This wasn’t how a Euro Cup “party in Moscow” was supposed to begin. The political upheaval in the Ukraine started at around 11pm on Tuesday when the heavily armed pro-Russian militia who had seized the presidential administration building in Kiev threw Molotov cocktails at the Ukrainian national guard outside. Ukraine lost 4-2, hours after entering into talks with Russia in a drive to unite the country.
Moscow, which has condemned western attempts to support Ukraine, came to the rescue after a failed night in Kiev that included reports that the bodies of two Russian journalists were also being brought to the city’s morgue. Russian and Ukrainian paratroopers exchanged fire in the western border town of Novoazovsk, where Russian officials warned of an invasion if Ukraine forces used force against separatists. Kiev responded with an air strike that killed about 80 rebels near Donetsk.
This has raised fears that Russia, which annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March, could launch an air or sea campaign against Ukrainian soil in a bid to re-create its Soviet-era sphere of influence. However, the weekend revelations of Syrian gas and poison agent use and the Pentagon sowing potential fire were aimed at putting Russia in its place, if only indirectly. So was the volley of missles fired from three countries along the southern Russian border with Georgia, which seemed designed to strain Moscow’s nerves over its domestic security.
The Russia’s comments this week dominated the media in the countries whose borders concern Moscow. Although Wales lost to Portugal 3-1 in the Euro 2016 quarterfinals, it was a close match marred by military tensions, as Portugal called off its celebrations following a missile fired over from Russia’s territory. The attack “caused pain and broken bones,” Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa told Agence France-Presse. The government described it as a “safe” and “neutral” weapon.
The exchange over Ukraine is ironic because that country, east of the Black Sea, was considered the main prize of the 1980 Moscow Olympics in which athletes were governed by the same international rules as in Eastern Europe, including Saturday’s mild Cold War greeting from the Russians.
But with the invasion threat threatening to erupt anew and Putin preparing his military to wage war against the U.S. if he sees fit, Eastern European leaders have no choice but to talk tough on Sunday. Leaders like Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, who has been accused of being too pro-Russian, will need to reassure their people that they are safe and that the NATO alliance is helping.
This hot-blooded tone is standard when it comes to country-to-country relations, and a difficult trait to cultivate when the author is an American who was so young he only truly remembers the Cold War. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who last week helped broker a cease-fire between Ukraine and separatists, is at the epicenter of the crisis, her country also at the mercy of Moscow’s unexpected and seemingly unforeseen muscle flexing.
Followers of Manley’s old JFTV may recall that on July 22, 1987, there was a violence-filled episode of the PBS series where three explosions were heard in Warsaw just before the martial law was lifted. Black smoke was seen billowing out of a police station, a moment that sparked panic and a frantic search for freedom. No one was injured, but there were five deaths in the attack.
This may seem like ancient history compared to what is transpiring across Ukraine and Eastern Europe at the moment, but the car bomb known as one that hits NATO will be returning like clockwork on November 11th, when World War II will be 100 years old.
Marina Spivak is a political analyst who writes for Fox News on foreign and security affairs.
Marina Spivak joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1999 as a Moscow-based correspondent. She currently serves as a London-based senior international correspondent.