Russo-Ukrainian War 4/27/22

The British embassy in Kyiv, 2013. Kyiv has suffered some airstrikes and bombardment even after the withdrawal, though it is unlikely troops can be reintroduced from Belarus and Russia into Northern Ukraine for a significant amount of time. (Image via British Embassy of Kyiv)

Russia has made threatening remarks to the United Kingdom, starting concerns of attacks on the embassies of NATO nations returning to Kyiv.

Russia’s provocations come after the United Kingdom began ramping up its support of Ukraine, including public declarations that attacks to reclaim Ukrainian territory/on Russian soil using British weapon systems were ‘endorsed’ by British officials. Yet the feasibility of an attack on British or other NATO soil, as the Russian foreign ministry has suggested, is nonsensical.

It is unlikely that, despite the violent phrasing, Russia was threatening action on U.K. soil. Such an attack would imply Russian missiles or planes flying over NATO territory, which in the past few months has been flooded with NATO reconnaissance planes and interceptors, on stand-by to take out aerial threats. Missile interceptors are ubiquitous in Western Europe. No matter how many ‘hypersonic missile’ threats Russia parrots, such an attack, even if remotely successful, would not outweigh the immediate costs (the destruction in large of the Russian military).

Perhaps Russian officials meant strikes on the U.K.’s embassy in Kyiv, a far more ‘realistic’ target, despite their withdrawal since the failure of their initial offensive. The withdrawal from Kyiv has become a source of Russian shame and Western mockery on the internet, and many nationalists convinced of victory in the Donbas advocate a new offensive in Kyiv or an extensive bombing campaign to rattle Western nations returning their embassies.

It is important to keep in mind; that an attack on a foreign embassy wouldn’t necessarily trigger Article V. It could, depending on the severity, but it would be widely unpopular with members of the alliance less willing to go to war. Embassies are not exclaves, the land upon which the embassy stands in Ukraine, and it is Ukraine’s legal obligation to defend it. Yet it is likely that, in the event of a serious and concerted attack on British diplomats in Ukraine, Britain would find a way to involve its legendary secret services, which Russia has already accused of operations in Belgorod and Transnistria.

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