US President Joe Biden declared on January 19, 2022 that he believes Russia will invade Ukraine and warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that he “will regret doing it” after months of mounting tension.
Russia is estimated to have accumulated 100,000 soldiers along its border with Ukraine in recent months.
In mid-January, Russia began move troops to Belarus, a country bordering Russia and Ukraine, to prepare for joint military exercises in February.
Putin has made several security demands on the United States before withdrawing its military forces. Putin’s list includes a ban on Ukraine joining NATO, and the agreement that NATO withdraw troops and weapons in much of Eastern Europe.
There are precedents for taking the threat seriously: Putin has already annexed the Ukrainian part of Crimea in 2014.
Ukraine’s complex history offers a window into the complex nation it is today, and why it is continually under threat. What Eastern European expert, I highlight five key points to consider.
What should we know about the Ukrainians’ relationship with Russia?
Ukraine became independent 30 years ago, after the fall of the Soviet Union. Since then he has fought for fight corruption and overcome deep internal divisions.
The Western region of Ukraine was in favor of integration with Western Europe. The eastern part of the country, for its part, was in favor of closer ties with Russia.
Tensions between Russia and Ukraine reached a fever pitch in February 2014, when violent protesters toppled Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, in what is now known as the Revolution of Dignity.
At the same time, Russia forcibly annexed Crimea. Ukraine was in a vulnerable position for self-defense, with a caretaker government and an unprepared army.
Putin immediately went on to attack the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. Armed conflict between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatists has caused more than 14,000 deaths.
Contrary to its response to Crimea, Russia still officially denying their participation in the Donbas conflict.
What do the Ukrainians want?
Russia’s military aggression in Donbas and the annexation of Crimea have galvanized public support for western leanings from Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who came to power in 2019, campaigned on a platform of fighting corruption, economic renewal and peace in the Donbas region.
In September 2021, the 81% of Ukrainians said he had a negative opinion of Putin, according to the Ukrainian news site RBC-Ukraine. Only 15% of the Ukrainians surveyed declared to have a positive perception towards the Russian leader.
Why is Putin threatening to invade Ukraine?
Putin’s decision to launch a military build-up throughout Ukraine is associated with a sense of impunity. Putin also has experience dealing with Western politicians who defend Russian interests and engage with Russian companies once they leave office.
Western countries have imposed mostly symbolic sanctions against Russia for interference in the 2020 us presidential election and for a huge cyber attack against some 18,000 people who work for companies and the United States Government, among other transgressions.
On several occasions, Putin has seen some prominent Western politicians align themselves with Russia. These alliances may prevent Western countries from forging a unified front against Putin.
former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder, for example, advocated strategic cooperation between Europe and Russia while in office. Subsequently, he joined the Russian oil company Rosneft as president in 2017.
Other high-level European politicians who promoted a soft position towards Russia while in office include the former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon and former Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl. Both joined the boards of Russian state-owned companies after leaving office.
What is Putin’s goal?
Putin considers Ukraine as part of the “sphere of influence” of Russia, a territory, rather than an independent state. This feeling of ownership has led the Kremlin to attempt to block Ukraine’s entry into the EU and NATO.
In January 2021, Russia experienced one of its biggest anti-government demonstrations in years. tens of thousands of russians protested in support of the leader of the political opposition Alexei Navalny, after his arrest in Russia. Navalny had recently returned from Germany, where he was treated for being poisoned by the Russian government.
Putin is also using Ukraine as leverage for Western powers to lift their sanctions. The United States currently has various political and financial sanctions in place against Russia, as well as against potential allies and business partners of Russia.
A Russian attack on Ukraine could lead to more diplomatic talks that could lead to concessions on these sanctions.
The costs to Russia of attacking Ukraine would significantly outweigh the benefits.
Even if a full-scale invasion of Ukraine is unlikely, Putin could resume fighting between the Ukrainian military and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Why would the United States want to get involved in this conflict?
With its annexation of Crimea and its support for the Donbas conflict, Russia has violated the security guarantees of the Budapest Memorandum for Ukraine, a 1994 agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia that aims to protect Ukraine’s sovereignty in exchange for its commitment to give up its nuclear arsenal.
Putin’s threats against Ukraine come as he is moving Russian forces into Belarus, also raising questions about the Kremlin’s plans to invade other neighboring countries.
Military support for Ukraine and political and economic sanctions are ways in which the United States can make it clear to Moscow that there will be consequences for its meddling in an independent country. The risk, moreover, is that the Kremlin undertakes other military and political actions that further threaten European security and stability.