The United States and Russia are involved in a near-direct confrontation in Ukraine, perhaps their most serious faceoff since the end of the Cold war. US President Joe Biden in a video call with the Russian president, warned Putin of more serious action than the ones following Russia’s Crimea annexation, if the latter invaded Ukraine. Putin, on his part, sought a guarantee from the US President that Ukraine will not be allowed to join Nato, something the US is not ready to commit to.
The genesis of the Ukraine problem lies in the fact that Ukraine was historically part of the Russian empire for hundreds of years. Even as part of the USSR, the two were closely linked. Russia now claims that parts of Ukraine – especially its Russian speaking areas – were given to Ukraine when both were parts of the same country. Also, a large proportion of people in eastern Russia (as well as Crimea) is ethnic Russians and also speaks the Russian language. Russia also claims that it can’t look the other way if there is discrimination with Ukraine’s Russian speaking minorities.
It was on this pretext that Russia attacked Crimea and annexed it in 2014, despite protestations by the US and other countries. Thereafter, it backed, and as per Ukraine, also instigated the rebellion in its eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
At present, the Russian-backed rebels control these two areas, although there is an international ceasefire in place. Ukraine now suspects that Russia will launch an invasion with the aim to annex the two pro-Russian regions like it annexed Crimea. Russia has reportedly amassed about 90,000 troops on the border.
In response, the United States has increased the shipment of weapons to Ukraine, both as a way to bolster the strength of the Ukrainian army, as also to send a clear message to Moscow that it is watching the situation closely. UK PM Boris Johnson too spoke to Putin in mid December on phone and told him that there would be serious consequences to any attack on Ukraine.
Of course, it is not clear whether the US or UK will involve themselves directly in the conflict if Russia indeed invades Ukraine.
Russia, on the other hand, is spooked by the expansion and eastward march of the Nato alliance right up to its borders, as it feels that Ukraine is trying to join the US-led military alliance. After the erstwhile USSR disintegrated in 1991, many of the newly independent countries that were its part like Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined Nato, which Russia sees as its rival. After 1991, a total of 14 European countries that were earlier either part of the USSR, or that of the USSR-led Warsaw pact (Nato’s rival during the Cold War) or were under its influence have joined Nato. Naturally, this makes Russia nervous.
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About the Author:
Shweta Pandey is a reputed journalist with a more than 10 years of working experience. She has been covering many political incidents and events internationally also. Views Expressed here are her own personal & professional views.