Tensions Rising between Ukraine and Russia

With peace talks stalemated, Moscow continues to build up its military forces for a possible invasion sending troops more than 4,000 miles to Ukraine’s borders and announcing the sweep of naval drills.

According to The Guardian, last week six Russian landing ships capable of carrying main battle tanks, troops, and other military vehicles travelled through the Channel en route to the Mediterranean last week in a deployment that could bolster the landing on Ukraine’s southern coast. Additionally, up to 175,000 troops might be sent from Russia in preparation for a potential invasion, claim US Intelligence officials. It is believed that there are already 100,000 Russian troops stationed at different points along its border with Ukraine.

Ukraine’s military intelligence has also stated that Russia is hiring mercenaries and supplying its proxy forces in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions with fuel, tanks and self-propelled artillery.

It is concerning the arrival to Belarus from Russia’s eastern military district of a large military force, including Iskander short-range ballistic missiles, elite Spetsnaz troops and anti-aircraft batteries.

A map shows the numerous sites Russian troops are stationed at along the Ukrainian border.

President Vladimir Putin and his officials insist they are just carrying out military exercises, but fears of an invasion have been mounting since late last year when satellite imagery showed Russia sending more equipment and personnel.

NATO said this Monday that is reinforcing eastern Europe with more ships and fighter jets while some countries in the West are sending armament and bracing themselves for the attack. Britain has said it was withdrawing some staff and dependants from its embassy in Ukraine in response to “a growing threat from Russia”, a day after the United States said it was ordering diplomats’ family members to leave.

What is going on between both countries?

Tensions have existed since 1991 when the Soviet Union broke down and former satellite state, Ukraine, began to distance itself from Russia and look to the West for support. Ukraine was a huge loss for Russia because it meant that a huge amount of the Soviet Union’s population separated from Moscow.

Since Vladimir Putin’s rise to power, Russia has forwarded plans to regain control over its former territories, Ukraine and Belarus. Tensions between Ukraine and Russian countries exploded when pro-Western opposition candidate Victor Yushchenko was elected as Ukraine’s President.

In 2010, after five years, the candidate Yanukovych, the preferred candidate by Putin, managed to regain power. He was later despised and ousted by the Ukrainians when he rejected an association agreement with the EU in favour of bolstering relations with Moscow. Russia’s response was to annex Crimea and declare its independence from Ukraine in 2014.

It also sent troops to the Ukrainian area known as Donbas to support separatists who wanted to break from the country. France and Germany directed a peace agreement between the two sides in 2015, which helped end major conflicts, but failed to unite them politically.

The ultimate Russian goal

Russia’s intentions and scope of its possible attack are unclear. Some experts suggest that the country may want to annex the Donbas region or capture territory to connect the Russian mainland with Crimea. Others think that it wants the Ukrainian government to submit to Russia’s terms, effectively re-establishing a sphere of influence in eastern Europe.

Most analysts are hopeful that a full invasion of the country is not going to happen and, instead, see Russia as wanting to isolate Ukraine from the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. This would destroy its economy and government.

What we know for certain is that Russia wants to block Ukraine’s entrance in NATO and reverse its cooperation with Western powers. Putin could see the involvement with the West as the first step of a new democracy being established on the doorstep of Russia.

Russia has issued some demands that would reduce the Western influence on the region, including the prohibition of Ukraine from becoming a NATO member and the end of the West and Ukraine’s security alliance.

Ukraine insists that it is free to become a member of NATO or other Western alliances. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said Russia is trying to destabilize the country in a bid to oust him and that a coup could come ahead of any military action.

An invasion of Russia would have extreme consequences for international relations as it would deepen hostilities between Russia and Western states. Ukraine, meanwhile, said it is prepared for the worst.

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