What does Russia want with Ukraine? Tensions between Putin and NATO explained

Why is Ukraine important for Russia?

Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union before its collapse at the end of the Cold War in 1991 and borders Russia to the east. The disintegration of the Soviet Union left Russia with a greatly impoverished population, territory and economy. It also diminished Russia’s superpower status. Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin seeks to reclaim some of that glory and undo some of what Russia lost in the Cold War. He described Russians and Ukrainians as “one people, one whole”.

Does Russia want to invade Ukraine?

Russia has repeatedly denied having invasion plans. But Moscow has massed 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border and moved tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, rocket launchers and other military equipment west from bases in the Far East. Russian East.

Additionally, Russia is moving troops and S-400 surface-to-air missile systems into Belarus, which borders Ukraine and NATO members Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. Russia has also moved several ships near the Ukrainian coasts in the Black Sea and the Sea of ​​Azov.

It also organizes naval exercises in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and in the Arabian Sea with Chinese naval forces. On January 25, Moscow announced new military exercises in the North Caucasus.

In late January, Western defense officials said Russia had sent medical units to the front, reaching a level of readiness it had not reached in previous buildups.

By massing troops near Ukraine, Putin’s goal is to extract concessions from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and force him to give Russia a say in Ukraine’s future. This would send a message to other former Soviet states that the West cannot guarantee their security. To increase the pressure, Mr Putin has an array of military options short of a full occupation, from quiet incursions to limited conflict in the eastern Donbass region, where Russian-backed separatists have declared themselves independent of Ukraine but are not. t recognized by the government of Kiev.

President Biden has said he expects the Russians to act against Ukraine one way or another, although Washington and Moscow have agreed to continue talks on how to defuse the crisis.

Where is Ukraine?

Ukraine is located in Eastern Europe and its eastern flank borders Russia. To the west it is bordered by Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova, and to the north by Belarus. The Black Sea runs along the southern coast of Ukraine.

Is Ukraine an ally of the United States and is it part of NATO?

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union when Ukraine gained independence, the United States has maintained diplomatic relations with the country. The United States is eager to see Ukraine thrive as a democracy in the face of what the State Department describes as “continued Russian aggression.”

Ukraine is not part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but it is a ‘partner country’ of the military alliance, and agreements in place mean it could become a member of NATO in the future. Mr Biden said Ukraine’s potential NATO membership was not likely in the near term, although he said the decision was ultimately up to the alliance.

What is NATO doing in response to Russia’s military buildup?

NATO allies are bolstering the alliance’s eastern flank, which borders Ukraine, deploying fighter jets and ships to the region in response. The European Union has established loan and grant schemes for Ukraine worth more than $1.3 billion. The Pentagon has ordered thousands of troops to prepare for a possible deployment.

What does Putin want?

Mr Putin has been clear about his desire to reassert Russia’s influence over its neighbours, particularly Ukraine. In 2014, he annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, fomenting an eight-year war in the east of the country.

But he has cultivated an aura of unpredictability about his next moves.

So far, Mr Putin has left Western leaders wondering whether he would stage a major invasion of Ukraine and cause a possible severing of ties with the West, or whether he would just wring a few concessions from a long list of demands he put forward. These include that NATO guarantees that it will not give membership to Ukraine.

Moscow also demanded that NATO curb military exercises in Ukraine and other former Soviet countries, and that the alliance withdraw its forces from its eastern member states. NATO deployed around 5,000 troops to Poland and the Baltics after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014.

How did the United States respond to these requests?

The United States and its allies rejected Moscow’s demands in a series of meetings with Russian officials in mid-January, arguing that states are free to partner with any other state they choose.

The United States on Jan. 26 handed the Russian Foreign Ministry unpublished proposals that U.S. officials said included constraints on military maneuvers that Moscow considers provocative. But the Russian leader said his “fundamental concerns” – a withdrawal of troops from NATO and an obstacle to Ukraine joining the alliance – had been ignored.

What would happen if Russia invaded Ukraine?

Mr Biden said if all troops on the border moved into Ukraine it would amount to the biggest invasion since World War II. According to the Pentagon, Russia has accumulated sufficient combat power to take cities and large swaths of territory in Ukraine. However, leaders in Kyiv have urged the United States to reverse its public rhetoric about the Russian threat to avoid spreading panic.

Ukraine’s military has grown stronger since Russia invaded Crimea, and although it is still outmatched by Russia, it could exact a heavy price on any invading army, according to its leaders and analysts.

In the event of an invasion of Ukraine, the United States has said it will unleash a barrage of new economic sanctions against Russia, hitting major banks, state-owned enterprises and major imports, although the targets remain to confirm. Mr Biden also said that the United States and NATO would consider further strengthening their presence in Eastern Europe.

Experts say that despite Moscow’s efforts to protect its economy since sanctions were imposed after the annexation of Crimea, tougher measures could cause economic hardship for the country.

How does Ukraine feel about the crisis?

Ukraine’s leaders, shut out of the US-Russia talks because of the impasse, have urged their citizens not to panic and say the Kremlin’s likely goal is not to invade but to further destabilize their country. insidious.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zolensky, a former Russian-speaking comedian with no political experience, wants his country to join the EU and NATO. He came to power in 2019 promising to end the ongoing war with Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine that has so far claimed 14,000 lives.

Many Ukrainians, having endured eight years of this conflict, are resigned and prepared for war with Russia.

Ukraine is strengthening its territorial defense force, aiming to have a brigade of reservists in each of the country’s regions, capable of reacting quickly if Russia explodes or sneaks up.

And in the largest city in eastern Ukraine, sentiment has changed dramatically against the Kremlin. Any Russian military operation in Kharkiv is now likely to encounter significant resistance from ordinary civilians.

What is Nord Stream 2 and what role is it playing in the crisis?

Nord Stream 2 is a gas pipeline that connects Russia to NATO member Germany and is awaiting approval from German regulators.

U.S. lawmakers and some officials fear the 764-mile pipeline will strengthen Russia’s grip on the European energy market and weaken Ukraine as it tries to resist Russian aggression. Germany is the world’s largest buyer of Russian gas, getting more than half of its supply from Russia. Nord Stream 2 would double the capacity of Russian gas exports to the country currently routed through the parallel Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

Officials in German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government have privately said he would mothball Nord Stream 2 in the event of Russian aggression.

Publicly, Mr. Scholz has not made such a pledge despite repeated pressure from Washington and other allies, who hope to use the pipeline as leverage against the Kremlin. The Chancellor said Nord Stream 2 is a purely private project that should be separated from political discussions.

European officials have worked to secure emergency energy supplies in case a conflict disrupts flows from Russia, seeking help from the United States and talking to gas producers such as Qatar and the United States. Azerbaijan.

US officials have tried for years to persuade Europe to buy US natural gas as a bulwark against Russia, with the Trump administration calling it “molecules of freedom”. hydraulic fracturing in the United States.

To subscribe to Mint Bulletins

* Enter a valid email address

* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Never miss a story! Stay connected and informed with Mint. Download our app now!!

About Mike Stevenson

Check Also

Kipco acquires Qurain Petrochemical Industries to strengthen its financial position

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Saline Water Conversion Corp. will open six desalination plants by 2024 in …