These two former components of the Soviet Union have always had a complicated relationship. Ukraine and the Russian Federation have had friction for many years, most notably for almost the entire past decade, since the Russian attempt at annexing the Crimean Peninsula. Tensions have escalated, and a question has arisen in the past few months of whether or not Russia will invade Ukraine.
Historically, Ukraine has been a country haunted by corruption and dishonest leaders. In 2013, after the fixed election scandal in which Viktor Yanukovych was declared president, various events of civil unrest took place over the country. Yanukovych was highly inclined to build a relationship with Russia; however, the overall sentiment of the Ukrainian population was not. This time of political instability was the perfect scenario for Russia to invade the Crimean Peninsula which they did, later that same year. In 2014, amidst the instability, Petro Poroshenko was chosen as the new president, promising to align Ukraine with Western Europe’s politics, a much more popular platform amongst the people.
After the 2013 Russian invasion of Crimea, which is part of Ukraine, there has been a clear, yet indirect strain between these two countries. Because of the unrest caused by corruption and Russian presence, in 2014, the Minsk Agreement was signed into effect, ensuring overall peace. But since then, tensions have only kept rising to the point where now invasion is a possibility yet again.
Through the Minsk Agreement, Russia has been allowed to have some sort of influence over regions of the Donbas and Crimea since 2014 but is now preparing to go further in. Through the Minsk Agreement, Russia wants to “annex,” but more accurately wants Ukraine to grant independence to these regions. This in turn would start protests amongst Ukrainians and create instability in the country, leading to an eventual state fracture, which would provide a great opportunity for Russia to go in and make another attempt at invading the nation and promoting their regime.
Western Europe believes that if they concede and give Russia full control of these regions, Russia will step back and be satisfied with this. However, according to Oleksandr Danylyuk from Politico, Russia’s true purpose is to cause the Ukrainian government to destabilize.
Countries in Western Europe are preparing to be involved and applying sanctions to Russia for these attempts if they do invade. They run the risk of Russia cutting off their natural gas as a form of retaliation, for which they are preparing to use their own independent resources if this were to be the case. The United States, as a member of NATO, is also preparing for a possible war over this conflict. However, before this is reached, many world leaders are making attempts at de-escalation, such as French President Emmanuel Macron. In anticipation of the worst, nations have also told their diplomatic staff to leave Ukraine. It is most likely that the war will occur, given Russian President Vladimir Putin’s record of imperialism and aggressiveness in overtaking other countries.