Protest in support of Ukraine.

Ukraine War: Understanding the Roots and Cause of the Russia-Ukraine Crisis

The long-feared Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to rage ever since president Vladimir Putin’s announced “special military operation” against Ukraine on February 24. However, leading by example from the streets of Kyiv, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has been tirelessly rallying the international community for support.

But what lead to one of the biggest military invasions of the decade?

History of the Russia-Ukraine Crisis

The current predicament can be better understood when walking back eight years. After Ukraine’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych was forced out of office by major demonstrations in 2014, Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

Weeks later, Russia backed two separatist insurgencies in Ukraine’s east, culminating in pro-Russian insurgents with Donetsk and Luhansk declaring the DPR and LPR independent nations, despite the international community’s complete lack of recognition.

The insurgencies cost 14,000 lives and ravaged Ukraine’s easter industrial heartland, the Donbas.

However, both the West and Ukraine have accused Russia of arming and escalating the separatist movement in the country, but Russia has sided against the accusation.

Also Read: Ukraine War: Arms Suppliers Profiting From the Russia-Ukraine Crisis

France and Germany arranged a 2015 peace pact known as the Minsk II Accord. The 13-point accord required Ukraine to provide separatist areas autonomy and grant insurgents amnesty in exchange for complete control of its Russian border in rebel-held territory.

Fears of a new conflict erupted last year amid a surge in ceasefire violations in the east and a Russian army concentration near Ukraine. Still, tensions eased when Moscow withdrew the bulk of its units after rehearsals in April.

What has led to the Current Crisis?

The worst-case situation has already been realized with Mr. Putin’s declaration of his “special military operation.”

The Kremlin had previously rejected any preparations to invade, a claim that few accepted — and for a good reason.

Even after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s latest announcement, a Russian UN envoy denied that Moscow had any grievances with the Ukrainian people, insisting that only those in power would be targeted.

That has turned out to be completely incorrect.

Western leaders have united in their condemnation of Russia, effectively making it a pariah state on the international stage. Sanctions are expected to cripple the Russian economy, putting renewed pressure on Mr. Putin in the country despite the attempts to censor critical media and nascent protest movements.

Meanwhile, Mr. Biden has attempted to reassure the international community that Russia will face the consequences of its conduct.

What is Putin’s Problem with NATO?

Putin believes the goal of NATO, the Western military alliance of 30 nations, is to fracture and destroy Russian society.

He instructed that NATO go back to 1997 and halt its eastward expansion, remove its soldiers and military facilities from member nations that joined the alliance after 1997, and avoid placing “strike weapons near Russia’s borders” before the conflict.

Mr. Putin is known to hate because he sees Nato’s creeping eastward march since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1989, and he is keen to prevent Ukraine from joining the alliance.

How are the Peace Talks Going on?

President Putin has not abandoned peace talks that have been going on for weeks. Austrian leader Karl Nehammer, the sole Western leader to have visited Putin since the war began, noted the war had plunged into a “logic of war.

However, despite Russian forces’ crimes on Ukrainian land, Ukraine’s leader has stated that he will continue pursuing dialogue.

“Because Ukraine requires peace. We are in the twenty-first century in Europe “.

And he’s already admitted that his nation won’t be allowed to Nato. So while Mr. Zelensky stated that they don’t want to waste prospects for a diplomatic settlement if we have them, he also cautioned that if Russia kills the last Ukrainian troops fighting in the conflict in Mariupol, then it will mean the end of peace talks.

Turkish president presiding over peace talks between Russia and Ukraine.
Source: The Gaurdian

Kyiv proposed the following proposals during negotiations on March 29:

  • In the case of an assault, strict, legally enforceable assurances would oblige nations like the United Kingdom, China, the United States, Turkey, France, Canada, Italy, Poland, and Israel to safeguard a neutral Ukraine.
  • Ukraine would be able to join the European Union if guarantor states had discussions and came to Ukraine’s defense within three days.
  • Ukraine would become a “non-bloc” and “non-nuclear” condition, with no international military facilities or contingents on its soil.
  • Ukraine would not join military-political coalitions, and any foreign exercises would be subject to the approval of guarantor countries.

Is Neutrality Enough for Putin?

According to Russia, this “neutral, demilitarised” Ukraine would have its army and navy, similar to Austria or Sweden, both EU members.

There is no clear indication as to whether or not it would suffice or what it would imply. However, despite Austria’s neutrality, Sweden is rumoured to be considering joining NATO.

Ukrainians have pledged neutrality in exchange for security guarantees from allies. Putin has nonetheless stated that peace talks have ceased. As a result, Putin may still harbour ambitions to reintegrate Ukraine into Russia’s area of influence, away from its Western orientation.

Since Ukraine gained independence in 1991, it has increasingly turned to the West, both the EU and Nato.

The collapse of the Soviet Union was viewed as the “disintegration of historical Russia” by Russia’s Putin, who wants to change that. He has argued that Russians and Ukrainians are one people, ignoring Ukraine’s ancient history and dismissing the country’s independence as an “anti-Russia endeavour.” In addition, he said that “Ukraine never had durable traditions of actual statehood.”

His pressure on Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, to not sign a deal with the European Union in 2013 sparked riots that culminated in the president’s ouster in February 2014.

After seizing Crimea in Ukraine’s south, Russia sparked a separatist revolt in the east and a conflict that killed 14,000 lives.

He tore up an unfulfilled 2015 Minsk peace pact as he prepared to invade in February, accusing Nato of jeopardizing “our historic future as a nation,” asserting without evidence that Nato members sought to bring the war to Crimea.

What is the Current Situation of the Russia-Ukraine Crisis?

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has progressed to a new stage. After facing stiff opposition from the Ukrainian military, Russian forces have shifted their focus to the south and east of the nation, where they will launch a new onslaught, hitting civilian targets and residential neighbourhoods.

Meanwhile, Ukraine claims to have discovered evidence of war crimes committed under Russian control in Bucha and other towns near Kyiv. Four million people have fled Ukraine due to Russian strikes on population centres.

Also Read: Russia-Ukraine Crisis: Russia Committing War Crimes in Ukraine War?

The United States and its NATO allies supply military weaponry to Ukraine and have imposed sanctions and other punitive measures on Russian President Vladimir Putin. President Biden has accused Putin of war crimes and called the invasion a “genocide,” adding Putin is “trying to wipe out the notion of being Ukrainian.” However, his comments were deemed unacceptable by the Kremlin.

While Mr. Putin has recognized Russia’s economic effect, he has shown no sign of bending to pressure to cease the conflict. As a result, the two sides have been unable to reach an agreement.