Russia- Ukraine conflict
After the end of WWII till the disintegration of USSR in 1991, Ukraine was a part of Soviet Union. Despite the country’s independence, Russia has attempted to ensure that Kiev remains within its sphere of influence. However, such Russian desires were threatened with the eruption of the Euromaidan protests against the Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2013. As the Ukrainian population demanded greater economic integration with the European Union (EU), causing President Yanukovych to flee the country in February 2014, Moscow initiated direct military intervention in its neighbor. The contemporary conflict dates back to February 2014 and revolves around control over two territories, Donbass and Crimea. Protests and unrest were instigated by Russia in southern and eastern Ukraine. The Russian military acquired control over key strategic infrastructure and positions in Crimea. In March, 2014 Russia unanimously adopted a resolution petitioning President Putin to utilize military force in Ukraine. After holding a controversial local referendum, Crimea was annexed by Russia. A month later, pro-Russian groups’ demonstrations in Donbass backed by Russia provoked a war with the Ukrainian government. With the military support and aid of Russia, the rebels were able to defeat the government troops in September. Since then, Ukraine has complained that Russia, in the guise of humanitarian aid, provides troops, weapons and reinforcements to separatist elements in the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in Ukraine. These allegations are denied by Moscow.
International response: EU, USA and NATO involvement
In the aftermath of the Malaysian Airlines flight incident in 2015, EU and USA became seriously involved in the conflict, Attempts were made by France and Germany to broker an agreement between Ukraine and Russia. Such efforts culminated into the Minsk Accords signed in February, 2015. The agreements’ provisions called for a ceasefire, demanding both sides to withdraw their heavy weaponry and allowing complete control to the Ukrainian government over the territories under conflict. But no resolution could be achieved and efforts towards a diplomatic settlement have remained unsuccessful. Sanctions were also imposed on Russia by EU and USA therefore halting exports of Western technology and blocking Moscow’s access to international capital markets. Since 2014, USA has also been providing military aid to the Ukrainian government that has amounted to about 2.5 billion dollars. In April 2021, US President Joe Biden announced that 150 million dollars worth security package will be given to Ukraine to help improve their defense and security capabilities, and military technologies. NATO has also openly supported Ukraine in its efforts against Russian intrusion and intervention. In 2014, NATO announced that its membership remains open to Kiev. Since 2014, NATO’s presence in the Black Sea has increased and it is also cooperating with Georgia and Ukraine in the maritime domain. A Comprehensive Assistance Package was drawn out by NATO in 2016 which outlines its practical support to Ukraine. Ukrainian government formally expressed its desire to join NATO in 2017 and in September 2020, President Volodymyr Zelensky approved a new National Security Strategy which calls for developing a distinctive partnership with NATO with the ultimate aim of becoming a permanent member of the military and security alliance.
In recent months, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has intensified. Authorities of Ukraine claim that Russian troops frequently violate the established cease-fire line and this has resulted in the killing of 30 troops in 2021. Ukrainian government has accused Moscow for fanning the flames with its deployment of 41,000 troops near the eastern border of Ukraine and 42,000 troops near the Crimean border, where Russia occupies a huge naval base. USA and NATO have stated that this is the largest deployment of Russia’s troops alongside the Ukrainian border since 2014. The Ukrainian President Zelensky has claimed that this Russian military build-up is preparation for a possible coup in Ukraine by December 1st while the military intelligence of Kiev has argued that such a coup would take place by the end of January or beginning of February. Such fears have been reiterated by the leadership of USA, NATO and EU countries. However, Sergei Shoigu, the Defense Minister of Russia countered that the country’s military build-up is a part of readiness drills in response to threats emanating from NATO and Ukraine. USA has placed new sanctions on Russia and has expelled ten Russian diplomats in response to the crisis. NATO and OSCE meetings have been scheduled to be held in Latvia and Sweden in the coming days to discuss the alliance’s response to Russia’s large and unusual troop build-up. USA claimed that all possible options to deal with Russia will be discussed and the crisis will remain at the top of the agenda.
Future Prospects: The Possibility of War?
The recent escalation of the conflict begs the question whether the threat of a major Russian military attack on Crimea is credible or not. When assessing the evidence available, such a scenario remains a daunting possibility. Russian analysts and officials claim that such an attack may be provoked if the European countries and USA do not cater to the concerns of Moscow regarding the situation in Donbass, NATO and West’s military support for Ukraine and military activities in Black Sea and Eastern Europe. Russia claimed that its intervention in Georgia in 2008 and in Crimea and Donbass in 2014 was ‘provoked’. It can be noted that the Russian leadership is setting the ground for another intervention as for the past few months, they have been claiming Ukraine, US and its Western allies have been provoking Russia. Moreover, President Putin and other high officials in government have recently begun questioning the statehood of Ukraine, claiming it does not have the right to exist. A close associate of Putin and Secretary of Kremlin Security Council, Nikolai Patruschev stated that what awaits Ukraine is an ‘Afghan scenario’. Another insinuating statement was passed by Russia’s foreign intelligence which denounced what it perceived to be US provocations and warned that such a similar situation persisted in Georgia prior to Russian intervention in 2008. Such statements coupled with Kremlin’s response that if the government cracks down on the civilians in Ukraine’s eastern territories, Russia would be forced to intervene, showcase that the threat of a Russian attack remains a likely possibility and such a scenario could provoke a European war as NATO is also dragged into the equation.
Written By: Olivium's Staff.