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Analysis of Sansad TV Discussion: Ukraine-Russia Conflict

Context

Russia has recently sought immediate talks to secure clear legal agreements that NATO will not expand eastwards. This was conveyed by Russian President Vladimir Putin to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Background

  • Russia’s recent stand came a day after G7 Foreign Ministers and EU representatives issued a statement condemning Russia’s military build-up and aggressive rhetoric towards Ukraine.
  • However, efforts to induct Ukraine into NATO have been ongoing for many years and seems to have picked up pace recently. Russia has declared such a move a “red line”, with Moscow worried about the consequences of the US-led military alliances expanding right up to its doorstep.

What is Ukraine-Russia Conflict?

  • Ukraine and Russia share hundreds of years of cultural, linguistic and familial links. As part of the Soviet Union, Ukraine was the second-most powerful Soviet republic after Russia, and was crucial strategically, economically and culturally.
  • Ever since Ukraine split from the Soviet Union, both Russia and the West have vied for greater influence in the country in order to keep the balance of power in the region in their favour.
  • Recently, a build-up of Russian military troops along Ukraine and Russia’s shared 1,200-mile border has raised tensions in the area.

Analysis of Sansad TV Discussion: Ukraine-Russia Conflict_40.1What are Russia’s and the West’s interests in Ukraine?

  • Ukraine and Russia share hundreds of years of cultural, linguistic and familial links.
  • As part of the Soviet Union, Ukraine was the second-most powerful Soviet republic after Russia, and was crucial strategically, economically and culturally.
  • Ever since Ukraine split from the Soviet Union, both Russia and the West have vied for greater influence in the country in order to keep the balance of power in the region in their favour.
  • For many in Russia and in the ethically Russian parts of Ukraine, the shared heritage of the countries is an emotional issue that has been exploited for electoral and military purposes.
  • For the United States and the European Union, Ukraine is a crucial buffer between Russia and the West.
  • As tensions with Russia rise, the US and the EU are increasingly determined to keep Ukraine away from Russian control.

History of the Donbas region and why it is once again at the centre of a looming conflict?

  • Donbas is a small region in eastern Ukraine adjoining the Russian border, is no stranger to military conflicts.
  • After the fall of the Russian empire, the region was incorporated into the newly created Ukrainian People’s Republic in 1918.
  • And then came the Bolsheviks, who were fighting a civil war against the remnants of the old regime.
  • Donbas became part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.
  • During the Second World War, the Nazis took the region.
  • Over 3,00,000 civilians were killed in Donbas alone during the Nazi occupation.
  • In 1943, after defeating the Nazis in Stalingrad, the Red Army took Donbas back.
  • In 1991, with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the region, which comprises the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, became part of the newly born Ukrainian nation.
  • Now, Donetsk and Luhansk are two self-declared republics run by rebels backed by Russia.
  • With Russia mobilising thousands of troops on its border with Ukraine, which has sparked fears of war, Donbas is once again at the centre of a looming conflict.

What was Euromaidan and its aftermath?

  • November 2013 saw the start of mass protests across Ukraine, but particularly in Kyiv’s Maidan, or central square. Protesters were angry at Ukraine’s then pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to join the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union instead of the EU.
  • The protests, known as the Euromaidan movement, saw massive clashes between the protesters and security forces that reached their peak in February 2014 and led to the ouster of Yanukovych. Soon after, amid fears of growing Western influence in Ukraine, Russia decided to take action by invading Crimea, which was a part of Ukraine.
  • Moscow also began fomenting a separatist movement in eastern Ukraine, which is home to many who are ethnically Russian.
  • The invasion and subsequent annexation of Crimea have given Russia a maritime upper hand in the region. It also gave President Vladimir Putin a significant boost in popularity ratings inside Russia.
  • However, it was widely condemned by world powers and resulted in the US and EU imposing sanctions on Moscow. It also resulted in a strengthened commitment by both the US and the EU to protect the integrity of Ukraine’s borders.

What is happening now?

  • Russia is moving a large number of troops towards the border and seeking assurances from the US that Ukraine will not be inducted into NATO.
  • However, US President Joe Biden has made it clear that he is not prepared to give any such assurance.
  • This has left the countries in a stand-off, with tens of thousands of Russian troops ready to invade Ukraine at short notice, and the West not budging on Russia’s demands.
  • Many experts believe that Russia is keeping the tensions high at the Ukraine border in order to get sanctions relief and other concessions from the West.
  • Frantic diplomatic efforts, involving US, European, Ukrainian and Russian officials, are underway to avoid military action.

Next Possibilities?

  • US officials, including Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, have admitted that they are not sure what Putin’s intentions are.
  • If the diplomatic efforts to stop the invasion fail, US and EU officials have said they may impose hard-hitting sanctions on Russia in the event of military action on the Ukraine border.
  • However, depending on what Putin’s intentions are, experts say sanctions may not be enough to deter him. Any kind of military action by the US or EU against Russia would precipitate a major crisis for the whole world and has so far not been mooted by any of the parties involved.

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