The war in Eastern Ukraine saw a duration of tranquility since last July, but not for long. In the latest update on the Ukraine Crisis, the rise in tensions due to the outbreak of violence along the ceasefire line is prompting fears of a revival of the military conflict.
The recent deployment of thousands of Russian troops on its Northern and Eastern borders, ceasefire violation in the conflict zone and Moscow’s stance is a clear indication that it could intervene – a full scale war in eastern Ukraine; and are very well dimming hope for a peaceful resolution of the conflict that has lasted for several years now.
Let us try to understand the implications of the Ukraine Crisis, the primary players involved. But first, it is important to know what sparked the crisis?
What triggered the Fight?
It all began when Russia fell out with Ukraine after the former Soviet Union state (ie, Ukraine) started approaching the European Union.
The fourth president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian, in 2013 suspended the EU Association Agreement to prevent the country from turning to the West. This marked the beginning of a deep crisis in Ukraine.
Thousands of people gathered on the streets of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, as a mark of protest, ergo Yanukovich had to flee to Russia.
Ukraine is geographically divided between Europe and Russia, so are the people of Ukraine, as pro-Russian and pro-Western.
The tensions later spread to Crimea and Donbas.
The annexation of Crimea
The conflict between the Ukrainian army and Russian-backed separatists started in the spring of 2014, which has not ended yet.
In 2014, Ukraine became a battleground when Russia annexed Crimea illegally.
Some fourteen thousand people died in the conflict, the bloodiest in Europe since the Balkan Wars of the 1990s.
Thus, the so-called Minsk Agreements were negotiated to halt the war in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas and to provide for a peaceful resolution.
Surprisingly, not even a single provision of the Minsk Agreements has been implemented to a hundred per cent, and the most important provision, the ceasefire, is being violated every day.
But why is Russia interested in Ukraine after all?
Russia’s Interest in Ukraine
Well, the answer has deep roots to cultural, economic and political bonds to Ukraine, and in many ways, Ukraine stands central to Russia’s identity & vision for itself in the world.
As a pretext for its actions, Moscow claimed a duty to protect the (approximately) eight million ethnic Russians living in Ukraine.
One of the top concerns for Russia is to maintain its superpower image, after the soviet union collapsed, Russian politicians, viewed the divorce with Ukraine as a threat to its standing great power.
It was Ukraine’s ties with the European Union that brought tensions to a head with Russia, as it was seen by many as a major blow to Russia’s international prestige.
Let alone, Moscow still pays billions of dollars per year in transit fees to Kyiv as it relies on Ukrainian pipelines to pump its gas to customers in Central and Eastern Europe. Although the trade link between the two countries has withered in recent years, Russia stands as Ukraine’s largest trading partner.
Putin knows the advantages Ukraine would bring with itself to Russia’s trade & energy. Ukraine is a strategically critical country that Moscow believes it needs to keep under its influence.
But the Russian interests do not coincide with that of the U.S and EU Union. The U.S does not recognise Russia’s claim to Crimea and encourages both countries to resolve the Donbas issue via the Minsk Agreements.
U.S. & EU policy in Ukraine
The United States remains committed to the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Ukraine remained one of the top destinations for U.S foreign aid as on average it received more than $200 million per year.
Graphical representation of U.S aid to Ukraine over the years
For its part, the U.S. military helped the Ukraine forces by providing training and equipment, including sniper rifles, grenade launchers, night-vision gear, radars, and Javelin anti-tank missiles during the war.
Also, the United States and its allies have retaliatory actions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine.
To show its support to Ukraine, Washington over the years has imposed sanctions on hundreds of Russian individuals, as well as parts of the Russian economy, including the defence, energy, and financial sectors.
So by now, we know that the U.S has always played an important role here, but with the change in the presidency, it has seen a change in its policy towards Ukraine too.
U.S Policy Under Trump administration
Donald Trump never seemed committed to his administration’s policy. His Primary engagement in Ukraine was his bid to extract Kyiv into delivering derogatory information on his Democratic opponent.
Beyond that, Trump did not seem to show any interest in the country and he just constantly criticised Vladimir Putin.
Mr. Zelensky, a former comedian turned politician was sworn in as a corruption-fighting president in May 2019.
And as he took office, Mr. Zelensky hoped to gain diplomatic backup from the United States in negotiations to end the war with Russian-led separatists in eastern Ukraine.
But unfortunately, that strategy, in a bit, led to the impeachment scandal in 2019.
U.S Policy Under the Biden administration
During an interview with the New York Times in December 2020, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed Joe Biden’s election as U.S. president. Zelensky observed that Biden “knows Ukraine better than the previous president” and “will really help strengthen relations, help settle the war in Donbas, and end the occupation of our territory.
He added, “U.S.-Ukraine relations will become stronger and more coherent.”
Proving his importance, Joe Biden in a call with Mr. Puti in January focused on the importance of Ukraine sovereignty,
Still, with tensions resing, the Biden administration has begun to repond.
Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, on Monday spoke to Andriy Yermak, a top adviser to Mr Zelensky, a call announced by the White House.
Also, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken
Warned Russia of “consequences”, if it acts aggressively towards Ukraine.
For Ukraine, U.S under the Biden administration seems a optimistic source to ease of the hostility graph, which in recent time has gravitated.