After Russian President Vladimir Putin initiated a military operation in Ukraine on Thursday, with explosions audible across the country, tensions and geopolitical strife between Russia and Ukraine took on a terrible new dimension.
Many countries have advocated for a diplomatic solution to the current issue between the two countries, according to The Nation, but Putin has escalated military action.
While tensions between Russia and Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, have existed for some time, they began to spiral out of control in early 2021.
Here are some key details of the two countries’ conflict:
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked US President Joe Biden to allow Ukraine to join NATO in January of last year.
- This infuriated Russia, which began sending soldiers near the Ukrainian border for “training exercises” in the spring of last year and boosted the number in the fall.
- Russia has stated that it does not want Ukraine to join NATO in a list of security demands provided to the US in December. Any NATO drills near Russia’s border were to be halted, according to the requests.
- Ukraine is not a member of NATO, but it aspires to be. The United States, Russia’s arch-rival, is a member of NATO, which is experiencing increased tensions. Meanwhile, NATO is open to admitting Ukraine as a member because it is regarded as a strategic ally.
- NATO was founded in 1949 by the United States, Canada, and a number of Western European countries to guarantee collective security against the Soviet Union.
- NATO is an intergovernmental military alliance whose mission is “to guarantee the freedom and security of its members through political and military means”.
- Putin has been a vocal opponent of Ukraine’s developing ties with the EU and the West.
- By December of last year, the US was bemoaning the deployment of Russian troops, and Vice President Joe Biden threatened Russia with heavy punishment if it attacked Ukraine.
- This isn’t the first time that tensions between Russia and Ukraine have erupted.
- Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, when pro-Putin separatists captured major swaths of eastern Ukraine, and have been fighting Ukraine’s army since then. Russia had annexed Crimea at the time.
- Ukraine has extensive social and cultural ties with Russia, and Russian is widely spoken there, but those ties have deteriorated since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014.
- When Ukraine’s pro-Russian president was overthrown in early 2014, Russia launched an offensive. More than 14,000 people have died as a result of the battle in the east.
- The Minsk peace agreement was signed by Russia and Ukraine to end the armed conflict in east Ukraine, including the Donbas region.
- However, as the war has progressed, Russia has stated that it is sending “peacekeepers” to the fighting zone. Moscow is using it as a cover to occupy sovereign land, according to the West.
- The rising tension between Russia and Ukraine, which shares a border with the European Union, has ramifications for the European Union. That is why the EU has joined the US in announcing penalties against Russian firms, the majority of which are NATO signatories.
- As the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, Ukraine, which had been a part of the Russian empire for centuries before becoming a Soviet republic, gained freedom. It made strenuous efforts to shed its Russian imperial past and build closer links with the West.
- Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Kremlin Ukrainian president, rejected an association agreement with the European Union in favor of deeper ties with Moscow, sparking huge protests and his removal from power in 2014.
- Russia retaliated by annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and backed a separatist rebellion in Ukraine’s east.
- Russia has been accused by Ukraine and the West of sending troops and weaponry to support the rebels. Moscow refuted this, claiming that the Russians who sided with the rebels were doing so as volunteers.
- Furthermore, Russian President Vladimir Putin has frequently stated that Ukraine’s desire to join NATO is a red line, and has expressed alarm about NATO nations’ ambitions to establish military training centers in Ukraine. He claims that this will give them a military footprint in the region even if Ukraine does not join NATO.