The seizure of Crimea in 2014 and Ukraine’s invasion in February 2023 by Putin-led Russia is basically the continuation of gaining lost prestige of Russian federation and in the response to the west’s inching towards the Russian sphere of influence i.e., Eastern Europe. The recent events have bolstered the nationalist Ukrainians’ resolve to align with western led bloc NATO and European Union (EU) while it has pushed the Russian speaking nationals in the East Ukraine to get closer to Russia. This conflict stems from the hostile history of superpowers’ intransigence and seems to be unceasing in near future. Thus, in order to have an extensive view of the issue following paragraphs will give a thumbnail sketch of the different contours related to the war.
Historically, Ukraine was part of Soviet Union from 1922 till its disintegration in 1991. Its political and economic systems were aligned with that of Russia. Right after its breakup from the Union, all the systems went into the abysmal condition, for instance, corruption and uneven distribution of wealth became the order of the day when it deviated from controlled market towards open market. In 2004, in a bid to reform the economic as well as political situation Viktor Yushchenko launched an orange revolution. Once in power, he could not improve the ailing economy and political instability. This led to the emergence of pro-Russian leader, Yanukovych who succeeded in the presidential election of 2010. Since he was adamant supporter of Russia, he introduced Russian policies. The public became furious on the rejection of Ukraine’s inclusion into the EU and NATO by the president. So, they launched a massive protest in 2013-2014 and this movement came to be known as Euromaidan. It was aimed to improve relations with the west.
As the situation was getting out of control, Moscow got an opportunity to capture the Crimean-peninsula-an autonomous region within Ukraine. Aftermath the annexation of Crimea, pro-Russian separatists came to the fore, mainly in eastern Ukraine comprising the region of Donetsk and Luhansk. These regions declared independence and wanted closer ties with Russia, thus leading to a full-scale war with Ukrainian forces. The escalations were lowered down through the agreements of: 2014 Minsk Protocol and 2015 Minsk II. These agreements did not materialize in true sense. Due to which sporadic fights could not stop and expansion of NATO (it has already encircled half of the Russian border since world war-II) onto the borders of Russia became routine of the day. Hence, these provocations compelled Putin to pull up his muscles so he did and finally authorized the invasion of Ukraine in February 2023.
The motive behind the Russia’s desire to have closer ties with Ukraine or to seize it lies in history. The state of Ukraine was one of the staunch rivals of the United States during the cold war. The fact is that it was the second most populous republic of the USSR and one the biggest contributor to the soviet-militarily, agriculturally, and industrially. It possessed some the sensitive nuclear installation sites along with the Black Sea Fleet stationed in the Crimean Peninsula. Having this in mind Putin is ambitious of regaining these regions once again into the fold of Russia. Therefore, his endeavors are designed in order to rectify the history in his favor.
Looking at the past tumultuous history, one can easily pinpoint the main interests of Moscow. The prime one is familial ties between Ukrainians and Russians since centuries. Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine is known to be the mother of Russian cites. Moscow has both cultural and social influence on the city. The second biggest interest is Russian diaspora in Ukraine. As per the recent statistics, around eight million ethnic Russians are living in the country. This significant number genuinely pushes Putin’s government to invade the region. Third, Russia has always seen separation of Ukraine as a historic mistake which she wants to swallow it by hook or crook. Such commitments of restoring the image of country as superpower have been articulated by many politicians in Russia as well. Another factor behind the Russia’s interest in Ukraine is basically the energy and trade. Ukrainian gas pipeline is crucial to uninterrupted supply of gas to the central and eastern Europe. Thus, the invasion of Ukraine is a geostrategic move by Putin underlying many broader ambitions.
Keeping in mind the aforementioned interests, many of the western analysts contend that the invasion of Ukraine was motivated due to the increased resentment in Kremlin for the unbridled expansion of NATO into the Eastern part of the Europe. This claim is not hollow pipe but is based on the facts; for example, since 2020 Ukraine has been participating in military exercises with NATO members which has antagonized Moscow. Other commentators argue that Ukraine’s shift towards the western democracy is the major cause of the confrontation because Putin has always seen the western-led political system as ubiquitous threat to the very existence of conservative Russian political system. Hence, NATO’s expansion in Eastern Europe and inclination of Ukraine towards modern democracy are the prominent reasons behind the Russia’s aggression recently.
The United States and European states have been committed to the territorial integrity of nation- states, especially after Westphalian system of governance. They have recently shown strong resolve to support Ukrainian cause at the meeting of Group of seven i.e., G-7 summit in Japan. The aid is being poured into Kyiv for enhancing its military capabilities. It has been assisted by the US with hefty amount of around fifty billion dollars before February 2023. Other countries, in the loop of NATO are providing such aid, including missile technology and air tanks. Not only this, these countries have restricted the Russian banks from accruing the services of SWIFT, a messaging system for international transactions. They have also blocked its access to central reserves and banned the central bank of Russia. Simply to say, western states have imposed strenuous sanctions against the financial activities of banks in Russia and have put restrictions on individuals too from travelling abroad.
The swift response by western nation has isolated Russia diplomatically and inflicted severe consequences for the Moscow and the globe. First, the geopolitical tensions have risen between Russia and West which have paralyzed the political atmosphere. Second, invasion has also violated the international law of respecting the territorial integrity. Third, the economy of Russia is nosediving because of sanctions imposed by the West and lowered oil prices. Fourth, energy security is jeopardized as the gas pipeline passes through the Ukraine. Lastly, thousands of people have been killed and displaced due to war in the country.
After the elucidation of the issue, let’s have a glance on the Ukraine. What she really wants! standing on the other side of the pole. For that, analytical thinking is best recipe to go with. The polls before the recent skirmishes depicted the mixed views. With the exception of Crimean and the people living in the disputed areas of East, fifty percent wanted themselves to be included in EU and NATO. It is the matter which requires the urgent peaceful solution as it has disrupted energy and food supply in the international markets. Due to which oil and wheat prices skyrocketed leading to soaring inflation across the globe.
To sum it up, Ukraine-Russia conflict is legacy of the superpowers’ vitriolic history. Russia and America in order end the sorry state of affairs need to engage in a positive manner. Both sides must stand by the Minsk agreement of 2015 and war time promises of not expanding the military alliance into the Russian sphere of influence. Bounding themselves to such agreements, they can easily thwart the chance of escalating the war in the wider regions and spiraling out of control. This will prevent unrepairable loss of millions of lives and billions of economies. In the end, it is negotiation that offers win-win situation in international relations.