WorldRussia Ukraine Conflict: Russia's aim is not just to capture Ukraine, what...

Russia Ukraine Conflict: Russia’s aim is not just to capture Ukraine, what is Putin’s game? Know America’s Role

wowShington/Moscow/Kiev : US President Joe Biden said on 19 January 2022 that he understood Russia would attack Ukraine and warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that he would regret doing so. He said this after months of stress. Russia has deployed roughly 100,000 troops to its border with Ukraine over the past several months. Russia began sending troops to Belarus in mid-January for a joint military exercise to be held in February. This country shares its border with both Ukraine and Russia.

Putin has made several security demands from the US before withdrawing his military forces. Putin has called for a ban on Ukraine’s entry into NATO and an agreement that NATO withdraw troops and weapons from much of Eastern Europe. There is reason to take this threat seriously. Putin annexed Crimea from Ukraine into his country in 2014. Ukraine’s history is complex and it explains why it is under constant threat. Experts highlight important points to note from Eastern Europe.

Ukraine’s relationship with Russia
Ukraine gained independence 30 years ago after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It has been fighting since then to tackle corruption and bridge internal divisions. Ukraine’s western region generally favors integration with Western Europe, while the country’s eastern part favors closer ties with Russia. Tensions between Russia and Ukraine peaked in February 2014, when violent protesters ousted Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich from power. These demonstrations are now known as the ‘Revolution of Dignity’.
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Around the same time, Russia forcibly annexed Crimea to its country. Ukraine is in a vulnerable position as it has a provisional government and no military preparedness. Putin immediately moved to strike in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine. More than 14,000 people have been killed in armed clashes between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatists. Contrary to its response to Crimea, Russia has consistently denied involvement in the Donbass conflict.

What does Ukraine want?
Russia’s military aggression in the Donbass and annexation of Crimea has increased public support for Ukraine’s western orientation. Ukraine’s government has said it will apply for EU membership in 2024, and also has ambitions to join NATO. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who came to power in 2019, campaigned for anti-corruption, economic renewal and peace in the Donbass region.

Why is Putin threatening to attack Ukraine?
The reason for increasing military deployment along the border with Ukraine is because of the spirit of impunity in Putin. Putin knows that Western political leaders who uphold Russian interests and after leaving office join forces with Russian companies. Western countries have imposed mostly symbolic sanctions against Russia over its interference in the 2020 US presidential election and cyberattacks against companies and about 18,000 people who work for the US government.

Putin has backed Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko for his massive crackdown on protests in the capital city of Minsk. On several occasions, Putin has observed that some prominent Western political leaders have allied with Russia. These alliances can prevent Western countries from forming a unified front against Putin. For example, Gerhard Schroeder, the former Chancellor of Germany, advocated strategic cooperation between Europe and Russia while in office. He later became the chairman of the Russian oil company Rosneft in 2017.

Other senior European political leaders who have promoted a softer approach to Russia while in office include former French prime minister François Fillon and former Austrian foreign minister Karin Kneisel. Both joined the boards of Russian state companies after leaving office.
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What is Putin’s last game?
Putin sees Ukraine as part of Russia’s ‘sphere of influence’ – a region rather than an independent state. This sense of ownership has prompted the Kremlin to try to prevent Ukraine from joining the European Union and NATO. Russia saw widespread anti-government protests in January 2021 in years after Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained. Thousands of people took to the streets in support of Navalni.

Putin is also using Ukraine to lift sanctions imposed by Western powers on Russia. At present, the US has imposed various political and economic sanctions against Russia. The Russian attack on Ukraine could lead to more diplomatic negotiations that could lead to concessions on these sanctions.

Why does America want to join the conflict?
Russia has breached the Budapest Memorandum of Security Assurance for Ukraine by annexing Crimea and supporting the Donbass conflict. It is a 1994 agreement between the United States, Britain and Russia that aims to protect the sovereignty of Ukraine in return for a commitment to renounce nuclear weapons.