Amid the escalating tensions along the international borders of Russia and Ukraine, it is of vital importance that one comprehends the ongoing issue as a protracted conflict that began in February 2014. While experts comment the face-off is a built-up that was prevalent since the Cold War era between the US and the Soviet Union, contemporary political analysts perceive it as a residual of the regional hegemony of Russia, despite the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) in 1991.
Ukraine has come down to what it is today after the country’s centuries-old history of Russian dominance, thus breaking the country into two denominations. Ukraine is divided amongst people who perceive Ukraine as a part of Europe and those who see it intrinsically connected to Russia.
Russia-Ukraine conflict explained
Pursuing a convenient version of the doctrine on ‘limited sovereignty’, Russia continues to exist in Ukraine’s sphere of influence despite the latter’s independence in 1991. Critics say that this association was proof that Ukraine’s autonomy and ties with other countries were not greater than that of the Warsaw Pact as under the Cold War era.
Based on statements by then Russian leaders, it was concluded that Russia was fearful of Ukraine’s ‘possible’ integration with NATO which would amount to a threat to Russia’s national security and integrity to an extent.
It is pertinent to mention here that relations between Ukraine and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) commenced in 1992 while apprehensions on the Russian invasion prevailed.
What is Warsaw Pact and NATO?
In May 1955 and amid the Cold War era, the Soviet Union and seven other Eastern bloc nations of Central and Eastern Europe signed a collective defence treaty as a reaction to the creation of NATO.
NATO and the Warsaw Pact did not engage in a war against each other while the US and the USSR along with their respective allies enacted policies for the respective containment in Europe. Meanwhile, allies and the two superpowers were fighting for influence on the global sphere during the Cold War.
On the other hand, NATO is an intergovernmental military alliance between 27 European countries, 2 North American nations and 1 Eurasian country. The independent states have agreed to mutually defend as a retaliation to attack by an external body.
Notably, Ukraine was a part of the Soviet Union until 1991 and is currently a country wedged between Russia and Europe. While the country is not exhaustively free of Kremlin’s tactics, its foreign policies over the years have wavered between pro-Russia and pro-European Union.
Russia-Ukraine conflict timeline
Here is a timeline of relevant series of events that brought Russia and Ukraine to the showdown as of today.
Ukraine applies to initiate ties with NATO in 2008
In 2010, then Ukraine President Yanukovych shelved the intention and retained the country’s non-alignment status
In 2012, Ukraine & European Union initiate ‘Association Agreement’ for integration
In 2013, then Ukraine Foreign Affairs Minister said, “Russians simply cannot believe Ukraine-EU’s association would come true’.
In August 2013, Russia starts to modify ties with Ukraine, customs hindered all imports from and export to Ukraine
In November 2013, Ukraine calls off Association Agreement with the EU, on the account of worsened ties with CIS nations (a body comprising Eastern European nations and Central Asian countries).
Civil unrest ensued after protestors demanded communication and committee involvement with the EU.
Russia backed the Yanukovych-led government for turning down the EU integration, while US and EU supported protestors.
Anti-government protests toppled the President Yanukovych government leading to Russia invading Crimea in March 2014.
In November 2014, the Ukrainian military reported an ‘intensive’ movement of Russian troops into the parts of Eastern Ukraine. The AP had reported about 40 unmarked military vehicles in the Ukraine territory.
In October 2015, The Washington Post reported ‘elite units’ of the Russian army in Ukraine.
Renewed conflict in 2016; Ukraine reported ‘increased military’ presence along the Crimea border.
By July 2014, 30-4000 Russian troops continued to build up along the Ukrainian border.
On March 4, 2014, the US pledges USD 1 billion in aid to Ukraine.
In 2018, Russia concludes the construction of a bridge over Kerch Strait, thus obstructing waterways to Ukraine and obstructing the ships’ trait.
In November 2021, satellite imagery shows a fresh build-up of Russian troops along the Ukraine border
On December 7 2021, Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin engage in telephonic conversation for ‘two hours’ wherein the US President mentioned that he would put sanctions on Russia if Kremlin urged its forces to enter Ukraine.
On December 17 2021, Russia demands NATO deny membership to Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations. Further, Kremlin demanded that NATO ceased all military activity in Ukraine as well as eastern Europe.
Joe Biden assures Ukrainian President Zelensky that the US will ‘respond decisively’ if Russia attempts an annexation
On January 10, 2022, the US and Russian officials meet in Geneva for diplomatic talks but talks remained unresolved as Moscow continued being adamant on security demands.
The US delivers a written reply to Putin while offering a ‘principled and pragmatic response’ to Russia’s demands
China intrudes by saying that the US should pay heed to Moscow’s ‘legitimate security concerns’.
President Zelensky urges the West to avoid creating a ‘panic’ while Putin stated that he is ready to continue talking as his demands are not addressed yet.
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas addresses the council session saying that the Russian invasion of Ukraine will be a ‘threat to global security’.
On February 1, Putin denies having plans to annex Ukraine. “It is already clear that fundamental Russian concerns ended up being ignored,” Putin said.
French President Macron tells reporters that Russia will not flare up the Ukrainian crisis after in-person talks with Putin. However, Kremlin denies the assurance saying, “in the current situation, Moscow and Paris cannot be reaching any deals.”
February 11, US national security advisor Jake Sullivan warns against Russia’s ever-increasing military build-up along with Ukraine.
The US warns of an invasion before the Beijing Olympics ends on February 20.
On February 11, the Pentagon ordered 3,000 troops to Poland, pushing the total to 5,000 of reinforcements sent to Europe in the past three weeks.
On February 12, Biden and Putin hold a virtual meeting wherein the US President said that the Ukrainian invasion would cause ‘widespread human suffering’ while Russia claimed the US and NATO did not redress Kremlin’s demands satisfactorily. Further, Russia urged Ukraine to cease ties with NATO and the US was asked to disengage military associations in eastern Europe.
While the US has vowed to uphold Ukraine’s sovereignty and has even deployed troops in eastern Europe to back NATO forces, the senior administration official noted that it remains “unclear” if Russia is interested in pursuing its goals diplomatically or “through the use of force”.