Russia’s endless interest in Ukraine and its conflict have many historic and geopolitical reasons. Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine, was the birthplace of Russia as a state back in the 9th century. Ever since the USSR was dissolved, Russia lost the Baltic states to the European Union (EU), which impacted the Russian hegemony among the Balkans. Most of the Russians left in Ukraine, Moscow feel that it is very important to keep Ukraine from conceding to the Western powers. Putin uses aggressive policy to stop what it doesn’t want whenever Russia feels threatened.
Ukraine has been very important for Russia due to its geography, which links to Eastern Europe. It acts as a buffer state. If Ukraine joins the European Union, Russia will become weaker on the western front. Therefore, to prevent the risks to the national interests of Russia, it appears to be planning a Ukrainian invasion.
In November 2013, the people of Ukraine protested against then-President Viktor Yanukovych, on his decision for no economic cooperation with the European Union. He rejected a deal of economic integration with the EU. As a result, the capital city, Kiev, became full of angry people on roads and the situation worsened with every passing day. On retaliation by the state, the number of protestors increased further and the case got out of control.
The President fled Ukraine in February 2014
Russia occupied Crimea in March 2014, which increased the ethnic issues in Ukraine. As a result, the Russian separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk regions proclaimed independence from Ukraine through a referendum. The violence resulted in killing more than 10,300 people in April 2014.
Russia’s government denied any involvement in the violence and conflict in Ukraine but the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) reported many Russian troops and equipment near the border. The violence transitioned into an international crisis when a Malaysian flight was shot down in the Ukrainian airspace in July, killing almost three hundred people on board. The reports showed that a Russian-built air missile was involved in the attack.
The Minsk Accord was brought in by Germany, Russia, France, and Ukraine to cease the violence, but they remained unsuccessful. The agreement comprised withdrawal of weapons, ceasefire, and Ukrainian control over the land. The Minsk Accords 2015 were a complete failure.
Ever since Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, the latter has been under different cyber attacks. In 2014, a loss of power was seen due to an attack. In 2015, a power blackout in a Ukrainian utility company happened. In 2017, the NotPetvacyber attack hit the computer systems in Ukraine. The attack has been attributed to Moscow, resulting in billions of dollars of damage.
Trump’s government helped Ukraine a lot with increased sanctions on Russia
In 2018, the US started weapons sales to Ukraine and imposed sanctions on twenty-one Russian officials and nine companies who contributed to the conflict. In September 2018, Russia held its military exercises. As a result, Ukraine joined the seven members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United States in air exercises in western Ukraine.
Russia’s conflict with Ukraine started back in 2014 and reached a stalemate in later years with few regular challenges and firing exchanges. In 2021, an increase in violence was seen in the Ukrainian land. The Russia-Ukraine conflict worsened when Moscow moved its military forces and weapons near the border it shared with Ukraine in October 2021, escalating the Ukrainians’ fear and chances of invasion.
The weapons brought in by Russia included missiles, armor, and other heavy equipment without any written warning or explanation by the Russian government. Satellite imagery and social media content from November and December 2021 have clearly shown the Russian equipment near the border.
In December, the number of troops near the border reached around a hundred thousand. In this situation, the West looked quite concerned. The intelligence reports and offices in the United States started alleging Russia of its potential to occupy Ukraine by the start of 2022. The warning of invasion was very clear from the US intelligence officials. However, in mid-December, Russia came up with its demands for the Ukraine government.
Russian foreign office issued several demands, including a ban on Ukraine to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In addition, it also demanded a reduction in the number of NATO troops from Eastern Europe. This would eventually let Russia withdraw its forces from that area.
The steaming issues between Russia and US got escalated afterward
The US and all the NATO members strongly rejected all the demands of the Russian foreign office. They threatened Russia with economic sanctions and repercussions if any military activity was initiated. Moreover, the US assured full Ukrainian support with small arms and weapons for retaliation if anything happens on the border.
The already poor relations between Washington and Moscow are at risk of further decline as Russia’s conflict with Ukraine continues. Russian involvement in the Ukrainian land has caused global concern. NATO allies and the United States are ready to solicit a response on every action of Russia. The Russia-Ukraine conflict has impacted Russian relations with the United States the European Union and harmed its role in solving the Syrian civil war.
In the present scenario, if conflict sustains and NATO imposes new sanctions on Russia, the latter might retaliate by cutting off natural gas supplies to Europe. It will eventually cause a global inflation crisis. The world is already managing a downsized economy because of the pandemic and in this situation, the European economy is the most vulnerable.
The writer is a visiting lecturer at the Department of International Relations, Government College University Faisalabad. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.