What the FAQ: What is going on between Russia and Ukraine?

There has been a mass mobilisation of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border and some experts fear that this might mean an invasion is imminent
Pic: Edex Live
Pic: Edex Live

It is getting tense between Russia and Ukraine again. Real tense. Russia forces have been carrying out new military exercises since the past month. Diplomatic efforts have not yielded any fruitful results and even the US has sprung into action with 8,000 troops on high alert for a possible deployment to Europe. But what really is the background to this animosity between the two neighbouring countries? We explain the geopolitical issue right here.

What is the history of conflict between Russia and Ukraine?
Ukraine was, until as recently as August 1991, a part of the Soviet Union. It served as an important agricultural hub and even more importantly, meant access to the Black Sea via ports. Moscow also views Ukraine as a crucial buffer to the NATO. In the 2014 annexation of Crimea on the eastern coast of Ukraine by Russian powers, more than 14,000 laid down their lives in Donbas, the industrial heartland. However, it is clear as to why Vladimir Putin wishes to refer to Ukraine's true sovereignty as "possible only in partnership with Russia." He wrote back in July, "Together we have always been and will be many times stronger and more successful. For we are one people."

So why is Russia bothered about Ukraine joining NATO?
NATO has 30 member nations which collectively guarantee military mobilisation if Russia were to attack one of the members. Moscow has been seeking guarantees from both Ukraine and Georgia that they would not join NATO but US and other member states have firmly conveyed that Russia is in no position to deny them the right, even though there are no talks currently undergoing to include the two nations in the treaty. The real issue for Russia is that if either of Ukraine or Georgia were to be NATO members then it would further increase the treaty's footprint along Russia's national borders.

What is happening now on the Ukraine-Russia border?
There has been a mass deployment of forces and armed weaponry on the border by Russia, including more than 1,00,000 troops. Western sources have informed that a Russian attack on Ukraine is iminent while the UK foreign office warned last month that Moscow was looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv.

What might happen next?
The situation resembles a stalemate with both sides trying to outguess each other. Moscow continues to thwart talks of an invasion on Ukraine. Both US and UK embassy officials in Ukraine have been ordered back home, which has been termed "overreacting" by the Ukrainian president Vladimir Zelensky. Meanwhile, NATO and western powers have threatened huge sanctions against Moscow if it attacks Ukraine. What remains to be seen is how Moscow takes note of this or chooses to ignore the warning. The consequences might include cutting Russia out of the SWIFT financial system, which moves money from bank to bank across the globe. This could cut Russia off from most international financial transactions, crippling its economy. Also, imposing export controls over technology that powers warplanes, passenger jets and smartphones could further hurt the nation. 

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