to more than 500,000 people in rebel-held areas. Vodolatsky said the conscripts would serve in Russia, but this left them free to join other invading forces.
A senior official in President Joe Biden’s administration said the United States welcomed Lavrov’s comments that Russia does not want war “but needs support to act. We must see that Russia withdraws part of the forces it deploys from the Ukrainian border and adopts other de-escalation measures. The officer wished to remain anonymous as he was not authorized to speak in public.
Lavrov said the United States had indicated the two sides could talk about limitations on the use of intermediate-range missiles, limitations on military training and regulations to prevent accidents between warships and aircraft. He said that the Russians started discussing these issues years ago, but that Washington and its allies have never touched on them.
He also said that these issues are secondary to Russia’s main concerns regarding NATO. He said international treaties mean that one country’s security should not come at the expense of others, and he said he will send letters to his Western colleagues asking them to explain why they are not delivering on that promise.
Washington has warned Moscow of devastating sanctions if it invades Ukraine, including sanctions on Russia’s top officials and key sectors of the economy. Lavrov said Moscow had warned Washington that sanctions would mean a complete breakdown in relations.
Meanwhile, NATO has announced that it will strengthen its deterrence capabilities in the Baltic region.
Russia has launched military exercises involving motorized infantry and artillery units in south-west Russia, fighter jets in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea and dozens of warships in the Black Sea and Arctic. Russian forces are also taking part in joint exercises in Belarus, raising concerns in the West that Moscow could launch an attack on Ukraine from northern Belarus. The Ukrainian capital is only 75 kilometers from the Belarusian border.