This article tries to give you a summarized version of what the current status is between Ukraine and Russia.
As for the recent news reports, Russia has positioned almost one lakh troops at its border with Ukraine that wants to become a NATO member as soon as possible. While the U.S. and other Western countries have forced Russia not to take any further action and not to invade Ukraine, Russia says that its intention is not to invade Ukraine but to safeguard its own rights and interests.
Now, what exactly is it that the Russian government is demanding and what is the point of view of the Western nations?
So Russia is demanding a few things.
First, Russia says that NATO should withdraw its troops and weapons from all the countries in Europe that joined NATO after 1997. After 1997 means those nations, which were earlier a part of the Soviet Union, but then, later on, they went on to join NATO. So Russia says NATO should not operate in eastern European countries such as Latvia, Estonia or Lithuania. Why? Because they have a common border with Russia.
Apart from this, they should not even have their weapons in Poland, Hungary. Why? Because they are very close to Russia.
Not just this, NATO should not enlarge its size. Thus, Ukraine, Georgia, which again are neighbours of Russia, should not be made a part of NATO. NATO should also not hold drills in Eastern Europe, Ukraine, Georgia, so it’s a big list of demands that Russia has from NATO, America and Europe.
West, on the other hand, obviously does not accept any of these demands. They say that this is unrealistic. Every single country, including Ukraine, is sovereign and are free to take its own decisions. Who is Russia to decide who will join NATO or not? Who is Russia to decide we will need to place its weapons? And who is Russia to decide whether or not NATO can have its military activities in some other friendly country or not? Thus, it is kind of a stalemate between the two sides.
Now, one other angle to this dispute is between Russia and Germany and a gas pipeline called the Nord Stream two. This is a gas pipeline that connects Russia to Germany.
Now, why is it significant?
Germany, anyway, buys a lot of gas from Russia. But this particular pipeline will double the volume of gas that is supplied from Russia to Germany. Now, if you look at Germany, the country has been very keen on cutting down the use of coal and nuclear energy and wants cheap gas from Russia. In fact, Angela Merkel, when she was a chancellor, had tried to expedite this particular pipeline and deal with Russia. But the problem is now there is a new government in Germany.
It’s a coalition government and in a coalition government, you have to take decisions after talking to every single partner. One of the parties who are involved in the German coalition is the Green Party. Germany’s vice-chancellor right now, who is on the Green Party, has said that the pipeline right now is a mistake from a geopolitical perspective, and if Russia takes any action against Ukraine, we will not start the functioning of the pipeline. It is important to note that the pipeline construction is complete. They are just awaiting certain permissions from the authorities. The US also has said that if Russia takes any action against Ukraine, they will put sanctions on this particular pipeline. Interestingly, the pipeline is as important to Russia as it is to Germany, while Russia will earn a lot more money through this pipeline by supplying more gas to Germany. Germany, on the other hand, will meet its goal of cutting down on the use of coal and nuclear power, since it will get much cleaner gas from Russia.
The next step is that on the 10th of January, senior officials from Russia and the US will meet to try and de-escalate the situation. But till then, we’ll only have to wait and see what happens next in this particular scenario.
History of Russia-Ukraine Relations
Now, this is not the first time that there’s a conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The history between the two sides and their conflict is pretty old. Ukraine was in fact, a part of the Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union group, after Russia, Ukraine was a large state. In fact, even today in Ukraine, a lot of people who lived there are of Russian ethnicity and Russian background. The location of Ukraine is what makes it so interesting. It is seen as a buffer state between Russia and Europe, and thus both Russia and Western nations have been trying to have as much influence over Ukraine as possible.
The problem between Russia and Ukraine recently started in 2013. In 2013, the Ukraine government, which was considered to be closer to Russia, decided to suspend the signing of an agreement with the European Union and instead chose to have closer ties with Russia. This angered a lot of people in Ukraine because, in Ukraine, most people think that their economic development will only happen if they come close to Europe. They see Russia as a much bigger power that is trying to control them. So most people in Ukraine have been trying to forge a much better relationship with the Western nations with Western Europe, the US, etc.
In 2013, when the government did something against the wishes of the people, it led to a lot of protests and a change in the government. This led to Russia asserting its authority and seizing the area of Crimea from Ukraine. Crimea was a part of Ukraine but was forcibly annexed by Russia. This also led to a lot of sanctions on Russia by European nations and the US. This was the first time that a European country had an ex territory from another European country after World War II. Ukraine since then has been urging that it wants to be a part of NATO as soon as possible.
Now, remember NATO’s works on the concept that an attack against any one of us is an attack against every one of us. So essentially, after Ukraine becomes a NATO member, and if then Ukraine is attacked by Russia, all the NATO members will have the responsibility together to safeguard Ukraine and to launch an attack collectively on Russia, which can become a major matter. That is why nations across the world want to de-escalate the issue.
Now in 2014, when the Crimean annexation took place at the hands of Russia, there were two agreements signed after that. Both these were called Minsk agreements. The first one was signed in 2014 September, which led to a cease-fire between the two sides. However, the agreement broke down quickly after a lot of violations from both sides.
In 2015, another agreement was signed by the same name called Minsk two, in which France and Germany came as mediators to get the agreement signed between Ukraine and Russia. Remember, Russia says that we were not fighting Ukraine at that point in time, they were rebels who are fighting the Ukraine government. But the reality is that these rebels who are fighting the Ukrainian government were getting all the support and funding from Russia only and no one else.